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The Fate of Democracy in Pakistan

By Qaisar Sultan

There is an interesting question arising from the legal challenges to a fragile democracy in Pakistan: Can a constitutional democracy amend the very spirit of the constitution that it is based upon? Who is to decide these matters and to accept without any reservation? The Supreme Court is mainly concerned about its survival and any proposed amendment has to protect the power of justices for the appointments of judges. In USA, the decision of appointing chief justice and justices of the Supreme Court judges lies within the power of the president; and requires the approval from the senate.  The elusive constitutionality of the 18th.amendment and the executive order to bring back the judges have been kicked around as a tattered doll dragged between the Supreme Court justices and wicked democrats defending their positions by sharing and playing with the absurdities and ambiguities inbuilt and revised in the constitution. While the contestation goes through peak to valley, the vagueness and distortion of the constitutional issues of the state, carried out by less than mediocre inept and dishonest politicians and judges, the relief and justice to flood ravaged country is nowhere to be found, except for the American aid and promises.

The good news is that we are desperately searching for the ideals of democracy where the rights and lives of the citizens have to be protected- That sounds noble and admirable. Again the question is whose life are we talking about? –The poor and ordinary men do not count. The killing is a favorite sport of Pakistani marshal race, where the murder is the badge of honor for the party brave members.  They all sit together; make deals and sign binding contracts; and then send their “valiant party goons” to kill some more. As our great liberal democrats are busy duping poor people by reiterating the cliché (The worst democracy is better than the best autocratic government); and deceive the masses through the hints of dispensing the efficacy of western ideals of civil societies, the religiosity and factionalism may resort to a militant democracy that would help their cause. At the same time, the religious groups wish the people to accept that the state and religion must embrace each other. The religious fervor is picking up the momentum as the underprivileged see their lives ruined by these corrupt and evil democrats. There is a danger lurking in shifting the country towards an absolute theocracy.

The democracy in Pakistan is enforced by the political power of the military and divided and colonized among feudal and rich. They reap all the benefits of democracy. The democracy in Pakistan has nothing to do with the concept “of, by, and for the people”- “That this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom—and that the government of the people, by the people, and for the people shall not perish from the earth” (Abraham Lincoln)”. There is a complete lack of conviction and resolve in a democratic governance of the country- It is all about how much money these corrupt politicians are allowed to steal under the veil of democracy. The so called democratic governance, here in Islamic Republic of Pakistan, is subservient to the will of the military, and intermittently run by corrupt civilians and military men ( All the military dictators ruled under Muslim League), subsidized by the blood and sweat of ordinary people.

If democracy helps promoting factional politics, the absence of normative ethics to the standards of western ideals regarding the freedom and the rights of the individuals, the present mind set cannot help developing a democratic culture. Mistrust between people may be whisked away with some serene words of brotherhood and few actions for appeasement; but what we have here is an absolute intolerant political culture.  The factions have been using the ideals of democracy to further their agenda; and now promote democracy as a tool to foster the polarization of the country- Look at what has been happening in Sindh, especially in Karachi, Sairki (Jatio’s comments) and Baluchistan; first they were killing the Punjabis and now they have warned the Mohajir community for similar fate. PPP always brings out the worst ethnic feelings in Sindh and Baluchistan, Nawaz Sharif does the same for Punjab, the MQM does it in Karachi and ANP is good at threatening violent challenges- If I forgot to mention any other democratic group, it is not intentional. The violence is always committed in the name of justice and the rights of “their” people. May be it is true that they all face the ill effects of an intolerant political culture in Pakistan.  But then one cannot expect and allow the freedom to be used to destroy what little left of a wretched culture of a divided country. It is actually not the freedom of expression that they are after, but consider freedom as the opportunity for the secessionists, parochial and corrupt politicians and religious extremists to fulfill their agenda. It is a sheer fantasy to expect a democratic system of government without any political order and discipline. The first order of the day for the present democratic government is to attack the judiciary that has to protect itself first before dispensing justice to the people. I personally value freedom and the right to vote as one of the most important privileges given to a member of a society. It is understood that the freedom is what history is all about. The heroes in the history fought for the freedom of their people. There is nothing more cherished element of a culture than having the individual rights and freedom of practicing faith, free speech and expression of free flowing ideas. The majority tyranny, not only in administering the rules and controlling the means, opportunities, material goods, and faith and thought process should be objected but also the tyranny of the opinion. Stuart Mill compassionately wrote about the vulgarity of the majority tyranny and the tyranny of the society against individuals. But we have given the barn to the arsonists to protect it from the fire- And that is where the futility of Pakistani style democracy comes from. We have to go a long way when we will be ready for a system of government that works for the civilized world.

The brutish and evil nature of man is on display in our politics. The expectation of any form of liberal democracy is possible once we are able to develop some permanency in political order and a tolerant political culture; that requires a strong state. We are at verge of falling apart as a country. The military that has ruined the civility, economy and decent political culture has become the arbitrator every time we hand over the ball to our democrats to run; and they drop it faster than we can say boo. If we are not the most rational people on earth, we have enough cognitive resources, at least at the elite level, to understand what is good for us and what can protect us as people in a hostile region. The paradox is that we know that the democracy is good for civilized societies and we like to have some of that goodness surrounding us; but every time we are allowed to live under a democratic government, it creates a bigger mess than before. So the ideals and the pragmatic solutions clash every chance we get at it. It comes down to the fact that the autocratic governments, mostly military, do not solve the problems either. But to say or think that we are at a complete impasse of ideas and possibilities is way too pessimistic. As Immanuel Kant wrote, “the problem of the formation of the (republican) state, hard as it may sound, is not insoluble even for a race of devils, granted they have intelligence”-do we?   That application of intelligence requires self-preservation mechanism of each group and individuals by check and balance of each other and the institutions. The present system and the possibility allowed for the governance of the country with antagonistic environment among the groups and institutions cannot allow the democracy to succeed.

3 thoughts on “The Fate of Democracy in Pakistan”

  1. The political maturity process in Pakistan has been greatly retarded dictatorship and opposition for opposition. The autocracy perpetually focuses on the divide-and-rule strategy internally as well. Dictators own lack of vision and integrity makes them blind to the need for a comprehensive internal harmony strategy that prioritises what matters most to us as a nation. They also surround themselves with equally corrupt people who have no notion of or expertise for the task at hand..Thus the stalemate continues. If some of the rotten eggs in the society stop backing autocracy and maligning of democracy most of our problems would be resolved. As a nation we never afforded democracy and never gave it a chance to show its charisma. If luckily a democratic government succeeds to survive, it has been entangled with such issues and leg pulling that it fails to completely deliver and do something extra for this country.

  2. Democracy allows greater space to civil society and civilian institutions, we witness a greater assertion of vocal elements of civil society, the media and the bars, the judiciary — revived under democracy by democratic means — and the federating units by virtue of the NFC Award, to expand their spheres and spaces scuttled during military dictatorships. We also see a presidency bowing to the parliamentary spirit of the 1973 Constitution, rather than remaining an instrument of the powers-that-be to scuttle the mandate of the people. Most vibrant and inclusive is the politics of coalition making at the Centre and the provinces. We see unprecedented accountability of the elected representatives by the media — often bordering on ridicule. On top of all this, a very proactive judiciary is not letting any omission of the executive go unpunished to a point where, on occasions, the poor executive looks traumatised and squeezed. So do you think a dictator allows this all.Never, it is the only democracy that gives freedom of expression and offers itself for the accountability. so please let the democracy prevail.

  3. Pakistan in her 63 years of Existence had almost 40 years of Army rule and democracy as I would put it was never given any chance and when it was, we labeled it ‘sham democracy\’ without ever thinking of consequences,it took Pakistan at least decades back, back to square one with nothing in hand, having to call foreigners to run our economy with actions that later slit the Economic throat of country herself, having to invite a war which initially wasn’t even ours but we still fought. 63 years of Pakistan’s history is nothing compared to world’s other successful nations, It took America 200 years herself to be where she is today, The history is in front of us, America was never a democracy, was in fact initially the same feudal society where gangs, ethnicities, personal grudges, territorial control of certain regional economic places was everything, followed by the period of Neo-feudalism to which I believe Pakistan is suffering from as well. Now the question is if US took 200 years to gain this status, how we can get in hardly 25 years of trembling democracy. Pakistan needs much more time have a well, strong and dynamic democracy.

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