It’s time to end elite democracy | By Riaz Missen


It’s time to get rid of elite democracy


ANALYSTS are caught in a whirlwind of frustration when writing about politics. And this is happening for very genuine reasons.

A few hundred privileged families have tight control over the economy and, therefore, run politics from start to finish.

They have an interest in both dictatorship and democracy. Politics, for them, is a game, but they know the art of always staying on the winning side.

Sometimes it seems like politics is stuck in an impasse, political instability has reached its peak, the economy is doomed to failure and public unrest is looming.

But those feelings, or perceptions, turn out to be momentary and we’re back on the same old beaten track.

Although only once has the world turned upside down – just remember the fall of Dhaka – but that must be enough to remind us that things could also get out of our control and the results could be dangerous, far beyond our calculations.

Pakistan’s problems are quite familiar and we have rules set out to solve them. We raise interest rates to curb inflation, devalue the currency to overcome the trade deficit, and borrow loans to build infrastructure.

When it comes to taxation, we make sure that the privileged class is left out. This has been happening for a long time.

Are we following a doctrine or, in other words, is our destination predetermined? The deficit economy is not only a problem, but also bureaucratic inertia. There is chaos in the affairs of state and a lack of vision on the part of political leaders.

Good governance is not the issue but the objective is to maintain the balance of power. Oppression, kidnapping, corruption and nepotism are natural. Loyalty is more important than duty.

When elite politics reach a dead end, someone from the same class comes up with the slogan for change and the people follow it. A new drama begins with public rallies, long marches and crowd violence.

Once the new party enters the houses of power with its feet on the shoulders of the people, it closes the door behind it.

People are starting to wait for another liberator! It has been more than three years since the PTI came to power. With a questionable performance on the most important public issues, he shouts the slogan of change at the top of his lungs.

Why doesn’t he admit that all the passion for change was just climbing the ladder in the corridor of power? After all, its predecessors got out of the ideological phase and became fairly commercial enterprises. Perhaps it will take time to adjust to the new realities.

The PPP started with the slogan of socialism and became the guardian of feudal interests. The PML-N grew up in the bosom of dictatorship and became the spokesperson for the capitalists.

Tehreek-e-Insaf does everything that benefits the elite but insists on not giving NROs to the old ruling parties. This is what introduced the element of bitterness into politics and, as a result, made parliament dysfunctional.

Leave the people aside, politics is necessary for national survival and sovereignty. Whether it is economic stimulus or ensuring socio-political stability to attract investment, the road is through politics.

If we are to live with democracy and, at the same time, take the path of sustainable growth, we will have to give the people back their freedom that was stolen from them in colonial times by delegating power to the grassroots.

Regional connectivity is also essential to increase the purchasing power of consumers and claim relevance with the courtesy of nations.

We can say that the politics of the elites succeeds, but to the detriment of the public interest. With their cunning apologies, 220 families who dominate politics and 33 who control businesses have taken people hostage to their parish agenda.

The belief in the balance of power also pays off insofar as there is no danger of a major insurgency internally.

Contradictions are created but there is also an arrangement to keep them within limits. The eastern borders are closed and the army is present to face the sectarian and ethnic insurgency on the western side.

Political parties have gone through an entire electoral exercise just to negotiate loan deals with international financial institutions and sign them blindly to keep the economy floating. What a sacrifice to preserve sectoral interests!

Ironically, even thirteen years after the restoration of democracy, politics is not exempt from colonial mentality.

The same thinking is reflected in the regressive tax system and the reluctance to change the colonial-era code of criminal procedure.

The benefits of democracy do not reach ordinary people despite the fact that the Constitution provides for politically, administratively and financially autonomous local governments.

The courts have only compelled federal units to fulfill their constitutional responsibility to the extent that only crippled structures have been put in place.

After dodging the public on regressive taxes, an outdated penal code, and crippled local governments, the incumbent government came up with logic that Pakistan’s real problem is voter fraud. But the prescription of this chronic disease will cost Rs 300 billion to the public treasury.

The draft constitutional law for this purpose was hastily adopted by a joint session of Parliament.

The opposition has vowed that it will not accept elections organized by “evil machines”.

It simply means another thorn in the heart of politics and yet another source of concern for analysts who objectively seek reconciliation on the political front.

– The writer is a political-strategic analyst based in Islamabad.

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