Sham senate polls calls electoral reforms

By Tanveer Ahmed
Saturday – March 10, 2018
KARACHI: The allegations of horse trading and “use of money” is not something new that one should be astonished to witness in senate polls in Pakistan, the history of such malpractices goes back to 1990s.

The phenomenon of “buying the electorate” in senate elections is not new, the more worrisome fact is that very few “hang in shame” when the attention is drawn to such a dirty practice in the upper and ‘sacred’ house of the parliament.

Over the decades, we have acquired expertise and skills to be “good traders and bargainers” in the elections ranging from local government councils to provincial and national assemblies. Our “beloved politicians” feel no shame and remorse by indulging in the dirty game of using money in elections.

The latest instance of senate elections, completely mired in horse trading through use of money in all the provinces and not a single major party could claim to have gone through honestly to win the “hearts and minds” of voters, who are members of national assembly (NA) and provincial assemblies by virtue electoral process enshrined in the constitution of Pakistan.

One thing clearly came out after senate polls that no political party or political figure has, now any right to be hanging on “high minaret of morality” as by and large, all fall in the same line when it comes to gain numerical strength in the legislative assemblies or grabbing the power.

What we have gained from shameful horse trading in senate polls?

We are considering as having achieved another milestone towards the cause of strengthening of democracy in the country. We have been championing over it to “put in check” those undemocratic forces, which we believed are after the democracy and democratic institutions to gain more and more powers by weakening the civilian governments.

This rosy picture that we have painted in our minds would make us happy like a person that has been suffering from narcissism, but in reality nothing of this sort is on the ground that we feel delighted and rejoiced.

Senate is the upper house of parliament and like the other countries of the world where senate forum is established, it has edge over the lower house of parliament because of election of people of high prestige and reputation due to their distinguished standing in various walks of life.

The architects of our constitution had the same idea in their minds when a bicameral system of parliament was envisaged. The other significant feature behind the senate is the equal representation of all the federating units in it compared to lower house of parliament where each federating unit is allocated the seats in proportion to their population.

Senate is also essential in country like Pakistan, having multiple ethnicities, languages and cultures as well as had a past of misgivings and apprehensions between various federating units.

The constitution of Pakistan invokes this very purpose of equal representations in senate that no federating unit on the pretext of low population feels deprived or annoyed in the federation. This basic spirit is, however died down when we see the way polls are held for senate in the country and the malpractices adopted to gain maximum number of seats.

When we talk about the case of strengthening of democracy in this country, which is being debated these days everywhere, it loses the steam after the very people indulge in the practices contrary to the democratic norms and traditions.

How the edifice of democracy would be straight when the very ‘democratic’ people are found digging its foundations?

In reality, the case of democracy has weakened by the rampant horse trading in senate elections and it doesn’t bode well for the future of democracy in the country. We can’t put the senate drama behind as some political commentators and leaders are suggesting to move forward towards achieving the cherished dream of functioning and people-serving democracy irrespective of rampant horse trading in elections.

The very concept of democracy involves people everywhere - from political parties to election, government, etc. - but here in Pakistan the essential elements of democracy i.e. people is totally missing in the entire democratic process prevalent in the country.

We can’t push the dirt under the rug in senate polls. This malpractice of purchasing the party ticket and then the members of provincial assemblies (MPAs) in all the provincial assemblies and even in NA to get them elected in senate has to be put to an end.

This certainly calls for sincere and honest efforts, and affirmative actions for electoral reforms to rectify this malaise forever; sooner the better.

The writer is a political analyst and can be reached at:

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