Essence of democracy

How democratic are the parties?

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At a festival in Lahore, one session focusing on the absence of democratic culture within the political parties was of particular significance. Pakistan Peoples Party’s Farhatullah Babar and Pakistan Tehreek-i- Insaf’s Barrister Hamid Khan were present. Referring to the recent passage of the services chiefs’ tenure bill, the outspoken Mr Babar said that the central executive committee of the party had disagreed with the bill and had proposed four amendments to it in order to empower the prime minister in the matter of all-important appointments. He regretted that those amendments were withdrawn by the party leadership within 24 hours without taking the CEC into confidence. He also referred to the Charter of Democracy signed between two top leaders of the leading political parties back in 2006 in London, saying the issue of internal democracy was not touched upon. He called for a fresh CoD to address this crucial aspect.

Hamid Khan too expressed his reservations with regard to the intra party elections held by PTI albeit with much fanfare. Those who lost the elections had serious reservations and even the chief election commissioner was removed and he till date calls the whole exercise a sham. For who does not know the views Justice Retd Wajih hold about the party? Imran Khan too found it convenient to follow the course followed by other parties and kept most of the decision making with himself.

This latest rare consensus among the political parties across the aisle has thrown into focus the dictatorial mindset at work within the parties. Workers in both the parties are not happy with the leadership who kept the cards close to their chest and did not take anyone except for the top clique into confidence as to why they did what they did. PMLN in particular is finding it difficult to explain their position to the people who were gathered around the slogan of respect for vote. Khwaja Asif, Rana Sanaullah and Khurram Dastagir and anyone who has to explain the latest move finds themselves in a tight spot.

All clamour among the political workers calls for strong accountability within the ranks of the party so that no important decision can be taken by the top leadership for their own gains by leaving out the party cadre. Meaningful and transparent Intraparty elections should be made a mandatory part of their party constitution besides strengthening roles of the central executive committees and/or the core committees – whatever the nomenclature.