By: Adv. Syed Abdul Rasool Shah
Democracy is the best revenge!
Democracy, undoubtedly, is a brilliant concept of governance currently in practice in most parts of the world. It is, according to the best understanding and wisdom of the political scientists, the best political system that the world has ever devised for smooth governance and proper functioning of the state. To the protagonists of democratic dispensation, democracy is the only antidote to all the ills that humankind suffers from. This is true to some extent, as Lowell said, “No form of government is panacea for all human ills.” No one can deny the defects of democracy. But no one should shut his eyes to the merits and achievements of democracy”. Moreover, the advocates of democracy also maintain that even the worst form of democracy is better than the best form of dictatorship. No doubt, if democracy is practiced in letter and spirit, it can outclass all other forms of polity that the world has invented so far.
The key ingredients of a genuine democracy are sovereignty of parliament, inviolability of the constitution, supremacy of civilian rule, rule of law, protection of fundamental rights of the people, fair, free and transparent elections, high–powered and impartial election commission, ruthless accountability, free media and independent and incorruptible judiciary.
Sadly, ours is a sham democracy as it is devoid of virtually all the democratic ideals that are considered a sine qua non for any democratic dispensation. It makes us rue what’s happening in our country in the name of democracy.
Pakistani brand of democracy is unique in its flavour and substance. It is the type of democracy where parliament, which is considered the vertebral column of a democratic edifice, is nothing but a Potemkin village, a rubber-stamp, a conglomerate that issues licence to its members to plunder the national kitty with impunity; where the constitution is amended more easily than modifying the traffic canons; where laws are tailored merely to serve the rulers; where a person once disqualified by the apex court of the country is declared qualified to head a political party, in utter contravention to the spirit of the constitution and democratic ideals; where issues pertaining to the people are seldom deliberated on and where prime minister visits parliament once in a blue moon.
Democracy as a system germinates at ballot box which provides the people with an opportunity to elect the rulers of their choice. Therefore, holding free, fair and impartial ballot is part and parcel of the installation of a democratic setup, but in our country rigging becomes a buzzword after every election. In this way, democracy is corrupted to the core. Additionally, money, manoeuvring and manipulation are also blatantly employed in our country to win the polls. Feudal lords, by virtue of their enormous land-holding, egg their serfs on to vote in their favour and business tycoons with the help of their big bucks lure the destitute electorate into casting ballots for them. Consequently, our parliament is occupied by plutocrats rather than the true democrats. A parliament predominately dominated by men of affluence, and not the men belonging to impoverished section of society, insinuates that we have only a ritual and spurious democracy because: “[D]emocracy is,” said renowned Greek philosopher Aristotle, “when the indigents and not the men of property are the rulers.”
The recent election to the Senate of Pakistan, i.e., the upper house of the parliament (Majlis-e-Shoora) is the testimony to the fact that how lucre bought the loyalties of the stalwarts of different parties. It depicted the scene of stock market where buying and selling of parliamentarians gave a feeling of déjà vu as nothing new happened; the same marionette show with mere change of faces was staged. It was not an election but, sorry to say, an auction of the horses popularly called horse trading. The farcical election brought vivid reminders of how money disfigures democratic physiognomy, poisons our lawmaking, and inevitably widens the gulf between those who can buy influence and the vast majority who cannot. The whole story of the Senate electioneering reflects that we have no democracy at all. The thing that we promote in the name of democracy is nothing but a stigma on the immaculate face of a shining ideal of democracy.
However, regardless of the blatant use of unfair tools and political shenanigans in election, the upper house deserves kudos on selection of chairman from Balochistan. This sagacious move would definitely help allay the feelings of deprivation and alienation that are widespread in the Baloch masses, and would ultimately cement the federation. It would also give a positive signal to centrifugal forces that are fanning the flames of separatism across Balochistan and are sowing the seeds of secession on the land of the pure on the diktat of their foreign masters.
Apart from that, dynasty and democracy are mutually exclusive and, therefore, cannot coexist in any dimension, sense or definition of the real democracy. But in our so-called democracy, dynastic politics is on its peak. Sharifs and Bhuttos have been ruling over us for decades. They are deeply entrenched in our system and they don’t let anyone else to govern. They have turned our sovereign country into their fiefdom and a commercial enterprise that they run in accordance with their caprices. The selection of younger brother Mian Muhammad Shehbaz Sharif as new head of PML(N), and that of elder brother as lifetime “Quaid” of the party, truly reflects how people are fooled in this country in the name of democracy. It also suggests that our politicians don’t practice what they preach. They themselves are indifferent to the real spirit of democracy but always advise us to hold democratic principles in high esteem. It reminds one the words of Benjamin Disraeli who once remarked for such demagogues that “we do not know what words mean, but we rule the people with them.” This is exactly what is happening with the people of my homeland.
In addition, an independent judiciary is the bedrock and a linchpin of a democratic ship as without that it cannot stay afloat. Unfortunately, our judiciary is under attack from all quarters nowadays. The political midgets on the behest of their masters are engaged in chiding the honourable judiciary through mudslinging and character assassination. Contempt of court and defiance of its orders have become favourite pastime of our ruling elite. It pains me a lot when I see politicians behaving in such a nasty way and it makes me think what legacy our politicians shall bequeath to our future generations. This unruly behaviour of the politicos cannot be justified in a civilized and democratic society. If our politicians don’t set their own house in order and perpetuate their ongoing moves to undermine and malign the esteemed judiciary, the history may repeat itself and 111 Brigade may be summoned. The very apprehension was expressed by retiring Senator Aitazaz Ahsan in his farewell speech when he said: “We have to make introspection and set our own house in order, if we don’t change our reprehensible behaviour, then it is inevitable to hear the famous mantra “Meray Aziz Hum Watno” once again.
Furthermore, it is not the politicians only who can be blamed for not allowing the democracy to flourish in our country; the power-hungry generals are equally responsible in plunging our country into the abyss of darkness and political chaos. Dr Tocqueville and other theorists argue that democracy and large-standing army were incompatible. It seems to be axiomatic truth in case of Pakistani democracy. Military juggernauts have subverted our fledgling democracy four times by holding the constitution, sometimes, in abrogation, sometimes in abeyance sometimes in suspension and sometimes as dysfunctional… ironically, we hang the petty thieves but those who stole our constitution go scot-free in our country.
Let bygones be bygones; let’s turn over a new leaf and bid goodbye to military Bonapartism and civilian fascism for good. Let’s elect a scrupulous and competent leader in 2018 election. “Perhaps no form of government,” said the historian and diplomat Lord Bryce, “needs great leaders so much as democracy.”
To cap it all, if we truly want democracy to blossom and take deep roots in our country, we have to be vigilant and active. “Indolence and indifference on the part of citizens,” said Lord Bryce, “are two enemies of democracy.” Nothing but Indifferent and inactive electorate in democracy paves the way for crafty politicians, clever demagogues, rich plutocrats and such other enterprising persons to capture the political power and abuse it for their selfish ends…hope, this time, we won’t repeat the same mistake in forthcoming election and elect crème de la crème from our political class as our rulers.