You have to stand guard over the development and maintenance of democracy, social justice and the equality of mankind in your own native soil. [Mohammed Ali Jinnah]

Monday, December 31, 2007

Undemocratic, democratic political parties of Pakistan.

Traditionally political affiliation of people of sub continent has been towards personalities rather than political parties. People tend to follow a person, whose personality and public face symbolizes his political ideology. This has, however led to undemocratic values among the democratic parties.

The party leadership more often than not enjoys an assured life-time leadership. The party is at the mercy of one man’s ideals, political abilities, vision and intentions.

When it comes to choosing the next leader for the party, which usually happens after the (usually a tragic and unnatural) death of former leader, rather than an election for party leadership, it is usually “announced” by the elders of the party. In order to keep affiliations of the party workers and general public intact, party usually “decides” to hand it over to some one next of kin of the previous leader.

In India Congress Party Chairman Nehru was succeeded by his daughter Indira Gandhi, who was succeeded by her son Rajiv Gandhi, who in turn was succeeded by his wife Sonia Gandhi.

In Bangladesh President Mujeeb-ur-Rehman was succeeded by his daughter. President Zia-ur-Rehman by his wife Khalida Zia.

In Srilanka President Premadasa was succeeded by Mrs. Premadasa.

In Pakistan, Muslim League’s presidency fell into lap of Miss Fatima Jinnah, sister of party president Mr. Mohammad Ali Jinnah. Pakistan People’s Party Chairman Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto was succeeded by his daughter Benazir Bhutto.

It was more than evident that after the tragic murder of Benazir Bhutto, some other member of Bhutto family will be the new chairman of the biggest party of Pakistan. It turned out to be the young Oxford law student Mr. Bilawal Bhutto Zardari.

This decision has been accepted and welcomed throughout the country by party workers, who have swore their allegiance to Mr. Bilawal Bhutto, and hence the tradition continues.

I am in no position to criticize the decision of the PPP leadership, it was their decision to make, and according to traditional, not democratic, norms was more than expected. but I was just thinking that, If there’s no democracy within the democratic parties, how come they can work to instill democracy in this democracy deprived country?

Sharif Brothers enjoy dictatorial control over their PML-N, most probable candidate to succeed them will either by Mr. Nawaz’s son or Hamza Shahbaz , who by the way is contesting from a PML-N stronghold, Gwalmandi seat, forcing the loyal and party strongman former MPA Khawaja Sa’ad Rafique to contest from a weaker constituency.

PML-Q’s Chaudhry brothers share the spoils of military backing together and are preparing Moonis Elahi as the next ‘BiG’ boss of PML-Q, with all the Local Government Nazim’s campaigning exhaustively for him alongside Punjab Police for his current election campaign.

Jamaat-e-Islami, had a record of democratically electing its leaders, though then again for lifetime, as was the case of replacing Maulan Modoodi with Qazi Hussein after the earlier’s death. But now Rehana Qazi, daughter of Qazi Hussein happens to be the contender for the hot seat.

Mufti Sahab was replaced by his son Maula Fazlur Rehman as the leader of JUI.

ANP saw replacement of Wali Khan with his wife & later by their kin Asfand Yaar Wali.

Two relatively newer parties MQM & Tehreek-e-Insaaf are being led by their founders with totalitarian attitude. The de-facto party presidents, enjoy lifetime leadership of their parties.

There are many mal-affects of this tradition. In absence of democratic setup within the party, any suggestion or appeal from any party worker or group is easily vetoed by the leader. Sharp political minds always remain on the sidelines, as is the case with Aitzaz Ahsan, Javed Hashmi or Farooq Sattar. There can be no pressure group with in the party to persuade it or at least make it consider a different approach.

A political party represents an ideology, voters vote for it to give it a chance to implement that political ideology, to take the country into direction for which it promised during campaign, but does that really happen?.

I believe that the absence of democratic culture with in the political parties leads to dictatorial attitude of their leaders, who when came to power do things their own way, rather than their party’s way.

Isn’t it ironic that when they’re in opposition they tend to speak “our” language, when they come to power; they speak “their” own language?

A better start towards democracy might be introduction of democratic values with in the party, but, that seems a far cry. When will public representation and support be treated on democratic grounds rather than on “hereditary” grounds?


Akeel ur Rehman Faridee said...

First of all he is Zardari not a Bhutto. Second Sonia Gandhi chaired the party after 8 years gap, so in this case this could have been done. Third visit the BBC opinion page you will find the opinions of PPP workers who are unhappy at this decision because they wanted Sanam Bhutto or some other 'Bhutto' to chair the party instead of Zardari turned Bhutto.

By the way in either way it would have been un-democratic. Lets hope/pray that this decision leads towards the better political environment and hence a better Pakistan to live.

Akeel ur Rehman Faridee said...

I forgot to mention one more thing that Qazi is not the successor of Moudoodi, i heard that before Qazi Mian Tufail was the head of JI, and he remained quiet a long time.
And another thing, party leadership in JI is not for lifetime because i remember that a few years back Qazi was re-elected for the leadership and Munawar Hassan was competing him for the leadership.
Last thing to mention is that Qazi's daughter is not the 'strong' or even expected contender of leadership after Qazi's term is over. Instead Liaqat Balouch is the expected and strong contender of the leadership.

Mohammad Ali said...

You are right about Sonia Gandhi. She headed Congress after a gap of 8 years, but on what grounds? By virtue of being the wife of slain former president?

Same case as it was with Miss. Fatima Jinnah, who took party leadership after a gap of 17 years, by virtue of being the sister of former chairman!

Both of them were family members of a political figure, but as themselves weren't political leaders!

Mohammad Ali said...

Regarding Liaquat Baloch & Rehana Qazi, only time will tell, untill then, Qazi sahab is the de-facto party president for life!

Pakistani Girl said...

Exactly my thoughts. If a party can't choose its own leader in a democratic fashion, how are they supposed to bring democracy to a country of more than 160 million people? I also don't get this attitude about 'I am in no position to criticize the decision of the PPP leadership, it was their decision to make, and according to traditional, not democratic, norms was more than expected.' Why are you not in a position to do so? Are you in some way indebted to them, do you owe them something. My dear, you are a free citizen of a free country. Learn to take it by the neck and not the tail. Moreover, how was it their decision to make when it was already mentioned in a so-called will that the husband would be the next chairperson (for life!). Just because someone's father or grandfather made a party so they own it? Is a political party like land, where ownership is passed from generation to generation? If you want to be a true democratic citizen my friend, you need to have the guts to call black as black. It might have been expected that someone will be bequeathed dynastic role but more than that, it was expected that the person or persons will show greatness in this hour of need of Pakistan as a nation and have inter party elections to show they actually give a damn about democracy. Then, if, Mr. Zardari, Jr. were elected, we as a nation wouldn’t have any problems. Until we change this attitude about I can’t criticise this or that based on some lame excuses, I don’t think we need democracy. We first need to learn the etiquettes of democracy, first of which is the freedom of speech.