A dream come true
29 March, 2013
By Malik Muhammad Ashraf
For the political forces that have been eager to see democracy taking root in the country and power transferred through the ballot, the dream has come true with the nomination of caretaker Prime Minister by the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP).
A new tradition would have been set if the political leaders themselves had nominated him. Nevertheless, it is encouraging to note that the process has culminated without any hiccup.
As soon as the nomination of Mir Hazar Khan Khoso as caretaker Prime Minister was announced by the ECP, the PPP, PML-N, PML-Q, MQM and JUI rightly hailed the decision and expressed confidence in his ability to hold impartial elections in Pakistan. But it was really disappointing to see that these parties, except PPP and ANP, did not attend his oath-taking ceremony, which would have set yet another healthy democratic tradition in the country.
Political pundits assume that they, probably, did not attend the ceremony because of their grievances against the PPP. That behaviour is regrettable and unbecoming of the political entities practicing the art of politics at the national level.
The PML-N did not participate because the oath was being administered by President Asif Ali Zardari that is even more reproachable.
Whether someone likes it or not, Zardari is the President and it was in this capacity that he was administering the oath.
If the PML-N leadership had any personal grudge against him, it should not have been allowed to cast its shadow on matters of national importance.
The President deserves the protocol and respect that is attached to his august office and our political leaders must learn from the leaders of other democratic countries to rise above narrow political or personal considerations.
For democracy to function on healthy lines, it is imperative that politicians exhibit democratic behaviour. It would be unreasonable on anybody's part to expect high standards of morality and political behaviour by our politicians like in the established democracies, but one can surely gravitate to see them making an auspicious beginning by doing small things like showing tolerance towards each other and participating in events of national importance.
Nonetheless, it is gratifying to note that the caretaker PM enjoys the confidence of all major political players on the chessboard of Pakistani politics. Justice Khoso has had an impeccable career as a judge and enjoys good reputation.
Another positive factor is that he belongs to Balochistan that might help in placating the Baloch nationalists and tempt them to join the mainstream of national politics by participating in the ensuing elections.
The caretaker PM, immediately after his nomination, told the media that his first and foremost priority would be to help the ECP ensure the holding of free and fair elections and that he would treat all the political parties equally. That, indeed, is very reassuring. The words of a savant like him can be safely taken at their face value.
He also made it clear that the President did not have any role in the elections; an implied reference to the often repeated allegations by a political party that free and fair elections could not be held while Zardari was in office.
He is right because the elections will be held by the ECP with the support of the Chief Executive and the President does not figure in the scheme of things in this regard.
With a neutral and honest man heading the Executive, assertive ECP, pro-active judiciary and the ever vigilant media, it would almost be impossible for any entity or individual to influence the outcome of the elections in any unconstitutional manner taking advantage of his position.
Much will also depend on the way the political parties conduct themselves, in regard to the efforts of the ECP and the caretaker setup in the holding of elections in a transparent manner.
They need to behave in a responsible manner and focus more on their election campaigns, instead of mudslinging and launching personal attacks on their rivals because ultimately it is on the basis of their performance, or the programmes for the future, that the people have to make their choices.
For the polls to be free, fair and transparent, it is essential that they are held in a convivial atmosphere, and traditional hostility and animosity among the political parties gives way to a healthy and productive competition.
Now that all is set to translate the dream of transition of power and consolidate the gains of democracy, all stakeholders, especially the political parties, owe it to the masses not to do anything that shatters their faith in the democratic process or provides any excuse to the forces inimical to the democratic dispensation to make their move and drag once again the country back into the dark alley.
The political parties and their leaders must also desist from statements or actions that could make the role of ECP or the caretaker government controversial.
They should keep faith in the impartiality and the capability of these institutions to make the 2013 elections a significant milestone in our march towards a political polity envisioned by the Founding Father.
Another very important factor in this respect would be the acceptance of election results with an open heart, the lack of which has been the bane of democracy in this country.
The nation has suffered the consequences of this kind of behaviour and we surely need a break from this dreadful experience of the past. Merely paying lip service and making tall claims about their love for democracy is not enough.
Political parties will have to show their commitment through their actions. That is the only way forward. Any digression from this path may produce negative results.
The media and intelligentsia also have a great responsibility in guiding the people to understand what is at stake, and reporting the unfolding events in an objective and impartial manner to play their contributory role in strengthening democracy.
The writer is a freelance columnist. Email: email@example.com