by Mohammad Ashraf Chaudhry/ Pittsburg, CA 94565

It was not that I introduced new reforms in the system. In fact, I didn’t even add one comma, semicolon or a full stop to the Act of 1951,(Indian Constitution, Section 77 which makes it compulsory for the candidates to keep an accurate account of their expenses, and which sets a ceiling on the amount they could spend on the campaign).  Whatever was said in the Act, I just implemented it.”Mr. T. N. Sessan, India’s 10th Chief Election Commissioner- 1990-1996.


Desires and passions are like the gas to an engine; their main job is to provide the push; it is up to the driver to make sure which way he/she wants to go. They are like a two-edged sword; they cut both ways.  Sigmund Freud (1856-1939), an Austrian neurologist, was more specific about human desires: in his perception  human beings in their entire life are governed by two desires: the desire to procreate, and the desire to be important.

Allama Iqbal deems these desires and urges as the source of strength that fortifies the human Self. “ In every atom slumbers the might of the self. Power …which leads to action”. Einstein much later in 1939 after he had presented his famous theory of Relativity: E=MC2, in a letter to President Roosevelt wrote something similar to what Iqbal had anticipated in his Israr-I Khudi (1915). He wrote, “The Equation shows that if all the energy in a half pound of any matter were released, the resulting power would equal the explosive force of seven million tons of TNT”.

Both Iqbal and Einstein were 100% right. The people of Pakistan  arefacing the impact of the implosion of human urges and desires when they get loose or become unbridled.

Perhaps our ancestors did not have such a flaming urge of having “Instant gratification”, or of being “Important”, by hook or by crook as our new brand of politicians have.It does not mean that they all were stoical mystics. History sparkles with amusing examples. Once in the colonial India, rich people per force maintained a second white- wife in order to get closer to the White Colonial Lords. During and after Sir Syed’s times, we see in photos, some  important people wearing a neck-tie on a shalwar.

Even George Washington was not devoid of this desire of being singularly distinct. He wanted himself to be addressed as, “ His Mightiness, the President of the United States”; Columbus pined and pleaded for the title of, “Admiral of the Ocean and Viceroy of India”, though he had never reached India. People even sometimes become invalid in order to win sympathy and attention, or to get a feeling of importance. Mrs. McKinley, the wife of the 25th President of the United States, Mr. McKinley (1897-1901). “She got a feeling of importance by forcing her husband, the President of the United States, to neglect important affairs of state while he reclined on the bed beside her for hours at a time, his arms about her, soothing her to sleep”, writes Mr. Dale Carnegie in his book, “ How to Win Friends and Influence People”, page 33.

Pakistan these days is wrapped in the Dharna culture, popularized by Jamait I Islami. What used to often start after the Jumma prayers as a little form of protest, has now reached its artistic perfection. It is said that even some good can be extracted from the most poisonous weeds; but dharnas and our politicians do not even qualify for that rare use.

Elections, no doubt, give to the people a chance to use their inherent right to choose, but that they would unleash the hidden barbarism and greed of the rich and powerful to stay in power to such an extent, had always been beyond human imagination.

According to a Pildat report, the common thread in the last ten elections held in Pakistan was, division and polarization of the country as it happened in the elections of 1970; transfer of power from the civilians to the military as per the results of 1977 elections; from naked martial law to “oversight by the military”, a new formula that emerged in 1985 elections; institutionalization of the “military oversight” into a system as per the 1988 elections; flowering of this “military oversight system” into a proper system as per the 1990 elections; threat to the system of oversight, not as a result of some awakening, but a desire to be left alone, unchecked and uninhibited as per the 1993 elections; failure of the oversight system as we saw in the  1997 elections; regression from oversight to naked military rule once again in 2002; transition from military to the democratic system as it happened in the 2008 elections; and then  to  the so-called first full-term democratic rule in 2013.

The most shameful part is in all the ten elections held between 1970-2013, had been thepoliticians outward urge and desire for democracy in order to get into power;  and their inward madness to amass power, and  then acting worse than the military rulers, finally end up seeking shelter in the military lap; and after having rested for a while, once again renew the journey towards democracy.  In this game, people got tired, but not the politicians. The only five year term completed by the politicians after the 1977 elections had been the PPP rule under President Zardari, leaving people lamenting why it happened so, why it didn’t end soon.  The only one election held by a civilian government had been the election of 2013. The results warrant no commentary. The country stands where it was in 1970; polarized and divided and denuded, burdened under unbearable debt.

WHAT IS WRONG WITH PAKISTAN?  Why is Pakistan so allergic or incompatible to true democracy?

Clip_3Why India is so good at organizing elections? The answer is simple. India got in 1990 an eccentric and terribly honest Election Commissioner, named T. N. Sessan. He set the tone and the pattern of fair elections in India. From April 7 to May 12, 2014, some 815 million Indians voted in seven phases in the biggest democratic exercise on earth.  100 million more people voted since its last elections of 2009. Almost majority accepted the elections of 2014 as clean and fair, and its results not rigged. It is a puzzle; it is just unbelievable.

State run institutions in India where public officials count, such as schools, hospitals, public transport and public works departments are almost as corrupt and shoddy as they are in Pakistan. But not the Election Commission. According to the Economist of June, 2014 in its article, “Why India is so good at organizing elections?” , the answer lies summarized in the following points:

  • Holding elections is a narrowly focused task of a limited duration that has been repeated.
  • Under similar conditions, bureaucrats deliver similar results, such as in National Census; or in the collection of biometric database of 600 million people, scanning their eyes, fingerprints etc.
  • State employees do well when given tasks of great prestige and put under careful public scrutiny, such as polio eradication campaign or in space agency that launched a spaceship to Mars.
  • Bureaucrats succeed best when given a free hand, and are free from political meddling and corruption.
  • Election Commission, like the Central Bank is Independent.
  • While the police spend much of their time collecting bribes to pay to their superiors, election officials have neither big budgets to divert, nor have much opportunity to extract bribes.
  • The Indian Election Commission provides a sample which must be duplicated; It gets a well-defined target; it works in a transparent manner, making it hard for the politicians to meddle and steal when bureaucrats, like election officials, are under intense public scrutiny.
  • The country’s right-to-information law, though embarrassing to the rot, has proved valuable
  • Bureaucrats become more efficient and less corrupt, when they lose their discretionary powers. Those who hold elections, have no discretion to decide who is allowed to vote or where; they are not supposed to ensure it all works efficiently. This leaves little incentive for people to bribe or bully them.

“What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters compared to what lies within us”

Ralph Waldo Emerson.

WHO SET THE TONE IN INDIA?: T. N. Sessan detractors and politicians called him eccentric, crazy, authoritarian, and fame-hungry. Clad in a kurta and dhoti, he would smile and pass by. In 1993 Lok Sabha elections,Sessan  altogether disqualified 1,488 candidates for 3 years because they had failed to submit an account of their expenses.

Did it ever happen in Pakistan?

He reviewed more than 40,000 cases of false elections and disqualified 14,000 potential candidates for holding public office.

  1. N. Sessan was impervious to politicians’ demands. In 1992 the Commission under him cancelled elections in Bihar and Punjab, and some politicians tried to get him impeached. He had done so because these politicians had not furnished the details of their expenditures. He was controversial because he was sternly honest and inflexible. He cleaned up the muck and is regarded as the change maker.
  2. N. Sessan short-listed some100 common electoral malpractices, including the preparation of inaccurate election rolls; mistakes in setting up polling stations; coercive electioneering; spending more than the legal limit; using goons to snatch polling booths and general abuse of authority etc.” Was this ever done in Pakistan?

The challenges had always been numerous for a person like Sessan, but he always remained undaunted and un-intimidated. “I am like a ball; the more you kick me, the more I will bounce back.” Once he got transferred six times in one day, but he remained upright, contending that as long as he is alive and is in service, he will do in letter and spirit what the law says.  He started the clean mission from his own office by posting slogans like, “ Silence is demanded here; or, Zero delay and zero deficiency.”. He banned long lunch breaks, or playing tennis or browsing through books in the library during office hours. He demanded I. D. cards with photos. The Politicians resisted and called it unnecessary and expensive. He waited for 18 months for the government to act. Finally he did what he had done on many occasions; if voters were not issued I. D. cards with photos, no elections would be held after January 1, 1995. Who could do that? As a result a number of elections were actually postponed. Finally the Supreme Court intervened, declaring that it is the inherent right of the citizens to vote. But such was the impact, that by 1996, 2 million voters have had I. D. cards with photos.

It is ironic that those who once caged Mian Nawaz Sharif in the airport bathroom in September, 2007, like Mr. Aftab Sherpao,  the then interior minister, and Ejazul Haque are now acting as his advisers. The Pakistani politicians would do good to themselves as well as to the people if they focus on strengthening the institutions; on liberating the civil service of Pakistan  from political meddling; by appointing the most honest, bold, some-what eccentric and ruthlessly efficient Chief Election Commissioner and other members, and by making it as autonomous as the Election Commission of India ; by introducing transparency in all transactions; by removing through a process all those politicians and officials that hold shoddy record. This can happen only if the Supreme court of Pakistan gets a Titan on the bench like America once got in the person of John Marshall; and a general in the GHQ who supports these efforts.

Let the people of Pakistan not stay be-fooled by those politicians who talk of a revolution, or of a new Pakistan.

Revolutions  by design and degree are destined to fail because they are rash, violent and erratic, unpredictable,  and often are remembered by the name of Individuals.  In the entire history of revolutions, only one had succeeded, and that  has been  the American Revolution, not named after one person, but after a group of specially gifted people known as the founding fathers. The Founding Fathers of America who brought it, always claimed that it was not a revolution, but an evolution. They used an improvisational approach of slowing it down. Their most creative choices were always pragmatic; their responses to rapidly moving events between 1776-1786 were based on “delaying the delivery”  in order to avoid “Implosions” that had destroyed the French Revolution, as reported by Joseph J. Ellis in his book, “American Creation”.

Haste will destroy even that little what we have achieved  in over six decades.

Politicians need to be pragmatic, result oriented and persistent, showing  character and creativity. “Delayed gratification or deferred gratification” is an ability that helps one to resist the temptation for an immediate reward, and wait for a later reward.  Only leaders who are self-disciplined, they can resist instant temptations. To get into power is a big temptation; and so is the danger to get burned. Nawaz Sharif offers a classical example. People who can delay gratification, they are academically successful . They are positive in thinking; are balanced in approach; are cooperative; have patience and are less impulsive; have strong will power; have the ability to adapt themselves to meet other urgent demands; are cool headed and less distracted. Mr. Imran Khan must know that hot potatoes can burn one’s palate.

Remember what happened to Charles Darwin once. He once got a rare beetle, and he eagerly held it in his right fist. Then he got another, and he held it in his left, and then he suddenly spotted  a third one, which was just unnecessary except for his collection. In a flash he put one of the beetles in his mouth and tried to reach this third one. But the mouth-imprisoned beetle squirted its acid down his throat, and in a fit of coughing he lost all the three.

Imran Khan after 16 years got some success. The possibility is he may do the same what was done by Darwin.

Ralph Waldo Emerson, the great transcendentalist, once was trying to get a rebellious calf into a barn along with his son. The son pulled the calf and he pushed it, but the calf stubbornly dug his legs into the ground. Then came an Irish serving-maid who had been amusingly watching their dilemma. She put a maternal finger into the Calf’s mouth and led it gently to the barn. That night, Emerson wrote in his journal, “ I like people who can do things!”.

Mr. Qadri and Mr. Imran Khan. Put some method and logic into your passion to get into power.

Slogans do not work in the modern times. There is a lesson for them in the fate of Nawaz Sharif. Things would never be the same for Mian Sahib. “he who seeks for applause only from without has all his happiness in another’s keeping.”, was said by Goldsmith.  Alas! He lost the opportunity to serve, and Pakistan lost the hope for a bright future, at least for some time.

Dark and lengthening shadows are getting darker and longer with the passage of every day.