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Has PTI introduced democracy into Pakistan’s politics?

In most democracies, political parties are not a monolith but rather have multiple views and voices on policy and politics. Offering alternate narratives are not considered disloyalty to the party or damage to party prospects. In Pakistan, most media present political parties as a monolith controlled by a civilian dictator and disagreement with the top man is presented as a breach of discipline, divisions, factions. etc. etc. It is a reflection of our society where conformity is the norm and a dissension or disagreement is considered a disrespect. All parties have a pool of talent available but it remains untapped because of the monolith and civilian dictatorship character of parties.

This myth of a monolith party was broken by PTI and its activists when they raised their voices about the decisions of party head if it was a departure from ideology or constitution. PTI members also opposed decisions of CM KP that violated the promises made to the people. There are many examples of it including funding of Haqqani Madrassa, joining of Amir Liaquat, vote for Sanjrani, reliance on street protests, resignation from parliament, use of derogatory language for parliament etc. etc. Media instead of appreciating this public debate among PTI voices present it as indiscipline. Yes, there is some element of indiscipline in it but it is a norm in a dynamic democracy that a party should have multiple views seeking majority support for it. We have proven repeatedly that majority of party members support our policy position and Imran Khan has also reluctantly accepted it which prompted him to reach out to old party members. We appreciate that gesture.

This example set by PTI is now creating pressures on other parties to allow public debate on party decisions. Asif Ali Zardari may be patting himself on the back for winning Senate Chairman election but he is publicly opposed by PPP members for this decision. His refusal to accept Raza Rabbani as Senate Chairman will have a long-term impact on the party as he was opposed by the majority of PPP central executive. Raza Rabbani, Farhatullah Babar, and many others are now publicly presenting dissenting views on policy and politics. It is a good development and should be encouraged so that PPP survives. Asif Ali Zardari can manipulate MPAs but he has repeatedly failed to gain a mandate from voters.

Similar voices are now raised in PML N led by Ch Nisar. This has created a debate in the party about its nature, Tanzim, and narrative. Shahid Khaqqan Abbasi has gladly accepted to be a puppet of ousted PM because he knows dissent and disagreement would mean the loss of position and support.

Disagreement with party head comes at a cost. Media present these differing politicians as disloyal to the party. Social media trolls hurl abuses and call these people traitors. And party office holders sideline them and in extreme cases push them out of the party. This has to change if we want internal democracy in the political parties which is a necessary condition for the deep roots of democracy and introduction of good governance in the country. Parties should allow the multiplicity of the views and allow party members to chose which narrative should prevail and adopted. Party members only go public when there is no other path left for them to participate in setting policy, narrative, and direction of the party.

By Abdul Quayyum Khan Kundi

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