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Democracy – The Panacea to All Ills of Pakistan

Democracy is the only solution to all the problems that Pakistan is tangled in nowadays. It is the only panacea which can pave the way for resolutions of all the evils faced by common man. Democracy can be well articulated by the statement of Abraham Lincoln who said that the democracy is ‘the government of the people, by the people, for the people.’ As a matter of fact, intermittently derailed and fragile democratic institutions have always thwarted the evolution of democracy in our country.

1. Introduction

2. An overview of democracy in Pakistan since independence

3. Pakistan’s current problems

a. Political problems

i. Intermittent military interventions
ii. Weak judiciary
iii. Divided media

b. Economic problems

i. Faltering economy
ii. Unemployment
iii. Declining foreign direct investment (FDI)
iv. Poor performance of major sectors

c. Social problems

i. Poverty
ii. Rampant terrorism and sectarianism
iii. Illiteracy
iv. Poor infrastructure
v. Feudalistic mindset

4. How democracy can steer Pakistan out of all these crises?

a. Democracy provides equality and justice to all
b. Democracy and strong economy are interlinked
c. People choose the leaders for their prosperity
d. Democracy annihilates feudalism
e. Only a democratic state can meet the security challenges
f. The democratic states wok for the betterment of their citizens and of state infrastructure, education, trade, etc.
g. Democracy guarantees freedom of expression

5. How democracy can be strengthened in Pakistan?

a. Sincere and devoted leadership
b. No military intervention in politics
c. Restoring People’s trust in leadership
d. Reforming the judiciary
e. Strengthening state institutions
f. Creating awareness among people on benefits of democracy
g. Making education the first priority
h. Ensuring rule of law
i. Media’s unprejudiced and unbiased role

6. Conclusion

In Pakistan, there has always been a tilt of power towards the military which has resulted in the conundrums that today’s Pakistan is facing in every walk of life. Declining and faltering economy, omnipresent social disorder and prevailing political disharmony all have played their part in weakening our country and tearing the fabric of our society apart. Analysts and experts have a consensus opinion that democracy is the best political system to ensure citizens’ rights within the framework of both human rights and rule of law. But, in Pakistan, due to intermittent military takeovers, the democracy as an institution could not flourish. Hence, in this hour of dire need, only the trustworthy institutions, integrated nation-building departments, independent judiciary, free media and sincere leadership can ensure the smooth functioning of a democratic setup in Pakistan. This is the only way by which the grievances of the public can be alleviated.

While harking back into our history, it dawns on us that the assassination of Liaquat Ali Khan, the first prime minister of Pakistan, was in fact a coup de gráce to democracy in the nascent state of Pakistan. Since then, the power, one way or the other, remained in the hands of military establishment. The situation became so adverse that in 1958, the then army chief General Ayub Khan imposed the first martial law in the country that made democracy hibernate for years to come.
But, the General could not resist the uprising against him. He, thus, succumbed to public pressure and transferred the reins of the country to another military supremo General Yahya Khan.

Under Yahya’s rule, due to internal political wrangling and external intrigues, Quaid’s Pakistan was dismembered, to give birth to a new state; Bangladesh. Reins of the country then came into the hands of Pakistan’s former foreign minister and the founder of Pakistan Peoples Party, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, who became the first civilian martial law administrator (CMLA). Embarking on the mission to lead the dejected and wounded nation, Mr Bhutto pursued an independent policy. But, soon he drew the ire of military bigwigs. After the 1977 coup by General Zia-ul-Haq, he was charged for accomplice in murder and was later hanged on the orders of the Supreme Court. The decision was, as mentioned by Justice Sajjad Ali Shah in a TV programme, was an outcome of General Zia’s whims. This hanging of Bhutto is commonly termed as a judicial murder by the big legal and political enchiladas of Pakistan.

General Zia ruled the country like a monarch and this was during his rule that all the ills ‘sectarianism, terrorism, Kalashnikov culture, drugs and other menaces’ we are mired in today, grappled the country in their vicious claws.

Then in a tragic air crash on 17th August 1988, the General lost his life. At that critical moment in country’s history, this incident created a void in the political arena of Pakistan. Afterwards, in almost a decade, no elected government could complete its constitutional term as they were ousted by the discretionary powers ‘under Article 58(2)(b)’ of the then presidents. Nevertheless, this decade of personalized politics and lust for power came to an end with another coup on 12th October 1999, which again put the country under military rule.

Then, in 2008, after relentless efforts on part of civil society and a mammoth lawyers’ movement, democracy was restored in Pakistan and elections were conducted. The democracy rekindled with the populist PPP again holding the reins of the country. This election and unprecedented freedom of judiciary bode well for democracy in Pakistan. This was due to this fact that for the very first time in the history of Pakistan a Parliament completed its constitutional term notwithstanding the fact that inter-institutional wrangling resulted in the ouster of a prime minister on the orders of the Supreme Court of Pakistan; the third pillar of the state.

Presently, hardly any sector in Pakistan is free from problems and personal politics. Every sphere of the life is immersed in numerous troubles. A few of them are discussed and spotlighted hereunder:

First of all, military’s intervention in political affairs has disturbed the political scenario of the country. The longer dictatorial regimes have culminated in aggravation of internal and external challenges. If, by the stroke of luck, any sincere leadership came at the helm to act for betterment and steer country towards development, it was ousted by the military elite.

Another pertinent matter that is one of the major threats to democracy is country’s weak judicial system. The fragile judiciary has given immunity to the actions of every military dictator and provided them with a legal cover under the pretext of doctrine of necessity and expediency. Justice Qazi Muhammad Jamil opines:

‘The judiciary cannot fight the dictators. We require strong political institutions which are lacking in the country. In the current scenario, there is again a threat that history could repeat itself if the guardians of democracy continued to disrespect the norms of democracy and judiciary’

Moreover, media has also been constantly flagging and berating the democratic institutions in the country. Media trials and undue bias towards certain political parties make democratic institutions fragile and vulnerable. With a synoptic view of the economic sector, one can realize that economy is becoming sluggish day by day. Decreasing GDP and devaluation of currency have added fuel to fire which gives rise to massive protests and halts the nurturing of the democratic process. Unemployment, declining foreign direct investment, energy crisis, security problems and poor infrastructure create unrest among masses leading to a lack of trust in elected government, thus, hampering the democratic process.

In addition, the major sectors like Agriculture, industry and tourism are performing below targets and this phenomenon has reversed their indicators. Socially, poverty is exacerbating the country’s miseries and woes. One third of the population lives below poverty line. Simultaneously, increasing the crime rate and other social ills discords the trust of people in democratically elected governments.

In addition, illiteracy is another major cause of deteriorating economy and human resource development in Pakistan. A nation with a low literacy rate as ours can only breed a frail democratic system.

It is an established truth that infrastructure is essential for development of a country. In Pakistan, only a meagre amount is spent on infrastructure development. The present infrastructure is being annihilated by the unrelenting terrorist attacks, and we are, literally, being rolled back to the Stone Age.

Another matter of real concern is the feudal system. The concentration of power in a few families had thwarted democracy to thrive. A common man cannot even think to have access to corridors of power. In rural areas, people are forced to vote for their feudal lords or waderas.

In ipso facto, democracy is the only instrument which can be a sole solution to all ills of Pakistan. It is the system that gives voice to the masses so that they may rise up to mitigate their adversities and sufferings.

If democracy is introduced in letter and spirit, then the day is not far when we will have a Pakistan dreamt by our forefathers where citizens would have a say in matters concerning the well-being of the populace in economy, education, health and infrastructural development spheres. Only a robust democratic system can guarantee full freedom and equal justice to all in every sphere of life.

On a concluding note, democracy, indubitably, is the best form of government as in this system all pillars of the state work with a collective vision. Presently, Pakistan is tangled in a web of multifaceted problems comprising poverty, bad governance, economic decline, terrorism and extremism. Pakistan’s grievances are multidimensional and require to be addressed at the earliest. And for this purpose, democracy is the only way out.

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