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Should We Ride on a Sick Horse or a Donkey?

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Qaisar Sultan

Nawaz Sharif has revealed his intellectual side by suggesting that democracy is like riding a horse and autocracy like a donkey; he forgot to mention the rough riders holding the bridle of the mustang, a free roaming feral horse (Our democracy). Democracy has been treated in Pakistan in the manner: “They shoot horses, don’t they”. Nawaz Sharif talks in terms of horses and donkey, breaking legs and hands and snatching eyes from the socket, jackal’s heart with a lion’s roar. In the wild west of USA, when a horse got leg injury and was dying, they shot the horse. This is the state of democracy in Pakistan. We have nothing more than corrupt and less than mediocre men calling themselves true lovers of democracy. They only desire money and power. The poor countries in the third world, per capita income of less than $3,000.00, have tried democracy, and have failed terribly. What is it that democratic governance that works for civilized world fails in the third world? Among religious fervor, factionalism, illiteracy, feudalism, militarism and poverty democracy has lost its traction and purpose. Though it does not sound sensible that we oppose a system that works for developed countries; it is imperative to look at this issue in the light of what is at hand. If the democratic governance has utterly failed in our country, is it not better to have a benign autocracy in place of a failed democracy?

Some may find the term “benign autocracy” as an oxymoron. The autocrats have done terrible things all over the world. The autocracy is always susceptible to tyranny and abuse.  Mobutu of Congo, Seko, Abacha of Nigeria, Seko of Zimbabwe, and Pinochet of Chile are few examples among many who abused their powers. There are examples of corruption, torture, inefficient governments and failed economies. Does not it sound like Pakistani democrats who were involved in all above mentioned harms? If the abuse and tyranny are the problems, we have already been enduring those evils in our country. If we are to accept that the democracy provides its cure, meaning that democracy allows all people to be free, have these democrats worked against the inequities in the society. As a matter of fact, they have created a gulf between the “have and have not”. The democracy has become the maid for rich and powerful. They have been exploiting the demcracy for their narrow interests and enrich themselves exponentially.  If the democracy ought to reduce the unrelenting factionalism and ethnic divisions, our democratic leaders have provided fuel to the fire. One of the arguments about autocratic rule is that the growth automatically unsettles the autocracy. It is the other way around in Pakistan; the democracy has been curtailed because there was no growth in the democratic era in the country. There are research papers and books written on the subject showing that a failing democracy does not necessarily lead to a liberal democracy. So to hope that after these morons running our country, we will find some sober and better, honest and competent democratic leaders; and our people will start voting for descent people, is an effort in futility. The present and past history has given this world some great autocrats; Lee Kuan Yew of Singapore and Deng Xiaoping of China are two great examples of benign autocrats; these two men have revolutionized those countries. They were enlightened and pragmatic leaders. They envisioned a productive culture as the answer to a sluggish environment. Both of them were concerned with improving the lives of ordinary people by providing them job opportunities and education.  So if someone considers Mao’s revolution as the greatest event of modern time; it was these two men through their economic and educational reforms offered great revolution of our time. They surrounded themselves with the best minds in the country. Mao’s purge of Cultural Revolution that caused so many lives and suffering may be necessary in Pakistan. We need to get rid of the feudal class, corrupt politicians, military top officers and bureaucrats. The question is: who could dare to do something so dangerous. All of the above are in cahoots with each other?

We are lead to believe that the military is a sacred cow. The people are scared; the security of people is sacred; their welfare is sacred. What have achieved by the militarism in the country? We have allowed one institution to grow so strong that the rest does not mean anything. Imagine that the military has invested over ten billion dollars in the country for their own benefits; the generals are living like kings in a poor country, they have grabbed the best pieces of the real estate; and have destroyed the constitution by amending every time one of the general took over the government that tantamount to treason- And we consider them sacred cow. They have become the chimera of our landscape, with a lioness face and the body of a goat and ending with the snake tail, spitting fire. They should have stayed with the business of defending the nation; and if they did not impose war on the people by getting involved in the politics and looting the country, it was something that we could have adored. There is no doubt that they have fought for the nation; and we should appreciate that as well. But they have gone beyond the call of the duty. It is just an excuse that they wanted to save us from bad democratic leadership; they could have installed the intellectual elite to run the country. There is no argument that we need a strong military for the security of the country and their sole purpose should be limited to defending our borders. Even a benign military ruler, Musharraf, broke his oath to uphold the constitution. He thought that the implicit love of the country and hate for Nawaz Sharif gave him the right to commit treason. But if we compare Ayub Kahn and Musharraf against Bhutto and Sharif families, the autocrats did a better job. Even with their better performance, the answer should not be in the military rule; the military should be subservient to a civil autocratic rule.

At this stage, the country needs intellectual elite to take over the country. The legislators should be selected among scholars, journalists, college and university professors, doctors, environmentalist, social workers, retired military generals, scientists, economists and few middle and lower class ordinary educated people. They should wear the veil of ignorance, meaning that they should not institute their view based on their ethnic and material advantages to make laws; and they should be evenly divided from all ethnic groups. The member of assemblies should not become ministers. The job of legislators should not go beyond legislation. In order to become ministers, the democratically elected politicians jump from one party to the other. They are not experts in the areas given to them as ministers that they tend to mismanage. Most of these ministers cannot even pass high school examination in a western country. Secondly, the weak democratic governments are easy target for all powerful military interests. The military, directly or indirectly, contrive the elections and wait for the fall-guy’s ineptness and corruption for an excuse to take over. The pathetic democratic governments have made the military more powerful. The idea and a fake implementation of democracy have caused corruption, factionalism, feudalism and most of the ills of the country. The governance of the country should be based on the conditions and in the context of people’s history. Once we have a secure environment of tolerance, education, a reasonable economic growth and harmony in the country. We can start looking into the western ideals of a society that respects equality, freedom, economic opportunities and human rights. Right now we are violating all the noble ideals of democracy through it.

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