Malik Nasir Mahmood Aslam talks about a relevant subject
Cost of democratic governance is not only messy but it is also a costly affair because all activities associated with it are known to be a capital-intensive exercise and apparently most of the money spent on it is derided by its opponents as frivolous and national waste. Democratic governance entail holding of periodic elections, maintaining elected bodies at the federal and provincial levels and elected local governments and this practice is virtually unstoppable as even any brief interruption in it is considered against its very spirit. It must be however be appreciated that all these allied activities require considerable expense and all democratic systems cater for them in their regular fiscal procedures and allocate adequate funds for carrying out these functions.
On the other hand it must be borne in mind that democratic governance represents collective will of the people and is held sacrosanct, therefore, a polity is mandated to be run democratically with reasonable standards of integrity and efficiency and it is a proven reality that such a system is certainly a cost-effective proposition with a favourable cost-benefit ratio. This proposition is though very unpalatable for the forces of status quo that are not prepared to lose their grip on the reins of power. The result is that they keep on propagating that democratic norms are widely abused and taken undue advantage of and by doing so they accuse that the system starts to become unaffordable and has become a burden on the country where it is practiced.
An example in this context is given of the current convoluted practice of holding continuous session of the Punjab in a bid to frustrate plans of the ruling coalition at the federal level to unseat it through a no-confidence motion. It is pointed out that to maintain this political chicanery in the name of democratic governance costs tremendous amount of government money that is simply unproductive and a great burden on public finances. The detractors of democracy point out that this is one of the numerous examples of the way democratic governance is employed heavily pay for narrow interests of party politics that are completely devoid of any instinct of public welfare. To add to the woes is the fact that nothing substantial is coming out of keeping the assembly in session except petty advantage of political opponents.
In this regard it is also pointed out that the sessions of public representative bodies are also frivolous activity most of the time as they yield nothing productive. It is mentioned that such sessions usually are used for personal point scoring instead of debating some sensible public issues that are consistently thrown under the carpet. The people of the country understandably pay no heed to parliamentary activity as they think that is just a waste of time and the result is the deep erosion in the sanctity of the parliament itself. This public sentiment has provided the detractors of democratic governance to point out that the National Assembly, the Senate and the provincial assemblies that are required to meet for a minimum of 130, 110 and 100 days respectively waste enormous public funds and they ask to provide details of such expenditure.
Actually the details of such expenditure may be very easy to provide but the problem would arise to provide justification for the expenditure. This is where a rational justification is needed as just giving the figures would not suffice. To begin with it must be conceded that democratic governance is a slow process as arriving at a broad-based public consensus requires times and it could only happen when public representatives meet at an earmarked place. Once an issue is raised the demands of consensual agreement entail that every point of view is heard and debated and no one decision is dictated. Again this process requires time. It should be conceded that the public representatives have needs like any other institution and that the assemblies and senate take adequate care of their members as they decide issues of mammoth importance. Though drawing parallel is puerile but no one can raise a finger at the very high perks and privileges provided to heads of commercial banks and it would be travesty to underrate a public representative lesser than a banking head.
It is not costly to govern democratically as democratic decision making provides widespread participation that removes national and regional complaints. It is proved again and again that dictatorial governance was expensive and not only proved unproductive but was also gravely harmful to national cohesion as it was divisive in nature. Owing to its very nature any expense incurred on furthering democratic governance is justified and it is more than clear by the past experience that the sectors objecting to it have an axe to grind. TW