Is Democracy Suitable for Pakistan?

Is Democracy Suitable for Pakistan

Ever since the emergence of Pakistan on the map of the world as an independent state, there has been an intense debate over the model of governance to be adopted in order to run the affairs of the country. Constitutions have been formulated with unanimous consensus by the parliaments, have been subject to fundamental amendments, and have been abrogated by the dictators under the pretext of shielding the integrity of the state from the imminent collapse.

After a marathon campaign spanning over six decades to stitch up a constitution that would embody all the ingredients of a smoothing sailing country, the nation is still stranded in the abyssal confusion with democracy and dictatorship vying for the levers of power by knocking down each other successively. The quest for a perfect model of governance has precipitated the demand to explore other set of models proposed by the political ideologues.

One of the proverbial philosophers of Greek, Aristotle in his treatise Nicomachean Ethics defines the political frameworks at play in every state. He asserts with his analytic prowess that the “best” form of government is “monarchy” in which a “king” looks after the interest of his subjects. But, he argues that there is a tremendous degree of likelihood in monarchy morphing into tyranny which is the worst deviation-form. As a result, democracy–even though a deviation, is most practical form of government for any nation. Yet the gripping question that escapes a comprehensive answer is whether a particular model of governance is compatible in every country with its own set of political culture, behavioural proclivities, religious sensitivities and historical backdrop? Or to be precise, does democracy that sits well with the social and political frameworks of the Western countries have the ingredients to be installed in its true spirit in Pakistan?

There are four mainstream political parties in Pakistan which have the lion’s share of the political dispensation in terms of parliamentary seats. All the four parties contested the recent elections by effectively campaigning against one another for political mileage. Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf was branded to be the “political arm” of the military by the opposition parties, whereas Pakistan Peoples Party was dubbed as the product of NRO.

The religious parties with a substantial combined vote-bank “manipulated” the religious scriptures to gravitate naive devotees. Since, a majority of population is illiterate and hardly has an understanding of the political maneuverings; the political parties play to the gallery, whip up effective propaganda, arouse religious sentiment and exercise every act of coercion to solicit votes in the run-up to elections. The preponderance of voters casts its votes either for personal benefit or is forced to choose a particular candidate by the thugs rented out by the political parties. Often, the voters are charmed by the personality of the party leader.

In the entire process of casting the ballot, neither the character of the candidate is examined nor is the national interest of the country looked after. The illiteracy of the general population brings to power the political parties which have neither the ability to govern the country nor the desire to run the government without corruption. Pakistan Peoples Party is considered to be the most corrupt government ever in a survey conducted by Transparency International across Pakistan just two years before. On the contrary, the general population of the Western countries is comparatively more literate and is less liable to fall prey to the propagandas. How can a democratic project that requires citizens to be cognizant of basic political dynamics and socio-economic indicators be run successfully in a country where the bulk of the population does not have the rudimentary education that could enable them to write even their names?

Gripped by the question to lay out a system that would be keeping with the social, cultural and religious expression of Muslims in Iran, Khomeini, in his book Hukumat-e-Islami: Wilayat al-Faqih, proposed strategies to craft the state on the lines of theocracy. He proffered a sophisticated system of governance revolving around the theme of theocracy that would entail a greater ability to enhance the smooth functioning of the state. This model of governance would arrogate tremendous political power to the clergymen who would be ruling the roost with absolute authority. The Supreme Leader of Iran will be vested with the powers to appoint the Commanders of Armed Forces, designate the chief judge and reject any law legislated by the unanimous consent of the parliament; as a result, wields tremendous clout.

Vali Nasr, a leading contemporary political theorist, claims that the idea of theocracy peddled by Khoemeni is imported from the aristocratic form of government designed by Plato. Toeing the same line of thinking, Maulana Maududi attempted to synthesize a system more characterized by the combination of theocracy and democracy through limited popular sovereignty calling it theo-democracy totally in line with the traditions of Islamic tenets. But, the excessive powers concentrated at the hands of the religious figures and the non-representative nature of the government in the center might rob the masses from their basic right to contest the elections without any gender and religious discrimination.

Perhaps, some radical changes after having been injected into this system by transforming it into a technocratic-led government from a theocratic state or a theo-democracy might help repair the friction between its detractors and advocates. The central figures of the government responsible to assume key portfolios must be selected on stringent merit without any religious and gender discrimination by the mutual understanding of the Army and the Judiciary which are the most fortified and decorated institutions in Pakistan. The parliament, after been elected by the general public, would legislate the laws which will be subject to scrutiny by a council of experts having expertise on multiple disciplines. In other words, a government of technocrats and elected body will come into existence which will not only be representative of the will of the general populace, but will have the ability to steer the nation away from the state of anarchy to the track of prosperity.

Our adamancy to install democracy, by hook or by crook, should not shrink us away from exploring other avenues since the ultimate goal of governance model is to serve people rather than proving a particular version of state-crafting right or wrong.

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