In the situation we, as a nation find ourselves in, caused by multidimensional issues; ranging from spiking inflation, to corruption at every level, from leadership bankruptcy to natural disasters, war on terrorism being fought within our borders, an aggressive India going ballistics as it sees China’s serious intentions to go ahead on the CPEC; we need a time of quiet reflection. At the core lies our failure to groom leaders who should have the vision to lead Pakistan into a promising future. We need to reflect, what have we done, or, what have we not done, to produce and groom a crop of leaders that can lead the nation out of its many challenges, heads up, colors flying!
The national parties have over a period of time, mobilized people with slogans of all kind of promises. However, once in power, they have failed the nation at every level. One reason is genuine ignorance of the economy and searching for answers that need answering. The other reason is, awarding ministries, not on grounds of competence of an individual to run a ministry, nor his knowledge and acumen in the field, but purely party loyalty. This in turn leads to wrong decisions, waste of resources, misdirected human effort and more incompetencies. In any well developed system, the ministries must be run by technocrats, the parliamentarians must legislate and career diplomats should focus on representing Pakistan as Ambassadors. We unfortunately, are so used to these assignments being dished out as sweetmeats to party favorites that we have stopped questioning such practices.
The third reason is a genuine lack of will to do well for the country as compared to do good personally. This conflict between personal gains with national gain brings us to two crucial questions that we, as a nation, must address. High time we do.
The first conflict is the right exercised by a large percentage of leaders, including Members of Parliament, to maintain dual citizenship. Although many countries in the world do recognize dual citizenship, including USA, based on the U.S. Department of State regulation on dual citizenship (7 FAM 1162), the Supreme Court of the United States has stated that dual citizenship is a “status long recognized in the law” and that “a person may have and exercise rights of nationality in two countries and be subject to the responsibilities of both. The mere fact he asserts the rights of one citizenship does not without more mean that he renounces the other.” (Kawakita v. U.S., 343 U.S. 717) However, I have strong reservations about a citizen having loyalty to two countries.
The word “allegiance” means that we promise loyalty. It also carries with it the expectation that this loyalty will be exclusive and unrestrained. In the case of a declared war or real threat or conflict, for example, our allegiance to Pakistan should preclude any other interest, be it another country or political ideology. Since citizenship carries with it a responsibility to be exclusively loyal to one country, the whole concept of dual citizenship and nationality raises questions about which of the dual citizenships has priority. This is extremely important when the two countries have opposing interests. It can be a deadly problem when a dual citizen is in a high position within our government. Can one imagine a Japanese citizen serving in the Pentagon during WWII? Alternatively, how about a citizen of the Soviet Union holding a cabinet position in the White House during the Cold War?
Political Parties Act needs serious revamping. The seats within party set up and those in provincial assembly must be limited to a given period. What happens though if the system of governance from top down is corrupt and there is unquestionable legal facts to prove it? Does the government go home? Not in Pakistan, it does not. It usually stays around, the buck being kicked around a few times until it rolls down some alleyway. Out of sight and out of mind. There needs to be a Constitutional provision allowing a government to be sent packing. Instead, our leader join together to ‘save democracy’ to the sublime ignorance of the common man. I do not support military takeovers. However, until and unless there is accountability at all levels, no system can succeed.
The other level of accountability is the No Vote Option. This is placing an empty box on the ballot paper-stating: ‘None of the above’ thereby rejecting all contesting candidates in a constituency. Advantages and disadvantages of this must be carefully evaluated before lauding or rejecting the idea. Those who oppose have declared it as a step against democracy. Is it? If the voters are allowed the chance of, rejecting all-it offers them a broader base than to choose between the Devil and the Black Sea. In a number of cases, one hears people refraining from voting particularly in the urban areas because they do not want to vote for the same electable who have bought no change for the better. Urban areas are marked by low resident interaction, an absence of the ‘baithak’ (general commuting place for residents) culture. This is not only true of upscale areas but also lower-middle income neighborhoods.
If NOTA merely mean to state the number of people not willing to vote any contesting candidate in power on the ballot paper, they might as well not turn up to cast the votes. What weightage do the votes cast for NOTA signify if at all? Logical follow-up to this scenario should be to call for a by-election with fresh candidates in the above given scenario. This will make contestants more answerable to the people they represent. This will make them more answerable in terms of broken promises to people they represent. It will also make them more answerable to the people in cases where rampant corruption committed, if any. In the final analysis let, the people decide whom to vote for. That is the essence of democracy. Being rejected via NOTA must also mean they cannot be appointed as advisors and chairpersons of organizations thus stealing in to take their place in corridors of power.
According to the July 14, 2008 edition of the “Times of India,” the caretaker Bangladeshi regime five years ago had also proposed that an election to a constituency should be cancelled if “no votes” somehow amounted to 50 per cent or more of the total votes cast—consequently leading to a by-election (The News 26 Feb 2013).
This is not all, there are other issues. One being of the leaders in a country, investing their personal funds, heavily abroad and not in the country they purport to lead.
Like unconditional support to one flag, should not they be the first to affirm confidence in the country they lead by investing with its people and economy? Should not their stakes be high IN the country and not invested abroad? Does not, investing in foreign countries, give out a signal of distrust to the people and world at large? Cannot this policy lead to a conflict of interest? Should not the leaders lead by example and reaffirm confidence in their own country by investing in sectors that need a boost by leading by example? How can they seek foreign investment by not investing first themselves?
Unfortunately, in Pakistan, we see a reverse of the situation. Our leaders invest heavily abroad, thereby, in times of distress, jump boat to live in foreign shores, leading a more comfortable and plentiful life than the ones they lived while in Pakistan, to be back to resume the mantle when the time is ripe for their return.
The national government, if it wants to be national, ought to be governed by the people and for the people
“Experto Credite.” (“Trust one who has proved it.” Virgil, 2,000 years ago)
The writer is a lawyer, academic and political analyst. She has authored a book titled A Comparative Analysis of Media & Media Laws in Pakistan. Her email is: firstname.lastname@example.org and tweets at @yasmeen_9
This is a cross post from Pakistan Today: 22 June 2015