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Who is Threatening our Democracy?

Democracy in our country is threatened not by political rallies and slogans, but by the government itself and its own allies

Rallies, processions, protests and demonstrations have always been an integral part of political, social and economic movements all over the world. Even today, most of the cities in Europe and the United States are echoing with the demonstrations related to the ‘Occupy Wall Street’ movement. In the same way, hundreds of thousands of people are out on the streets of the Middle East, protesting against the dictatorial regimes of their tyrannical rulers. Such mass demonstrations and rallies have become an indispensable feature of all sorts of movements, particularly in the Asian countries. For this very reason, in our own country, we have a long list of fiery orators. While addressing huge political gatherings, the late Zulfikar Ali Bhutto introduced a new and extremely popular style of oratory, characterized by intense emotional excitement and dramatic acting. Rolling up the sleeves, throwing away the overcoat, tumbling the microphone, giving ridiculous names to the political adversaries, making witty remarks in a popular way and even abusing the opponents were the hallmarks of his unique style. It is an all-admitted fact that despite numerous attempts, no one has ever been able to imitate Bhutto’s highly mesmerizing style of making public speeches.

When democracy is firmly based, institutions are strong and stable, values and traditions are of a solid nature and fluctuation of political temperature does not threaten democracy, such public gatherings and rallies beautify and promote political and democratic culture. In India for instance, mammoth public gatherings attended by hundreds of thousands of people, do not produce any destabilizing impact for democracy; and the heated debates among political leaders are only considered to be a source of public entertainment. But the situation in our country is of a different type. After several years of military dictatorship, when democracy has finally been restored, its condition is still similar to that of a female deer which timidly looks around with its raised ears, for fear of hunters. In the same way, our nation which yearns for taking long breaths in an open democratic atmosphere, is always apprehensive that some lustful hunters lying in wait on the nearby rooftops, may at any time again turn their guns towards our hard fought and long sought democracy. As a natural consequence, political gatherings, demonstrations and rallies, the fiery speeches of political leaders and their bitter war of words, often give rise to the fears that our democracy may once again be derailed by the army, which may once again seize power on the pretext of anarchy and chaos in the country.

Keeping in view our past history, these fears and apprehensions are fully justified. But does it mean that the only way to prevent future military takeovers is that all political parties should shrink into one corner like a hatching hen, instead of condemning that government which has shaken the very foundations of Pakistan? If we are really keen to preserve and strengthen our democracy, we shall have to accept all those things which are considered to be the essential ingredients of a truly democratic culture. The primary objective of every active political party in a democratic set up is to reach the corridors of power, in order to give a practical shape to its particular agenda; and for achieving this goal, it has full freedom to devise its own strategy. It cannot be denied the right to launch a mass contact movement. PMLN which is one of the two major political parties of Pakistan, could not complete its five-year tenure on each of the two previous occasions, when it won general elections in the country. Now, it is fully justified in hoping that the people who are dissatisfied and disillusioned with the PPP’s policies, would assist it in coming back to power for the third time. PPP on the other hand, also has the right to make effective plans for capturing power for the fifth time.

Similarly, no one should have any objection if Maulana Fazlurrahman is hoping to return to power in KPK, by reviving the MMA and repeating the performance of the 2002 general elections. If Chaudhry brothers believe that they can achieve their goals, objectives and targets in a better way, by means of closer co-operation and electoral alliance with the PPP, they have every right to believe so. In the same way, no one has the right to condemn Altaf Husain, if he is willing to forget his own previous telephonic addresses, and has agreed to take over the responsibility of receiving on his own chest, all the bullets being shot towards President Asif Ali Zardari. After throwing one or two stones towards President Zardari and the PPP, Imran Khan is now hurling the whole stock of his stones towards PMLN and Nawaz Sharif. He too cannot be prevented from pursuing this policy, if he believes that it is suitable for his future political career. In the open democratic society of Pakistan, it is the duty of political analysts and journalists to critically evaluate the policies of various political parties and their leaders; and present their analysis to the public. As long as it remains within the limits of the law and the constitution, every political party should have the freedom to act in accordance with its own philosophy and policy.

However, it is the need of the hour that we should always keep in mind our particular circumstances and sensitivities. Political temperatures should not be allowed to rise above certain limits, because our present government has already left no stone unturned in making the matters worst for the people. Overwhelming majority of our people does not wish to see this government remain in power. More than sixty per cent of our people are in favour of early elections and a technocratic type of government. Thus, the anti-PPP feelings are at their highest point. Seen in this context, if ANP, MQM and PMLQ are capable of feeling the pulse of the people, they can easily pave the way for the smooth functioning of democratic process in the country. If they withdraw their support for the PPP government, fresh elections would become inevitable and in that case, all political parties would again get a chance to go to the public and thus, a new government would come into being with a fresh mandate. If on the other hand, the above mentioned three parties continue their alliance with the PPP, there would be no proper outlet for the popular discontent and anger.

PMLN, Jamat-e-Islami, PTI and the nationalist parties of Sind and Baluchistan are in favour of fresh elections. To a certain extent, Maulana Fazlurrahman also seems to have a similar opinion. But ANP, MQM and PMLQ are still enjoying their partnership with the PPP.
In simpler terms, the fact is that those political parties which are calling for the removal of the present government and the holding of early elections, are not inviting any undemocratic or dictatorial government, and nor are they paving the way for any unconstitutional change or extrajudicial system. PMLN, Jamat-e-Islami, PTI and the nationalist parties of Sind and Baluchistan are in favour of fresh elections. To a certain extent, Maulana Fazlurrahman also seems to have a similar opinion. But ANP, MQM and PMLQ are still enjoying their partnership with the PPP. Instead of endorsing the public demand for fresh elections and change of government, these three parties have formed a defence shield for the PPP. By doing so, they are not giving a safe passage to the PPP, for an honourable exit from power, and thus, they have indirectly become a real threat for the continuation of democracy in the country. In these circumstances, if there is another military coup, it will not be the outcome of political rallies, protests, demonstrations and fiery speeches of political leaders. Instead, it will be the result of the fact that by their alliance with the PPP, the above mentioned three parties have blocked the path of peaceful democratic change.
Political rallies, mass demonstrations and huge processions may take place or not, but it seems quite inevitable that our country cannot afford to bear the heavy burden of incompetence, corruption, violence and economic degeneration for another two years. It is true that our politicians should be very careful in their activities, and that they should be more civilized in their speeches directed against their opponents. But at the same time, no one should hope that democracy can be preserved only by effectively reining in the anti-government movement. Democracy in our country is threatened not by political rallies and slogans, but by the government itself and its own allies, who are not at all interested in any improvement of the situation, and who have literally blocked all the ways of peaceful and democratic change in the country.

By: Irfan Siddiqui

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