Dividends of consensus

Courtesy:- Malik M Ashraf 


In the backdrop of the renewal of traditional animosity between the ruling PPP and PML (N) after a short-lived bonhomie brought about by the signing of COD between Benazir Bhutto and Mian Nawaz Sharif, the political pundits and those who had watched the political duels between these two major parties in the nineties had started painting a very bleak picture about the future of democracy in Pakistan. The split between them encouraged the elements inimical to democratic norms to make bizarre predictions about the collapse of the democratic system and even time-lines were given in this regard. People witnessed an incessant and well orchestrated campaigns to denigrate and discredit the government on unsubstantiated charges of corruption designed to give a cue to the predatory forces to make their move. 


The NRO saga and a spate of manoeuvred petitions designed to keep the government entangled in the struggle for survival presented ominous portents. The intentions of the architects of this detestable exercise ostensibly were not to allow the government to concentrate on resolving the inheritedproblems that affected the lives of the people. Even the political parties who have a big stake in the continuation of the democratic system resorted to certain moves that could have easily sent the system into a terrible tumble. Thanks to the reluctance of the praetorian powers to take the bait and more so the philosophy of consensus politics practiced by the ruling coalition, the system is trundling along and there are strong indications and hope that the country will for the first time see a smooth and peaceful transfer of power through ballot.. 

This hope is kindled by the resolution of the most contentious issue of appointment of the Chief Election Commissioner acceptable both to the ruling party and the opposition. The agreement to appoint Justice (retired) Fakhruddin G.Ibrahim as the new Chief Election Commissioner, whose name was originally proposed by the PML(N) is a good omen for the future of democracy in the country. He is known to be a man of impeccable integrity and the fact that he has been appointed with the consensus of all the political forces, will eliminate the chances of any political entity raising the bogey ofrigging in the coming elections that has always marred the process of polls in this country. 

All the political parties, especially the ruling PPP deserves unqualified accolades for the spirit of accommodation shown by it in the larger national interest and resolving this festering issue which had the potential to build up into a serious political crisis. Such achievements are only possible in a democracy. The beauty of democracy is that it has the capacity and versatility to surmount all difficulties due to its inherent flexibility and resilience. The maxim that the worst kind of democracy is better than the most benign dictatorship is amply vindicated by this episode.

The government may not have been able to bring about much improvement on the economic front and completely beating back the debilitatingproblems of power crisis and law and order situation in the country, but it certainly has succeeded in taking epoch making steps in the political and social arenas which have unleashed strong forces that surely will help democracy to take roots in the country by warding off the machinations of the anti-democracy entities and nurturing a silent social revolution. These measures could not have been possible in a hostile atmosphere that has prevailed during the last four years, but for the sagacity and political acumen exhibited by the ruling PPP in building consensus and broad based support for those measures. 

The adoption of the system of proportional representation, which is prevalent in most of the European countries is perhaps the best remedy for a multi-cultural entity like Pakistan to extricate the itself from the fetters of feudal political culture. The biggest advantage is that it will ensure representation of almost all the political forces in the parliament, more so the small regional parties. This mainstreaming of the small and nationalist parties will strengthen national unity and integration. The political parties must make their move and bring in the legislation to effect the change through consensus before we go for the next polls.

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