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Democratic manifesto

April 11, 2013

WE grew up in an era symbolising integrity and altruism. My shining moment came when I had a brush with death in the 1965 war with India. But our romanticism with idealism since then came to grief several times.

We are witnessing a familiar political scenario: flashback of electioneering, hee-haw and promises of fair and transparent elections. It was full of fire and fury then as is the drama being enacted now. It did not signify anything then, will it signify anything now?

In the past five years, the government did not seem to function on any national issues, be it internal security, energy, unemployment, corruption and host of others.

It is the calculated manner in which the poor have been conditioned to this type of defeatism that makes countrymen wonder: is there any silver lining for the future?

Borrowing Bill Clinton’s famous campaign slogan, ‘it is the economy, stupid’, yes we can overcome the challenges ahead: a firm commitment to hard work and simple living.

Greater stress on reduction of wasteful expenses and tight monetary policies will give a jump-start.

As a starter, I ask all political leadership to include the following in their manifesto and implement them once they are in power.

There should not be more than about 25 federal and 15 provincial ministers qualified and competent for the ministry. The State Bank of Pakistan should be independent and strictly adhere to the fiscal policies.

The auditor-general at the federal and provincial levels must report financial irregularities every quarter.

This will ensure financial discipline among the ruling elite.

Allocation of development funds to MNAs and MPAs must be stopped because they are legislators and not contractors. It should be handled by the elected local bodies’ members.

There should be elections of members of local bodies within three months of the formation of provincial governments.

There should be no allotment of plots or arms licences to MNAs or MPAs. Only locals should be appointed in police and intelligence services.

Allocation of funds to education and healthcare should start from three to four per cent of the GDP.

Political parties should immediately implement the decisions of courts and ensure the rule of law.

It is very tempting to oversimplify the inherent tyranny of corrupt leaders. But such black and white thinking will lead us nowhere. Judicial activism has paved the way for civil courage to emerge and emboldened the people to resist oppression.

Similarly, the media is more vibrant. The electronic media is breaking news at a supersonic speed. Ruling with constraints is now the dilemma of the ruling elite but old habits die hard.

While all eyes are on the elections, my thoughts are with the moral fibre and work ethics of rulers who are ridiculed openly. Travelling between my hopeful youth and cynical current self, I ask myself: will the new rulers match up to the challenges ahead?

Long ago I read and was struck by the message of Sir Syed Ahmad Khan in his essay Umeed Ki Kiran (Ray of Hope) in which he urges not to despair or lose heart.

Salaam Pakistan.