One year after the democracy took over in Pakistan

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Ishrat Hyatt

Today marks one year since the ‘free and fair’ elections were held in Pakistan and saw the coming in of what is called ‘democracy’ — which in this country means the rule of the rich and mighty over the poor and ignorant, who have no concept of what true democracy is and vote emotionally.

Despite being fooled again and again by promises which never materialise and slogans that raise hopes which are soon dashed to the ground, the masses vote for the political nominees they perceive as their saviours. They have unrealistic ideas of what political parties can do for their well being or achieve for the prosperity of the country and are disappointed when neither takes place almost as soon as the elections are over and their candidates are ensconced in the corridors of power.

Talking to various persons on this anniversary and asking them how happy or unhappy they were after a year of democratic rule, this unrealistic perception was evident as one after the other men and women voiced their complaints and dissatisfaction. Their main grievance was the rising inflation and how it was impossible to make two ends meet — whether it was a cleaner on the road; a maid working in a house; a shopkeeper doing business or a person drawing a salary in some institution.

“This government has done nothing for us,” said a labourer working on a development project in a posh colony and scoffed at the amount he was being paid for a day’s work — about Rs250-300 for the unskilled if they get hired. It’s a back breaking job of eight hours labour with a short break for lunch and in these days of recession, which has also affected construction business, work is not easy to find so he remains laid off sometimes for days on end.

A maid who has nine children lamented that her salary was not enough even though she worked in four houses by turn, washing dishes or clothes, because ‘dana pani’ was too expensive. She had hoped that the new government — she voted for PPP (actually for BB) — would compel her employers to pay more and said she was not getting Rs6,000 as had been declared by the government. When it was explained to her that only government servants were entitled to minimum wages, she was upset and said, “Then what is the use of my voting for PPP?” On being asked why she had produced so many children when she could not look after them she had the same hackneyed answer they all give — that they would look after her in her old age, something which is not always the case.

Small shopkeepers lamented that business was not what it used to be a year ago when they were doing quite well as customers not only bought the necessities but also a few of what are called ‘luxury’ items, though they do not really fall into that category — things like juice and jam etc:

And so it went on — one after the other men and women moaned and groaned and complained about the government, proving that they do not understand the dynamics of governance or the nitty gritty of what economics is all about. Or maybe we are just a country of moaners and groaners! Anyway it will probably be at least two decades before the true meaning of democracy will help people to vote correctly. That is if they start educating the younger generation about it from now.

The News, 18-Feb-09

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