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Slip and Sliding Away-By Qaisar Sultan

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One of the defining questions regarding the future of democracy in Pakistan is: Have we arrived to an impasse that may require the Hobbesian tradition of controlling disorder and chaos through a Leviathan, an absolute power- I am not suggesting unalterable idea of a military ruler. There is a breakdown of authority; and anarchy has taken hold of the roots of the state. The interests of the individuals and groups have superseded the viability of the country’s survival. Though we cannot ignore the minimalist ideals and practices of democracy; we are faced with the collapse of governance, accountability and fair representation of the will of people. The Lockean view of liberal democracy, ideally and practically, have been pre-empted by the antagonistic disposition of our democrats and their hold on power through incoherent and flawed voting procedures and practices, considered as a liberal democracy, Pakistani style. There is an open session for all things bad. The democrats are out there to steal and loot the country meek resources and the rest go to debt payment and the military.  Kant said: “You could not grab all acorns, and let them rot”- Forget about acorns, our democrats have consumed the oak tree, like brown acorn weevil. Should we allow these weevils and bark beetles to devour not only the acorn but whole splitting tree?  They are making deals, paying off judiciary, looting the country and making mockery of democracy. They will not stop for anything to be the players in the game of Russian roulette, risking everything including the country’s future and the regional stability and security.  Kant’s assertion and restraint: “how are we to order their affairs and how to establish for them a constitution such that, although their private disposition may be antagonistic, they may not act as checks upon one another, that is, in their public relations the effect is the same as if they have no such evil sentiments? Such a problem must be possible of solution”.   The Kantian assumption is based upon the rational beings with evil sentiments- where latter is applicable and former has to be debated in Pakistani situation.

We have lost trust in the political and other institutions in Pakistan; so the debate is purely about the decline of all political institutions, including the military. The politics in the country has become a family and group affairs. If we look at the assemblies, our politicians have divided both houses among sons, daughters, wives, cousins and cronies. They have entered into military, bureaucracy, ownership of sugar and flour mills and other industries. They all lack the defining attributes of democracy. Referring to Huntington “democratic-non –democratic continuum”, we are short of procedural minimum of democracy. In 2003, the African Charter of Democracy articulated all the attributes for future democracy that included transparency, separation of power, independent judiciary, and tolerance of all ethnic and tribal groups, political pluralism and good governance. After seven years, the majority of Africans have lost confidence in democracy and some of their think tanks are talking about the African context of its history and culture opposed to the democratic western ideas. In traditional non-democratic societies, there is a total disconnect between the ruled and the rulers. Yes, people love to vote and participate; but they get disillusioned quickly with those who they voted for. If we are to assume that the majority of Pakistanis are in love with the ruling dynastical families to the extent that the welfare of the majority is in total jeopardy, we are mistaken. Then the question is: why these people vote for the same crook that deceives them? The influence of factionalism, passionate political activism, ethnocentrism, the influence of feudal lords, big land and business owners, and the military is such that the “rational being” argument is beyond the intelligibility of western standards. What ordinary people really care for? Bhutto knew it very well; and exploited the poor by the slogans of Roti, Kapra and Makan.  A perspicuous feudal lord, Bhutto, who understood a poor man’s life favored the rich and powerful and in the process destroyed the industry, education and banking system. It is not always the insights and intensity of rhetoric of the leader, but his commitment and resolve to do good that makes him great. Ordinary people look for security, jobs, affordable food, medical and housing. What they get out of democracy in Pakistan is nothing more than flawed voting rights- That are good. There is where all things stop to exist. The country is assured that the next democrats will be worst than their predecessor. Do we really have to embrace an ideology that has been haunting the governance to a point that the future of the country looks bleak?

The participation of people electing their governors and legislator is important; but what are people supposed to feel and do when the actual governance and legislative process defy their inspiration to take part in elections for their well being. Does this fake process justify the ideals of democracy? Does it feed people? Does it provide them true freedom and the security? Does free media and free speech in our democracy end up in blabbering of uncouth TV moderators? So the paradox exists in the appreciation of the participation solely in their voting rights and the practices of their elected representatives.

The autocratic and military rules should be opposed on ideological basis. The reason is that the autocrats are known to ignore the concerns of ordinary people, especially the military that focus on war and war mongering as one of the pillar of their sense of polity of the state. But the democratic process is supposed to be “for, by and of” the people. In Pakistan, it has to be turned out to be “not for, of and by the people”. That ideological basis includes checking on in hereditary component out of politics, predatory practices of the feudal lords and big land owners, looting the country to its decay and poverty, corruption and lack of sensitivity to the plight of people; look how they behaved in flooding?  We do not see any of these things happening in the time of democratic governments. So the issue after Musharraf’s authoritarian regime required the accountability and true representation of people and fulfilling the purpose of that anticipated idea of relief to people by getting rid of an autocrat.  What was the problem then- he allowed free speech by freeing media? Were the civil liberties of people curtailed? – The answer is not really. He stopped some crook politicians, and sadly not all, to carry out their “democratic rights” to steal and rob people. He made the mistake by going after Bugtti who wanted a separate state. Are not we still fighting with Balochi nationalists? He attacked the Red Mosque- Are not we dropping bombs and allowed Americans to do the same to the religious extremists? The biggest blunder was asking the oath of loyalty of judges for the first time around – One of the loyalist, our current Chief justice, who turned out to be Brutus. Musharraf was not a politician. He did not understand the art of compromises in the beginning. When he realized that the power of one man on all the institutions will come to cease sooner than letter, it was too late. The politicians in Pakistan have the capacity to slip slide with the accuracy of a wrestler with well oiled body- They call it reconciliation and then: “slip sliding away—you know that nearer your destination the more you slip sliding away”/ Believe we are getting down the highway/ When we are slip and sliding away (Paul Simon). There is a huge disparity between what is desired and what is attainable in the present conditions. We have been slipping and sliding so far away from taking care of the business of people that only the clichés seem to satisfy our people- “The worst democracy is better than the best autocracy”, not in Pakistan.

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