Afzal Ali Shigri
Democracy thrives in an environment wherein the diverse interests of common citizens are channelised through a political process informed by a framework for policy decision-making and implementation.
Representing as they do the collective voice of the people, political parties play a vital role in ensuring the effective implementation of policy decisions as well as the maintenance of an accountable, transparent, and functional governance system.
While political parties play a crucial role in democracy, within a federal system, smaller administrative units or provinces can end up being overshadowed by the national government.
When regions lack a defined political status, the situation results even in the denial of the areas’ genuine demands. Thus, relegated to a lesser status, these regions are subjected to unaccountable control by national political parties.
Gilgit-Baltistan is one such region of Pakistan. Despite the passage of more than 73 years of existence, GB remains under de facto federal control. After years of struggle, the government of Pakistan (GoP) in 2009, during the PPP’s tenure, agreed to establish in GB a government with an assembly comprising elected representatives of the people of this region.
This assembly, however, featured only limited powers of legislation. To give GB an appearance of a province, the presidential decree issued by the PPP government also authorised the creation of the offices of chief minister and governor.
Prior to this, powerless advisory councils created through administrative orders were the norm. Even in these bodies, the dominance of national political parties in GB was ensured through the election or nomination of their own members.
These parties also pitched their members for the newly established assembly. The local population considered aligning with these national parties as a way to achieve their rights.
Conveniently, the GoP held the election in the middle of the National Assembly’s term. Thus, a rather shaky governance arrangement created through an administrative order came to be dominated by the party in the centre.
Successive elections have turned into a farce, as an all-powerful and unaccountable central government invariably ends up winning the elections and forming the local government. Resultantly, no local party representing the interests of the region has formed due to its lack of fit with the national political structure.
Compared to this situation, initially, Azad Jammu & Kashmir, represented by their local party, attained autonomy as a largely independent entity. Under national political parties, GB continues to struggle even for a provisional provincial status. This has practically rendered more than two million people stateless, leading to serious ramifications that weaken the national interest. After AJK let in national parties, it ended up having to toe their line on national policies, thus compromising local priorities.
Unfortunately, under the guise of reforms of the political system, major national political parties have mutated into family fiefdoms or business ventures. This has tightened the dynastic hold on the leading political parties.
form a local party with its own manifesto which focuses on the local problems and priorities so that it can speak on behalf of the people of GB while disentangling from national political conflicts.
By uniting under a single banner, the people of Gilgit-Baltistan can secure their constitutional rights and carve a better future for themselves and future generations.
It is crucial to ensure that the party’s agenda represents the views and interests of all members of the community and operates within the framework of democratic principles and rule of law.
One Reply to “Local party, local mandate”
Easier said than done. It is like suggesting all people should be honest, kind, upright, hardworking etc etc.