LAHORE: Political parties in Pakistan are neither internally democratic nor are able to take democratic decisions independently and the recent unanimous passing of the Pakistan Army (Amendment) Act, 2020 by the parliament served as a litmus test, says former PPP Senator Farhatullah Babar.
“The PPP’s central executive committee (CEC) had overwhelmingly rejected the Pakistan Army (Amendment) Act bill and recommended four amendments, but those were withdrawn within 24 hours without taking the committee into confidence,” Mr Babar revealed.
It was quite painful to know that the party leadership took a ‘unilateral’ decision to withdraw the amendments that were aimed at supremacy of parliament and empowering the prime minister not only to grant extension to the chief of the army staff (COAS), but also to dismiss him.
“Have parties become subservient to the party leaders and there is no democratic process?” Mr Babar posed a question.
Says party leaders withdrew amendments without taking CEC into confidence
The dissenting voices are being raised in the mainstream political parties over the Army Act as only a day ago, PML-N leader and former defence minister Khurram Dastgir had conceded that his party leadership might have faced some pressure to unconditionally support the Army Act.
Telling the audience that he was raising dissenting voice while staying part of the party at a ThinkFest session, titled Internal Democracies in Political Parties, at Alhamra Art Centre on Sunday, the senior PPP leader asserted that the political parties needed to take ‘structured decisions’.
Regretting that no political party was taking forward the cause of internal democracy, he said, even the 2006 Charter of Democracy (CoD) between the PML-N and the PPP did not touch the subject of internal political parties’ reforms though it discussed review of the parties’ relationship with security agencies. He also regretted that the political parties’ role had been taken up by the parliamentary parties discarding public opinion at large.
Referring that the PTI had introduced intra-party elections with fanfare but could not endure it and the party’s chief election commissioner was sacked, the former PPP senator said the internal party elections within the PPP were not representative and the party leaders earned party seats with few votes.
“I know that these elections in the party are not truly democratic,” he added. He called for evolving a new CoD to bring about internal party reforms and supremacy of democratic decisions instead of one-man show.
Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) senior leader Advocate Hamid Khan also said that Imran Khan was ambitious to hold intra-party elections to present the PTI as a truly democratic party but he too was ‘convinced’ that these things were just irrelevant and a ‘ready-made system’ would be available.
He said the PTI was launched with great idealism and the party chairman came with all-out efforts to hold intra-party elections to give it a truly democratic colour. But, he added, conventional forces just failed party chairman Imran Khan’s vision of democracy by injecting fear that the intra-party elections would divide the party and those defeated would not work for the party. On the other hand, he said, those who lost the maiden intra-party elections too did not accept results and levelled charges of corruption on winners.
Former ANP Senator Afrasiab Khattak said the country was facing a hybrid martial law in contrast with former dictator Gen Ziaul Haq’s hybrid democracy. He stressed the political parties should bring about reforms, serve as institutions and conduct policy research.
Published in Dawn, January 13th, 2020