Mar 23 - 29, 2009

Politics is an art, according to the Greek philosopher Plato. There is nothing constant in politics. Variables constitute the arithmetic of the politics. Political rivals do not always remain rivals. Foes of today may be friends of tomorrow in politics. For a common person, politics brings surprise only. He cannot understand the dynamics of politics for he is not free to concentrate on the subject. He is seen all the time engaged in resolving the riddle of earning his livelihood. He is to hope and see just. He has nothing precious in hand but the vote that attracts the politicians toward him. For some time, the common person feels proud of his right to vote, as big guns of the constituency beg him for his vote. Soon his pride fades up and he finds himself in the same plight until the next elections. No change occurs in his life, but a temporary animation during election.

Unfortunately, politics in Pakistan has largely been domain of political demagogues and turncoats. Before elections, politicians make loud and high claims and promises; deliver vociferous and elocutionary speeches and addresses at the public meetings; and talk high of revolutionizing the society and redress the grievances of common people. They announce revolutionary packages and reforms for the people in case of being elected. All is done to seek popular support galvanizing the masses to poll votes for them.

Politics of forming electoral alliance serves short-term interests of the political parties on the eve of election. In the second round of power struggle, the allies are often seen unto fragmentation. It is a fact that rules are set; rules are followed and then rules are violated by these political alliances on the question of power. Thus, alliance is formed by the constituent parties to achieve specific political interest at a critical time and the same is broken on the same ground. Electoral alliances do not serve the interests of common people. They are merely the Machiavellian devices to catch votes. The allies at a stage appear enemies engaged in leg pulling of each other.

Post-poll politics is however practical politics where the leaders know their limits before issuing any statement in public. They have to look at their limited resources before announcing a package for the people. They have to face internal and external pressures prior to issuing the policy statement. Thus, pre-poll idealism ends with post-poll realism. This rhetoric-based politics has developed into a culture that brings no change but frustration for the masses. Whatever they claim before elections deny after assuming powers or find difficult, if not impossible, in practical scheme of the things after election. They do not fulfill their promises made by them to the masses before elections and resort to making different pretexts for their failure to keep their word. Pre-poll slogans and statements seem illusionary in post-poll scenario where the people see old and traditional rivals in politics joining hands and safeguarding each other's interests.

Democracy gives a freedom of choice. It is a government by public opinion; a government by criticism. Too much freedom without any check is a dangerous thing. This not only endangers the body politic but the sustainability of entire democratic framework.

Concentrated power is dangerous and leads to despotism, according to Montesquieu. He propounded the idea of establishing a system of checks and balances by separating the functions of executive, legislative, and judicial departments creating a 'balance' against another and power as a check on power. His theory of separation of power was based upon the principle, "power halts power". Monstesquieu's theory had a great democratic appeal and it soon became a political dogma.

Plato called democracy the anarchy. He was of the view that democracy provides the political demagogues a golden chance to enter in the political arena. His views on democracy find realistic manifestations in the political system of Pakistan. Kant did extol the merits of democracy for its potential to resolve the issues through dialogue and other peaceful methods. However, a democracy sans its pre-requisites is anarchy.

Last month, disqualification of the main opposition leader and former prime minister Nawaz Sharif and his brother Shahbaz Sharif from contesting elections and holding public office led to an open fight between the country's two major political forces- the ruling PPP and PML-N, as both parties are scrambling for power in Punjab province where the federal government imposed governor-rule for a period of two months. The politics of confrontation has had adverse impacts on the economy. Political instability, civil conflicts and law and order are the major factors reducing the attractiveness of Pakistan as a host for foreign capital. The general masses have nothing to do with the tussles or clashes between rival political forces. They only want solution of their problems.

The recent political turmoil over restoration of sacked judiciary has at least manifested one thing that our politicians did not learn any lesson from their mistakes that landed the country into an undemocratic arena for eight years since October 1999. It is a fact that politicians not the military generals can provide leadership to the country. Political instability leads to a leadership crisis that in turn harms the national cohesion. Politics of leg pulling and horse-trading enfeebled the political system in the past. This paved the way for military intervention in the politics.

Two-party system is considered a strong and healthy trend in politics in many countries of the world like Britain and USA. It is thought that two-party system brings stability in the country. A strong opposition always remains a check on the government. Astonishingly and unfortunately, the merits of two-party political system could not be observed in Pakistan. Pakistan Muslim League (PML) (Nawaz) and Pakistan People Party (PPP) are the mainstream political parties. Both proved tough competitors in electoral arena. The two parties exchanged ruling hands twice and formed their governments by turn during democratic period of 11 years prior to the military take over by General Pervez Musharraf in October 1999. None of the two regimes enjoyed complete term of five years and were ousted mainly on the charges of corruption.

Even the PPP and PML (N) had entered into an alliance before February 18 polls. Both the parties have been archrivals in domestic politics. However, the circumstances before February polls had brought them closer together to face a common rival PML (Q).

A real democracy is meant for strengthening the democratic institutions. It is a stark reality that state institutions were destroyed by the so-called democrats-turned-despots by misusing their powers. Unfortunately, we have seen executive-judiciary stand off during the elected government of Nawaz Sharif in 1997. There were talks of contempt of court and contempt of parliament, one could hear during course of the standoff. Independence of judiciary, which provides strength to the democratic institutions by safeguarding their constitutional role, was denied and tried to be crushed through undemocratic or arbitrary means and whims.