Archive for April, 2006

Creating Leader Politicians Last year, during the…

Creating Leader Politicians

Last year, during the Houston city council elections, I went to a town hall meeting with our candidate Khalid Khan. After the meeting, we met with the citizens present and one person made a very interesting comment that the participation of good candidates in an election is a sign of a strong democracy. The people of those nations where the best and the brightest decide not to participate in an election can learn much from this simple statement. By abstaining from political participation, they weaken the development of democratic institutions. Unfortunately, Pakistan has been plagued by this malice since its inception when members of influential groups like bureaucrats, military and zamindar took control of the democratic institutions and political parties. In this article we will discuss this situation and also suggest remedies to strengthen the democratic tradition in the country.

Pakistan’s political scene is dominated by a large number of political parties, each representing interests of a small group. A family or clan usually controls a party with an iron grip and no decisions are made without the consent or approval of the controlling family. To legitimize its control over the party, the family drafts the charter and constitutions accordingly. Most of the party positions are nominations rather than elections, which should be the case for a political party that believes in democratic values. This runs anathema to the traditions of democracy where the voice of the people should decide who can represent them not only at the party level but also who should run for elections. Some parties that started with humble beginnings like MQM or ANP have also fallen prey to personal egos and interests. During Imran Khan’s visit to Houston few years ago, he was asked when he would leave chairmanship of the party He gave no satisfactory answer. A similar question was asked from a PPP elected representative about lifetime chairmanship of PPP awarded to Benzir Bhutto. Again, there was no satisfactory answer.

Since military rule has dominated a large part of our independent history, it is in the interest of the ruling generals that their cronies who are always ready to make a compromise at the expense of people control political parties. It is also easier to manipulate this small number of people to ensure the continuity of their military rule. For a candidate or political party to succeed, financial resources are needed to inform the people about the qualifications of the candidates and the program of the party.

Most middle class and educated people do not have these financial resources available to compete with well-financed larger parties funded by landlords or industrialists. Ironically, these landlords and industrialists have accumulated their wealth by enjoying no-farm tax benefit or write-offs of large loans by government owned banks. This is another reason these people do not want to lose political control. In recent times, some religious and ethnic parties have tried to collect campaign funds from people through small contributions in mosques or neighborhoods. But after gaining political power they conveniently forgot the sacrifices of their constituents in the footsteps of other political parties.

In established democracies like India, USA and England, people with middle class backgrounds who are equipped with knowledge, intellect and a desire to serve get an opportunity through their political system to lead their people. This is achieved by separating party positions from elected representative positions. Once a person gets nominated to compete in an election for a representative body he/she has to give up their party positions so that other people get an opportunity. Secondly, serving both on party and representative body creates a conflict of interest because an elected official has to serve all people without considering their party affiliations. In democracies, candidates raise funds for their campaigns instead of spending their personal money. A person who has spent his/her own funds for an election is always tempted to recover that money once elected which also creates a conflict of interest and results in corruption of elected officials. People who support a political party or a candidate should not only honor that person with their vote but should also help that person financially to get elected.

In Pakistan, if we are interested in gradually establishing strong democratic institutions, we have to reform the regulations governing political parties, campaign finance and qualification of the candidates. It should be made mandatory for all political parties to hold elections for their party positions where individual members cast their votes to elect their party leaders. It should also be made mandatory that a person elected to a public office should vacate the party position for other people. We also need to clearly establish the academic and intellectual qualification of a person to run for a public office. Recently imposed condition of a Bachelors degree is a step in the right direction, although many candidates have made a mockery of this condition. We also need to overhaul the campaign finance rules so that a person is asked to raise funds for his campaign instead of spending his own money.

Our democratic process is also plagued by participation of small parties that result in a largely divided parliament and senate which gives rise to horse-trading and compromises that result in a weak government. Only national parties should be allowed to participate for national assembly and senate positions. Regional and ethnic parties can be allowed to form coalitions with national parties to include their candidates to run for national positions. Pakistan is located in a highly volatile region where the country has to be strong internally to maintain its independence and integrity. This cannot be achieved unless we create an environment where qualified people are given an opportunity to represent the interest of the people. If we continue on the present path, our internal weakness can result in disintegration of the federation as well as increased poverty and increased social injustice.


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A Pakistani identity On March 23, 2006 Pakistanis…

A Pakistani identity

On March 23, 2006 Pakistanis living around the world celebrated the 66th anniversary of Pakistan resolution. After almost 59 years of existence Pakistan is still struggling with defining its identity and formation of a nation rallying around one flag. This identity crisis is the result of biased and ethnic policies adopted by our military dictators. Other influential segments of society beaurocrats and landlords also supported this ethnic definition of four ethnicities. An identity of a nation is derived from the vision of its founding fathers and understanding the cultural heritage it has pursued. In this article we will try to understand and define the identity of a Pakistani in the light of the vision pursued by our founding fathers and our cultural heritage.

Pakistan resolution, presented by Moulvi Fazal Haq, was adopted as Lahore resolution during the meeting of All India Muslim League in Lahore’s Manto Park, now known as Iqbal Park, on March 23, 1940. The resolution demanded formation of autonomous and sovereign states comprising of Muslim majority regions. Although there was no mention of the name Pakistan for this sovereign state but by 1945 it became a specific demand for Pakistan. After the formation of Pakistan first Prime Minister Mr. Liaquat Ali Khan presented an Objectives Resolution in the March 17, 1949 meeting of the assembly. This Objectives resolution also became the foundation stone for the constitution of 1973 as well as definition of a Pakistani nation. It is apparent from the language of the Objectives Resolution that the founding fathers understood the dilemma at hand to define a Pakistani nation. They delayed the formation of a constitution so that they can first define the identity of the young nation.

Muslim Leaque as a political party spearheaded the constitutional fight for an independent state for Indian Muslims. Immediately after independence it lost two revolutionary leaders in quick succession. First it was the death of the founding father Quaid-e-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah, succumbing to Tuber colossus, in September 1948 and then assassination of Shaheed-e-Millat Liaquat Ali Khan in October 1951 was the final nail in the dream of formation of a strong democratic nation. Landlords and beaurocrats soon captured prominent positions in the only political party and struggle for political succession started, which culminated in the Marshal law of 1958. Once military tasted the forbidden fruit of political power it became increasingly difficult for the divided nation to regain its democratic values and get on the path of a single Pakistani identity. Field Marshall Ayub Khan, with his limited understanding of the civilian life and his training in British institutions of divide and rule, established the promotion of four unique ethnic cultures. His successor General Yahya Khan could not handle the crisis of East Pakistan well and it resulted in the succession of East Pakistan to become an independent state Bangladesh. Then General Zia ul Haq promoted the Islamist zealots and promotion of another ethnic group Mohajirs in Sindh to counter the emergence of Pakistan Peoples Party in its homeland. Our current President General Musharraf initiated military operation in NWFP and Balochistan to further create a dissent from the center.

Despite these set-backs Pakistan represents a dream that can become a reality and beacon of light for other struggling nations. Pakistan is the only country formed pursuing an ideology and was acquired purely through constitutional struggle without a violent independence movement pursued by the other major political party in India, All India Congress. A Pakistani is defined by following motivations and inspirations:

1. A Pakistani has firm faith in God to be the sole benefactor of human kind and a guide to a spiritually enriching life. For a Pakistani spirituality takes precedence over materialism.

2. A Pakistani believes in family values where the inspiration of an individual is always subject to the inspiration of a family. A Pakistani works in the framework of a family hierarchy where he has to accord due respect to both his elders and his youngsters. A person is defined by the role he plays in his family as a son/daughter, father/mother, and wife/husband.

3. A Pakistani is aware of the rich heritage he/she acquired from his forefathers. This includes the international icon of Muslim architecture Taj Mahal, one of the world famous poets Mirza Assadullah Khan Ghalib, and Amir Khusroo, creator of the musical instrument sitar.

4. A Pakistani is also the bearer of the youngest language Urdu created from the amalgamation of international languages Persian, French, English, Arabic and Turkish. Although being the youngest language Urdu poses one of the most well defined structures of grammar and diction. In Urdu a person can be addressed in so many different ways that shows his/her relation to the person and his social status. This beauty and richness of the language has attracted so many followers around the world, estimated to be around 2 billion people, that it has become one of the fastest growing languages in the world. Indian film industry, as it is famously known as Bollywood, despite its best efforts to adopt Hindi/Sanskrit for movie songs has to still use Urdu as the language of choice.

5. In his personal endeavors a Pakistani remembers the 1000 years of history of leadership and it comes out in it professional dealings. A Pakistani is defined as an ambitious, energetic and innovative in its approach towards adopting any profession. This is evident from the success of immigrant Pakistani community as a leading minority business community in USA.

Deep down inside the nation understands the negative effects ethnic and sectarian divisions have on its economic prosperity and progress. The nation is desperately seeking a leader or a cause that can become a reason for this unity. The whole world has seen the unity of Pakistani nation in the face of one of the worst earthquakes in the history. Everyone from Karachi to Khyber responded to alleviate the sufferings of the people who lost their homes and family in this devastating incident.

Pakistani people should understand their true identity and elect sincere leaders who can lead the country is realizing its dream of leadership in the region. Pakistani people should understand that they cannot allow corrupt and self-interested generals to rule them with a bayonet or with currency in the bank or with a large land holding. We have to create political institutions that make it possible for ambitious, energetic and qualified leaders to emerge and take the reins of the nation to put it on the path of progress and harmony.

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