PRIME MINISTER Imran Khan has said the lack of long-term preparation is one of Pakistan’s big problems. Mr Khan, speaking at a public function, regretted that the need to hold elections every five years had contributed to preparation to win the next poll. He said this five-year election cycle was a “tragedy” because it was a big barrier to future years of looking forward for the country. He cited China’s example of where leaders could think in the long term and benefit from policy consistency.
Short-term planning may have been diagnosed by the Prime Minister as a crucial governance challenge, but when he blames the election cycle for this concern, he is broad off the mark.
In its history, Pakistan has undergone a decade-long continuous rule at least three times. If consistency were the only criteria for success, Pakistan, as it is today, would not have been riddled by problems of governance and underdevelopment. The real concern is that there is a lack of political order, mostly due to a lack of political legitimacy. These twin challenges have wreaked havoc on Pakistan’s government systems and, in new and unusual ways, continue to build fault lines.
The consistent stability of China’s policies may be idolised by Mr. Khan, but he may wish to remind himself that Pakistan is a parliamentary democracy and is ruled under the overarching framework of this text of consensus. The shame is not that we have an electoral cycle of five years, but that we have not been able to keep up with it. If only a handful of regimes were able to complete their five-year mandate in seven decades, perhaps the issue associated with the lack of consistency pointed out by the Prime Minister lies in the power wielders’ refusal to encourage governments to complete their five-year period.
To get answers that fit more neatly into Pakistan’s constitutional system, the prime minister will want to concentrate more on factors that hinder long-term planning. If we truly want to benefit from sustainability and a longer-term governance vision, we need to ensure that free, equal and inclusive elections are conducted on a regular basis, ensuring that peace and integrity are rooted in the political structure of our electoral and governance processes.
This system allows for the form of consistency to which Mr Khan refers. When a government has performed well in terms of its results, people will still vote it back for another five-year term so that it can proceed with its policies. At the same time, maybe all major political players can agree to certain fundamental economic guidelines that, even though governments alter and put in new policies, will offer stability. A fundamental minimum consensus on strategic issues will compensate for policy changes and ensure stability to the degree possible.