Published Date: Jul 30, 2019
Politicians differ on state of democracy in country
ISLAMABAD: Politicians belonging to opposition parties on Monday were of the view that the departments and institutions were becoming controversial because the prime minister and his ministers had become their spokespersons.
However, a government representative claimed that the condition of democracy was far better than it was two decades ago.
They were addressing a seminar titled ‘Continuation of Democratic Governments: Opportunities and Challenges’, organised by the Sustainable Development Policy Institute (SDPI).
Nadeem Afzal Chan, spokesman for the prime minister, said he believed in democracy but could not understand its definition because government and opposition gave their own meaning to democracy.
“However, I believe that the situation has improved because now we speak about the quality of democracy rather than restoration of democracy,” he said.
“Now a debate has been started about media courts, but the fact is that media can only file stories against politicians, and not against certain elements such as business tycoons. When it comes to the interest of certain class such as sugar mill owners, they make a cartel, leaving political affiliation behind. Even party politics revolves around the interests of the elite class,” he said.
Mr Chan said that there was no democracy in any political party but said he was optimistic and hoped that things would improve.
PPP leader Chaudhry Manzoor Ahmed said that once there was a balance of power among state institutions and people, because of civil society, student unions, trade unions, human rights associations, etc., but things had changed as state institutions had become powerful.
“Political parties were broken and new parties were formed, which has left no place for ideological politics. Currently, it is said that all institutions are on one page but we need to think about who the page belongs to,” he said.
Chaudhry Manzoor said austerity measures had cut down funding for the Public Sector Development Programme which has rendered around two million people jobless.
“PPP has been suggesting that there should be multi dimensional foreign policy but now once again we are moving towards single dimensional foreign policy due to which we may annoy China,” he said.
In the past, parliament was attacked from outside but now it is attacked from the within, which was evident from the speaker’s decision not to hold meetings of parliamentary committees when the parliament is not in session.
MNA Romina Khursheed Alam from the PML-N said the current government could not tackle the challenges the country faced.
“This government has become the spokesperson of every institution and makes every single institution controversial. In the last one year, this government did the politics of revenge, witch-hunting in the name of accountability. Government is taking steps to pressure the media and mute dissenting voices,” she said.
Senior journalist Zahid Hussain said though a third democratic transition was a positive step, political polarisation has become serious in the last one year. He said when politicians criticised the parliament and electoral process, it weakened the system instead of strengthening it.
The single big challenge for this government was the economy, but PTI-led government was not prepared for it. Asad Umar ran the economy like a company and Imran Khan is running the country like Shaukat Khanam Hospital, he added.
He said democracy strengthened institutions, but unfortunately in the first year of this government they were weakened. He said democratic space had been squeezed over the last one year, where media today was under worse censorship. This government was moving towards authoritarianism, where the government wanted absolute power, he lamented, adding there was no governance and policy direction.
SDPI Executive Director Dr Abid Qaiyum Suleri said July 25 marked the first anniversary of 2018 elections, where ruling party celebrated the day as ‘Thanksgiving Day’ and opposition marked it as a ‘Black Day’, whereas the ‘grey area’ in between was ignored in ‘our politically polarised society’.
While analyzing the last one year performance of the incumbent government, he said the performance on economic and foreign policy dimensions remained on track, whereas performance in the social sector remained below average, where government needed to do some extra work to materialise its social uplift plans.
On foreign policy front, he suggested strengthening ties with European Union, which would help Pakistan in addressing the international issues such as FATF.