The election campaigns launched by Imran Khan have proved to be a catalyst for much needed debate regarding political parties. More specifically, the role of money in politics and electoral reforms, which is the cornerstone of any democratic country.

A report Selected Case Studies of Public Funding of Political Parties, prepared by PILAD states that in a democratic system, political parties cannot progress without financial assistance. It further highlights the apprehensions with respect to public funding for Pakistan’s political parties. It discusses political parties owned by the rich; political parties and foreign influence; politics and corruption; traditionally weak political parties and their contribution towards a weak political system; and a lack of accountability culture.

Problems related to political parties and their financing need not be analyzed in an isolated context and should rather reflect upon the formation of the political culture, the society and citizens of Pakistan.

In Pakistan, where military and civilian government have come and gone, little attention has been given to ‘institutional and civic educational building capacity’, which was to accommodate and include growth of conservatives and liberal mindsets. In this backdrop, during its first transitional experiment towards a democratic regime in 2013, the electoral institutions in Pakistan did not accommodate the ground realities of legal, financial and political gaps pertaining to the electoral system of any country. These as published in the Handbook of International Institution of Democracy and Electoral System, include parties and politician’s self-regulation policies, gaps in support from grass-root levels, linkages of illicit and criminal funding, support by businessmen for the political parties, disproportionate access to funding or the usage of state resources and public servants during election drive .

With a population, most of which still lacks basic civic education, it is during elections that one witness’s mob rioting, violence and problems related to vote buying or allegations of rigging. In these circumstances, it is the task of institutions to frame, redesign and evolve a structure which can provide for an integrated platform, curriculum, training, system of monitoring and sanctioning through which all citizens can learn, practically adapt to and support the growing norms and practices of the electoral systems changing globally and nationally. 

According to Syed Sher Afghan, in Pakistan, there is no public funding and political parties in general run on donations. There is no mechanism for scrutinization of statements and no sanctions are implemented upon the violators. Furthermore, statements of accounts by the political parties only have become a ceremony.

According to the International Institution of Democracy and Electoral System, 2014 one case for improvement in the system is that of an informed public society. For political financial regulations, in communist countries like those in Eastern and Central Europe, the agenda of anti-corruption and demands for ‘clean politics’ have done the job. In other cases, public funding has generated income shortages, through ‘grass-root level.’

Elin Falguera further elaborates that all of these initiatives communicate the perception that political parties are the fundamentals of any democracy. In this manner , the question of political financing not only challenges political institutions and state actors, but also a country’s power balance, which addresses the problems affecting the society.

Pakistan still has a long way to go towards reforming its electoral functioning and system, but changes have to revolve around developing attitudes and minds which can research, create and reflect upon laws and opinions, which form the true basis of a democratic system.