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The Pakistani Brand of Democracy (Editorial May 2018)

The terrible tyranny against the 'demos'

The terrible tyranny against the ‘demos’

“The end may justify the means as long as there is something that justifies the end.” ― Leon Trotsky

The words ‘true democracy’, ‘sanctity of vote’ and ‘let the people decide’ are in the air nowadays. Although every democrat would support these ideals, yet most people, who form the ‘demos’ part of democracy, find no attraction in them as they have, largely, been rendered irrelevant in the game of thrones our ruling elite has been involved in since the inception of this country. These slogans are being chanted increasingly, especially after the disqualification for life of former Prime Minister Muhammad Nawaz Sharif. But, believe it or not, this is not the first time in the history of Pakistan, nor is it the last, that a political figure is chanting the democracy mantra after he is out of power; every democratically-elected ruler and every unelected dictator raised the slogan of bringing true democracy to Pakistan, the one that, supposedly, is delivery-oriented and that holds people’s welfare as its topmost priority. Hence, democracy as an idea has been as enigmatic as a black hole for the people of Pakistan. Although this form of governance is often touted as the best the world has ever tried, and a concept that makes people the fountainhead of power, the case with Pakistan has been very different than these professed ideals. Tall claims made by those in corridors of power turned out to be only the words, not actions.

Pakistan was envisioned to be something like a utopia where all the citizens would have an equal status and that would be a perfect place where there will be no problems because people would lead their lives in the light of Islamic teachings. But, the ever-widening chasm between the rulers and the ruled and former’s total indifference to the masses’ welfare has turned the country into a dystopia.

It goes without saying that Allah Almighty has blessed Pakistan with everything required to achieve the status of a great nation – abounding natural resources, highly fertile agricultural land, a perfect geostrategic location, and above all, a huge population a big chunk of which consists of very talented youth – but still we are ranked 147th out of the 188 countries on the Human Development Index, besides being 50+ years behind in primary and 60+ years behind in secondary education targets, second-worst on tackling under-five’s deaths, second worst on gender equality, fourth worst country for women, and so on. More embarrassing is that our Pakistani passport was ranked the second worst in the world, just above Afghanistan, last year.

We have plunged into this quagmire and caught in this endless vicious cycle only because we never had a tryst with true democracy and never had an election that genuinely reflected what the people wanted. Isn’t it surprising that a country, which was destined to be a democratic state, fell under the claws of martial law just eleven years of its inception and could hold its first general election after 23 years of that? Quaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah had clearly stated many a time that Pakistan will be a democratic state, a vision mirrored in his address to the Constituent Assembly wherein he said, “I do not know what the ultimate shape of the constitution is going to be, but I am sure that it will be of a democratic type, embodying the essential principles of Islam.” But, unfortunately, that dream is still elusive.

However, it doesn’t mean that there is something wrong with democracy as a concept; it’s our own brand of that which is responsible for all our woes.

The West’s experience with democracy has been very rewarding – a fact that is corroborated by impressive socioeconomic indicators of various European countries. They achieved marvels in all fields because they chose only the competent people as their leaders – all great statesmen of the modern era are from the West – Churchill, Lincoln, Kohl, Thatcher and many others. The rulers they elect are always answerable to the people and there is no one above the law.

Although our system has been borrowed from the Westminster system of government, it has been followed here only theoretically, not practically! The most conspicuous feature of this system is the rule of law as even the Prime Minister is held accountable – grilling of former Prime Minister David Cameron in the parliament after his later father’s name surfaced in Panama Leaks in connection with an offshore fund Blairmore Holdings in which Mr Cameron allegedly had shares, is one such example.

But, in Pakistan, rule of law is still a distant dream and it is indubitably the principal reason behind all our internal and external problems; be it a sagging economy or the hydra of terrorism or our growing isolation in the international community. Ours has been a sham democracy and to make it a truly representative one, people of Pakistan must stand up and raise their voice. It is the most opportune time also because the incumbent PML-N is going to complete its 5-year term and the next general elections are in the offing. We must pay heed to the words of former US president Franklin D. Roosevelt who once said, “Democracy cannot succeed unless those who express their choice are prepared to choose wisely.”

Our salvation as a nation and as a state lies in prudently and sagaciously electing our rulers.

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