It’s time to hold our leaders accountable

Democracy, rule of the people, is comprised of complex webs of accountabilities between people and those who use power to govern on their behalf. Democratic accountability is comprised of justifications for these uses of power, combined with distributions of empowerments in such a way that those affected can sanction its use. Key problems for democracies include forming principals and agents among whom accountability relations might hold, designing institutions that limit costs of accountability mechanisms so they can be used by citizens, and developing forms of accountability that match the increasing scale and complexity of political issues and organizations. 

It is said that accountability is the father of democracy and transparency is its mother. But, unfortunately, the Pakistani democracy has been an orphan as there are no robust systems of transparency and accountability in place. No one can give a formal definition of accountability as it has a lot of different aspects. To some people accountability means accountability of the rulers for their actions on the basis of outcomes, e.g. provision of better health and education facilities, a fast-growing economy, improved law and order, and so on.

Democracy is basically a system of government wherein the people of a society or a country rule their state through their chosen representatives. In the light of this assertion, it can be said that Pakistan is a country that follows a democratic form of governance. But, the element of accountability has largely been lacking in our democratic setup. What really matters in a vibrant democracy is strong state institutions that perform strictly in accordance with the constitution to ensure that no wrongdoings are committed by those in the corridors of power. But, having such institutions in our country is no less than a dream unfulfilled despite the fact that in a democracy, the principle of accountability holds the pivotal importance. In every civilized country, government officials, whether elected or appointed by those who have been elected, are responsible for their decisions and actions.

In a truly democratic dispensation, the rulers are accountable to the people all through their tenure. People have right to know what their elected representatives do to perform their duty of safeguarding the country’s interest. They need to know what ministers do, which areas the government is focusing and which not, how are funds spent on development, and soon. And, to adjudge their deeds, people vote on the election day to vote them in or out of power.

Once again, we are going to vote for electing the next government. Although past experiences have not been very rewarding, there are hopes that the continuous process of electing and re-electing our leaders will eventually give rise to officials who will help Pakistan become a country founded on the principles that Muhammad Ali Jinnah had laid out.

So, in addition to the electoral process, other legislative procedures need to be simultaneously implemented so that the leaders we elect are fearful of our judgement, especially after they have been elected into office. The use of the police, judiciary and administration for partisan purposes should not be tolerated. Corruption should not be accepted as common practice. Institutions need to be restructured so that government officials foresee the possibility of facing legitimate consequences if they pursue illegal conduct and fail to produce necessary deliverables. Even though the democratic process in the United States indisputably has its flaws, elected presidents still face the threat of impeachment during their term. A military dictatorship is not a preferable alternative. However, sitting idly and allowing the system to cleanse itself only through the electoral process could hinder democracy and trigger an irreversible nosedive.

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