Pakistani society is described as a pluralistic society where people belong to different cultural, social, ethnic and linguistic segments. Each of these groups have their own needs and aspirations despite the fact that 98 percent of the population is Muslims. This means that with diverse demographics come diverse problems, and Pakistan is not an exception.
The biggest issue face by Pakistan that I am going to analyse here is weak political parties and structures. Political parties are the foundation of parliamentary system of government. They produce leaders of vision and judgement to lead the states, to strengthen institutions and to make the economy strong. Muslim league was the main political party of the Muslims which helped them to gain an independent state for themselves where they could live according to their own culture and religion.
After independence the role of Muslim league changed from agitation politics to transformation politics. It was indeed a daunting task to manage the affairs of a newly independent state. The Quaid once remarked that he was leaving behind two legacies, Pakistan and the Muslim league.
Yet, the Muslim League soon deviated from the path it was supposed to go on. The political intrigues of Iskandr Mirza were only meant to make strong his own rule without caring for the masses. Fast forward forty years and came the 80’s and the 90’s era where Sharifs lead the Muslim League towards chaos and corruption. In that era, the Prime Ministers were overthrown so frequently that democracy became a joke in the country.
Then, there was the Peoples Party founded by Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto. Bhutto was also soon victim of the lust for power and thus shunned democratic practices for his own party.He mostly relied on bureaucracy and intelligence agencies for mustering support.
Later in the years to come, Nawaz sharif was nurtured by lieutenant general Ghulam Jillani not for his political know how but for material interests. He still controls the party. Nawaz Sharif turned Muslim league Nawaz into a regional party limited to Punjab only. All the party decisions are taken inside a drawing room where the whims and wishes of Sharif family runs supreme
The Nawaz League is dominated by those having close links to the family violating the practices of merit, transparency and one man one vote concept. Party tickets are awarded to those candidates having the capability to win seats and not to those who have knowledge and expertise.
The cumulative effect of all these ills is that Nawaz government is still unable to devise an independent foreign policy, break the bowl of debt, shun imperialism, strengthen institutions, run party on institutional lines, makes Parliament strong, or tackle other important issues.
The Peoples part of Bhutto has also remained limited to the rural Sindh only relying on the support of poor loyalists of Bhutto. In urban Sindh, it promotes it’s political activities through armed Gangs and is in a constant turf war with the MQM. Its current chairman and ex President Zardari totally changed its shape and structure. He abused the slogan of Bhuttoism and used it for his own gains.
Talking about other political parties, the MQM was the product of General Zia to lend credence to his rule. Its creation was not for the sake of the state but for the sake of prolonging Zia’s dictatorship. MQM is still trying to stabilise itself in urban Sindh but the recent Rangers arrests have maligned its name and reputation on national level.
Religious political parties such as the Jammat e Islami, and Jamiat e Ulema e Islam (led by Maulana Fazal ur Rehman) have also failed to live up to their slogan of following Islamic values. This is because both the parties in past and present have been active supporters of military rules as well as governments of PML N and PPP.
In all this political chaos and disappointment, the Pakistan Tehrik e Insaf led by Imran Khan provides a ray of hope. The PTI has become the flavor of the month .Its leader Imran khan is considered as a saviour, who is free of any charges of corruption. Even though the aims and manifesto of PTI talks about transparency and justice, some of its senior and important members are not that clean after all. Also, PTI is still deficient of a clear vision and power will test its fate because fear of losing power corrupts those who wield it and fear of the scourge of power corrupts those who are subject to it.
In short, until and unless the political parties in Pakistan become stronger and more transparent, coupled with people-oriented, there is little or not hope for Pakistan when it comes to furthering democracy and democratic norms.
Haroon Barakzai Lecturer IMS UST Bannu.