One of the reasons why we have not been able to ‘produce leaders’ is lack of democracy and democratic process within political parties. Even dynasty-based parties are now finding it difficult to carry on their style of politics.
Three major reasons remain main hurdle in building democratic institutions including political parties. They are: (1) interference of the establishment, (2) dynastic politics even in parties where families don’t dominate, and (3) failure of parties to hold elections for their ranks.
Historically, the establishment created some parties, created split in established parties and also created leaders. While the families domination in some parties is no secret, even parties which don’t believe in family politics are not ready to democratise themselves. All this allows undemocratic forces and mindset to malign the very concept of democracy. There are no successors in these parties because their leaders are not ready to make space for others.
The Pakistan Thereek-e-Insaf (PTI),which has emerged as the alternative to the PML and the PPP, followed some democratic principles, but we are still far from looking towards another chairman after Imran Khan who is now considered founder more than chairman. He has a challenge to produce his successor in the party.
Similarly, it is time for the Sharifs to have some trusted party leader, not from family, as the new PML-N president. The PPP is facing double problem as it has now become mixture of two dynasties, Bhuttos and Zardaris, and even the PPP-Parliamentarians after the death of Makhdoom Amin Faheem is being controlled by the family.
The PTI, which is now holding intra-party elections, though under pressure from the Election Commission of Pakistan, still has a better system than the other two mainstream parties – PML-N and PPP. There were lots of allegations from party leaders and members against some candidates, but, at least, they went through a process. But, like other national parties, the PTI has not produced any other chairman or party head and Imran Khan is likely to retain his position. Yes, it is understandable under the prevailing circumstances as general elections are due next year. But, will the PTI ever have another chairman or IK is its lifetime head?
According to Mr Arif Alvi, some 2.3 million PTI registered voters would elect the new body. Unlike in 2013, the party elections in the first phase would be held for chairman, vice chairman, secretary general and 13 other posts. It will be followed by the second phase. “The process could have been much better if elections had been held about a year back, but we are still holding elections on the basis of one man one vote,” he said.
The PTI will amend its constitution before the polls to hold elections for the top leadership. Mr Alvi also confirmed that the party chairman has the power to nominate 25pc members in the Central Committee, and also name someone in case any office-bearer resigns.
The record of PML has always been very poor. The circumstance in which Sharifs had been promoted when the late Mohammad Khan Junejo was the prime minister and PML president, laid the foundation of undemocratic practices. Junejo himself was handpicked by the late General Ziaul Haq and Zia was not happy when he formed PML. Problem started in 1986 when the late Benazir Bhutto returned from exile and Junejo in his meeting with her assured freedom of expression and allowed political parties to function independently. This led to revolt in PML, and after Zia dismissed Junejo in May 1988, he also lost the confidence of the party and Nawaz Sharif was elected by the party’s General Body. At that time even Chaudhrys of Gujrat and many other stalwarts backed Sharif as many of them were sacred as Junejo had lost the confidence of Zia and the establishment. But, in the last 32 years, the PML is being headed by Sharif. Though the party still has people whom Sharif could transfer powers and introduce democratic practices in the party, but the party sill revolves around him. Therefore, the PML, despite being the mother party of Pakistan, could not produce leaders who could unite the party. It became the party of the establishment since the days of Ayub Khan. To the credit of Sharif, he made the PML as one capable of resisting the establishment, but his exile led to division in the party and former military dictator General Pervez Musharraf succeeded in making the PML-Q led by Chaudhrys.
The Pakistan Peoples Party, which was formed in 1967, has specific clauses in its constitution for holding elections as well as provision that party offices would be separated from government offices. After coming into power, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto not only failed in following the party constitution but also got rid of top leaders.
After the fall of the PPP government, Bhutto realized his mistake and asked Senior Vice-Chairman Sheikh Rasheed Ahmad to become acting chairman. But he advised Bhutto that people are emotionally attached with ‘Bhutto’ and it is better if Begum Nusrat Bhutto becomes acting chairperson. Later, Nusrat Bhutto handed over the party to her daughter, Benazir Bhutto, and the two led the party during exile. BB once told me that she was not interested in politics and had her father not been hanged, she would not have entered into politics. She also tried intra-party elections in 1987 but was advised by her aides that in Pakistan, the establishment could hijack the party. It was a bad advice but she accepted it. Now, after BB’s assassination, the PPP could not recover as neither Bilawal nor Mr Asif Ali Zardari have been able to have that kind of impact. Yet, they are not even ready to have some veteran leader as president of PPP-Parliamentarians. Thus, at present, it is all in the family and as a result, it has stopped the growth of future party leaders.
The Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM), the fourth largest party and a rare middleclass entity, had the capacity to follow the democratic process as its founder, Altaf Hussain, occupied no party office. Yet, his own party structure made it ‘undemocratic’ as the founder became the final authority. The MQM slogan, Manzil Nahi Rahnama, also negates the democratic principles. Today, MQM factions, from Haqiqi to MQM-P and even PSP, did not adopt any accepted democratic norm.
The Jamaat-e-Islami (JI ) is another prominent middleclass party which followed democratic practices including regular elections. But how many Ameer it produced since its inception from Maulana Maudoodi to Sirajul Haq. In none of the party elections, a sitting Ameer was defeated.
Awami National Party (ANP) President Asfandyar Wali got himself elected for the third time by amending the party constitution. He could have gone into history if he had allowed any other party leader to get the top slot. Is it not the time for all these parties to follow democratic process and produce leaders who could lead nation as well as party. If the leaders don’t have confidence in their own ‘trusted men’, we may find it difficult to produce good leaders.
Yes, the establishment often conspired and historically played role in dividing the parties and creating leaders, but such conspiracies could also be foiled if the leaders and parties had confidence in themselves and their aides. No wonder, political parties already spent three years in reaching consensus on future electoral reforms to make the ECP independent and powerful, but, as we are close to the next general elections, differences still exit. What one can expect from the parties. How they can strengthen democratic institutions like ECP or parliament when they could not democratise themselves.
The writer is a senior columnist and analyst of the Geo News, The News and daily Jang