Monday, May 13, 2013

Pakistan's democratic defects

The NY Times had the last few days two very interesting articles about Pakistan.

One (Political Handouts Thrive in Pakistan) discusses the importance of patronage politics in Pakistan: Voters, particularly in rural areas, view their representatives in Parliament principally as big bosses who can deliver protection: influencing the police and dealing with aggressive, corrupt land officials, or working to route jobs or multimillion-dollar projects to their districts. [..] In fact, the practice is institutionalized: The government gives each Parliament member, no matter the party, about $200,000 a year to spend on “development” — effectively, a patronage slush fund. But few doubt that patronage is inefficient and unfair. Even while flashy infrastructure projects may create jobs, such projects are often accompanied by the mysterious enrichment of the politicians doling out the money. The writer is not very impressed with Mr. Khan who complains about the system but fields many of the same candidates who previously were parliamentarian for other parties.

The other article (Pakistan’s Tyrannical Majority)discusses Pakistan's systematic discrimination of religious minorities. Religious minorities are regularly target of violence while the state does very little to protect them. There are separate parliamentary seats for non-Muslims. One of the religious minorities - the Ahmadi - dispute their classification as non-Muslims and as a consequence don't vote.

If the West wants to do something about human rights it should sanction such discrimination. Unlike corruption and repression - that are often difficult to repair - these kinds of rules are clearly wrong.

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