ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Pakistan : Back to Devolution of Power

General Musharraf detailed proposal for local bodies promises to throw up a new crop of about half a million elected representatives at the base of the democratic pyramid. This large number of representatives, along with their supporters, could conceivably provide a base of political support to whoever harbours ambitions to climb on top of the political heap. Are they destined also to replace the 'lost' generation of the 1980s politicians who are currently out in the cold?

A stable democracy is defined as one in which the contention for political power is contained within the framework of agreed rules of the game. Each player recognises and adheres to such rules. Only thus can a legitimate exercise of the voters’ franchise and a peaceful transfer of power to the winners be possible. The rules are laid down within the Constitution, electoral laws and, perhaps most importantly, in unwritten conventions which reflect the spirit that underlies a democratic ethos. Another defining characteristic of stable democracies is the actuality and the sense of participation in the affairs of state by the electorate. The value of their vote is only appreciated by the people if it is respected not only by the contenders, but also any extra-parliamentary forces which may be more or less influential in the structures of state power. If any of these contenders, or the extra-parliamentary forces referred to, decide to devalue the mandate of the people, it can only serve to depreciate the democratic consensus.

Stable democracies are structured on, but not confined to, the elected bodies which at the end of the day, after the electoral dust and noise has settled, are the manifestation of the will of the people. Such elected bodies, in the dispensation in Pakistan include the indirectly elected Senate and the directly elected national and provincial assemblies. A poor relative at best is how the third tier of the democratic edifice, local bodies (LBs), have been treated throughout our existence as an independent state. Just as democracy in Pakistan has suffered long periods of interruption, LBs have not only suffered such interruptions along with the other two tiers of elected bodies, they have been treated even worse.

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