Build the Nation Through Vote
By Waheed Hamid
The Supreme court decision to award voting rights to Pakistanis living abroad is a step in right direction but possession and casting of voting right are two separate issues. The huge gathering of people on call of Imran and Tahir-ul –Qadri indicate an emerging and growing group of people who want a change. A change in agenda, a leadership which can lead them on path of Nation building and reject all those forces who have been part of self, institution and party building. There has been lot of debate on performance of politicians, Army, judiciary and beauracracy, the main stake holders in past and their shortfalls have been amply discussed. However, there has been negligible effort on highlighting any achievement which has made us survive for the last seven decades in what ever form we exist today. The phenomenon of blame game further flourished in vibrant media environment forcing many stake holders to play strictly defensive. The ones who were required to come out in aid of Nation building have become cautious with each stake holder leaving Nation building endeavors for the other to execute under fear of media criticism. History has proved time and again that progress lies in learning lessons from both negativity and positivity of the past. A quote from Roman philosopher Cicero in 55 BC would tell us what history has for us but only if we want to learn, he said “The budget should be balanced, the Treasury should be refilled, public debt should be reduced, the arrogance of officialdom should be tempered and controlled, and the assistance to foreign lands should be curtailed, lest Rome become bankrupt. People must again learn to work instead of living on public assistance.” Pakistan stands today in state of despondency mainly due to crisis of responsibility and leadership in most of the state organs. This difficult time does not only require patriotic but competent and bold leadership.
Governance in Turkey and its trend of continuous progress has serious lessons for us. They have established a clear relationship between progress and criticism. The political government delivered and surpassed all bench marks achieved by the non political setups before they came out to criticize them. This provided a natural high moral ground to them to implement their decisions. The strategy of submission of our institutions and their efforts to remain away from politics with a view to provide space for development of democracy is a welcome step, however at this point Pakistan still awaits to taste any worthwhile fruit for our Nation Building. The latest Gallup survey says, Pakistanis’ trust in civilian government has nosedived and this remains the most important issue to be addressed.
Future of Pakistan now largely depends on the credibility and fairness of oncoming elections. The people have to deliver and ensure selection of the best possible patriotic and competent leaders. At this juncture along with the politicians the role of institutions and organs of the government is equally important. Where it is constitutional duty of judiciary to ensure that all institutions play their role within ambit of constitution and support the electoral process, it is moral obligation on part of other organs and institutions to fully support this Nation building event. The significance of these elections is much more than the natural and artificial calamities of floods , earthquake , terrorist attacks and other nation building projects where the institutions have been playing a role. The politicians, civil society, media and the government should take measures to ensure maximum turnout. The institutions which have to remain non political and yet support election have an uphill task but where there is will there is a way. Firstly, they must recognize that they themselves comprise of a huge vote bank themselves. There is a need to ensure that its own employs are motivated and facilitated to cast their vote . The government employees who get their earning from the money collected from tax certainly have more responsibility towards accomplishment of voting as a nation building task. Secondly , this vote bank which has a better education level be used to educate others to maximize cast of votes in National interest.
Finland was the first nation in the world to give all citizens the right to vote and to run for office (in 1906). New Zealand was the first country in the world to grant all citizens the right to vote (in 1893), but women did not get the right to run for the election until 1919. Let Pakistan emerge the first country in the world of democracies which took practice of voting as a Nation Building task. The time has changed, mostly people call this a defining moment in our history. The regional and global environment demands a bold and out of box decisions coming from leadership at all levels. All efforts of the non political leadership must be seen largely in support of Pakistan and not in short term benefits for support of personality, party or institution. The support of constitution in letter and spirit is of more importance than just reading the written lines . The energies need to focus on how we can increase the comfort level of Pakistanis and guarantee them that their vote matters, their vote is counted, and that in the voting booth, their vote has a weight as that of any one at the highest portfolio.