AS elections approach ever closer without any tangible improvement in the political atmosphere, there has been a fresh call to renew the Charter of Democracy and finalise the long-discussed ‘charter of economy’. The proposal has come from the PPP, one of the co-signatories of the original Charter of Democracy, which, in 2006, sought to affirm the primacy of democratic power and limit the interference of non-democratic forces in the electoral process. On Monday, the PPP’s Sindh president invited all political parties to convene again and agree on two fresh charters so that the next government has “smooth ground for economic turnaround”. It is a commendable proposal, even if it seems a tad idealistic to believe that any of today’s political players are ready or willing to refuse ‘outside help’ towards achieving their individual goals, as the PPP and PML-N so solemnly did in 2006. Indeed, given how quickly the two parties themselves betrayed the CoD, it would seem odd to hope for different outcomes this time around. However, it is never too late in politics to try again, and there is still considerable room for our leaders to learn from their past mistakes.
It is up to the PPP to step forward and take the lead. It should start by reaching out to all parties represented in the last two general assemblies and involve them in consultations over what a compact for Pakistan’s political future may look like. There must be reflection on why and where the original CoD proved unsuccessful, and some introspection by the parties involved to determine what needs to be done in order to prevent it from failing again. The good thing is that a basic framework for a political compact is already present. It may be strengthened greatly with an agreement by all stakeholders that they will respect each other’s mandate and allow elected governments to complete their tenure. As a corollary, while the legal pathway of removing governments will always be available, opposition parties must eschew regime change and consider it a ‘nuclear option’ rather than some ‘ultimate goal’. The core focus should be on ensuring stability, and stability may only be achieved when responsibilities and policies are passed from one government to another in an environment of mutual respect, no matter how stark the differences between the respective political parties.
Published in Dawn, November 29th, 2023