The thing I like most about the United States presidential elections is that aspiring candidates engage in public discourse and live debates. They face each other on a public platform, which ensures that they will face political repercussions if they slip up at any time. They present their viewpoints to the world, and they understand the power that the public holds. They realise that if they can’t effectively express their ideas to the people, they won’t receive any votes. The problem in Pakistan, however, is that attracting the public is the only thing on a politician’s mind. They take the concept too far, by saying and doing anything they believe the public wants to hear, which isn’t always great in the grand scheme of things. Elections play the role of a filter, as they give the public a chance to look at all the candidates, and vote for one who best exemplifies their ideals, or one they think will benefit their country the most. If politicians fail to fulfil the wishes of the general public, and do not represent them to the best of their abilities, then the public has the power to denounce these self-proclaimed leaders, and vote for somebody else. Elections, however, also don’t mean that leaders that failed at their jobs have to be let off scot-free, instead they must be made to answer for their actions. A good leader is forthcoming with his people and is ready be held accountable if they have shirked their duties in any way. What Pakistanis need to realize is that it is high time that a truly democratic government is installed in the country. Even though many people talk about supporting the concept of democracy, not many truly understand what it means. A true democracy ensures that every major decision taken by the state is made in the public sphere, with the approval of the people, the way it is done in every strong and liberal democratic nation around the globe. In Pakistan, the situation is entirely different. Some decisions can even be made overnight and this has been happening throughout its history. This is why the people of the country have only suffered through despair, while the powerful manage to maintain their positions by keeping those beneath them intentionally ignorant and ill-informed. Decisions aren’t based on logic or rationality, but on emotions and harmful rhetoric that leads to the exploitation of the masses, either in the name of religion or patriotism. For political candidates to face each other in a televised debate is something that everybody can agree has a lot of advantages. Not only can people see how each candidate performs under pressure from their opponents, they can also pitch their ideas against the opposition’s ideas, giving people a greater understanding of each candidate’s political ideology. Pakistanis have only suffered through despair, while the powerful manage to maintain their positions by keeping those beneath them intentionally ignorant and ill-informed. Decisions aren’t based on logic or rationality, but on emotions and harmful rhetoric that leads to the exploitation of the masses, either in the name of religion or patriotism If such a platform had been available in Pakistan, then perhaps PTI’s 100-day plan would’ve been discussed in greater detail. However, political parties instead paid no heed and even termed it a joke. If this discourse had taken place as part of a televised debate, then the reaction of the political parties, as well as their views on this plan would’ve been vastly different. The PPP even called it pre-poll rigging — which made no logical sense. If the culture of live debates on media by aspiring candidates existed in Pakistan, it would have had the power to completely change the political landscape in this country. Ideally, the three main political parties PTI, PML-N and PPP should announce their respective candidates for the upcoming elections soon. It should then be these candidates that announce their party’s plans for the future development of Pakistan, over the next five years. Pakistan is in a vicious cycle because of the succeeding ineffective policies of political and dictatorial regimes. At this moment, keeping everything out in the open is the need of the hour. Constructive live debates on media and other public platforms will not only strengthen democracy but also help to better understand the respective policies of each political party. The writer has done his Masters in Commerce and History, and holds a PG Diploma in International Affairs. He can be contacted at [email protected] Published in Daily Times, June 5th 2018.