"The essence of democracy is its assurance that every human being should so respect himself and should be so respected in his own personality that he should have opportunity equal to that of every other human being to show what he was meant to become."
Anna Garlin Spencer
In Pakistan, the need for establishing a true democracy is as old as the country itself. Democracy is one of the most fabulous principles of the modern political system. It is the culmination of freedom and progress in advanced countries. In Pakistan, however, the already difficult situation has been aggravated by constant failures which never let democracy survive. The legacies of colonialism and autocratic mindset of the leadership & frequent military rules erected invisible barriers for the democratic process. The positive change is still slow, but a bleak past or murky present in no way means a foredoomed future as Well.
However, serious efforts at every level are required for democracy to take root and relieve us of our ever increasing catastrophes In line with the lessons of history and despite all its past experiences of failure, there is no other messianic way out to lead Pakistan toward a progressive state except to establish the roots of democracy firmly. We should examine the CAUSES OF FAILURE and means to rectify them.
Pakistan has been ruled by generals for more than half of its history, ie Ayub (1958-69), Yahya (1969-71), Zia (1977-88) and Musharraf (1999-2008). They came of rooting out the corruption of the politicians but actually they weeded of the seeds of democracy from the country. Army has pushed us back on the starting point claiming the inevitability of its intervention and the importance of its presence for the national security. Talking of army’s rule one is also instantly reminded of the harsh tactics deployed in 1971. The violations of human rights in East Pakistan at the hands of our “jawans” and the extra-judicial killings and kidnappings in the previous reign of the army ruler i.e in 1999-2008.
Our army has been preparing and supporting many jihadi militant organizations of the ester - years for its own sake. It denied the participation of the people in politics. The generals ruled all the regions of country thereby suppressing the ordinary masses, & denying the legitimate rights & freedom to them . Army rule therefore created discontent, frustration & a sense of neglect in small provinces. Army is always the last and the least desired choice and when it does take over, all democratic institutions move irito hibernation for all the years it remains in command. And when it finally makes it back to the barracks, they have to start anew. That's precisely the reason we are still a long way from a fine model of democracy.
Secondly, mass illiteracy is mentioned as a basic cause of failure. Over the last 63 years we have not been able to push the literacy rate beyond 54%. An illiterate human being has his own concept of values, his own likes and dislikes, his own standards of right and wrong, his own sense of good and evil. He can't take a decision concerning what is good for him, for his family and for his country. Lack of education prevents him from taking a right decision. Lack of character, integrity and moral sense make the real difference. He may not be a responsible person may take an irresponsible decision to vote for an incompetent and corrupt leader.
He may favor of his local landlord in a village due to his misjudgment and lack of information over the years they have been electing same politicians who always disappointed them after going in to the parliament. We have seen recently this year that how Mr. Dasti, a fake degree holder was re-elected by the voters. So illiterate masses cant have a check on the leaders. They can’t bring change and reject these selfish people,
There fore for the success of democracy in a Muslim country like Pakistan depends on the success of the efforts towards the implementation of the ideology of Pakistan, instead of driving them out toward secularization of the country as the Pakistani Ataturk Musharraf, tried to do. The islamization of the country does not mean to follow fanatic religious agenda. The true Islamic teachings promote moderation, tolerance and justice. It trains them to be responsible citizens to choose honest leaders in elections to root out corruption and work for a modern progressive state. Also the ideology inculcates moral and religious values both among the leaders & the masses.
Honestly, responsibility and fear of GOD produces conducive conditions for democracy. Islamic principles such as truth humbleness, equality & patience lay the basic foundation of any Democracy. The third important factor which derailed the process of democracy In Pakistan is feudal system. The democracy has been hijacked by a few feudals who are elected every time & masses have no choice but to re-elect them again & again. The local landlords have committed constant injustices with their masses. They have kept them deprived them of their basic needs like education.
The masses I have always been treated like animals and they never liked to spend on them. The local development s were always resisted by these feudals in order to continue their control on their poor masses. Religious scholars like Maudoodi and other Ulema have long ago issued religious decrees i.e. Fatwas for their abolition. Their point is to investigate the origins of landlords in our country. Most of them will be found to have gained rights on the lands as awards from the colonial British masters. They got these rewards for acting as traitors, who sided and supported the British betraying the common interests of the ordinary people.
Indian masses are also illiterate and uneducated like the masses in Pakistan. But the power of landlords has been broken over there bv the successive Indian governments. As a result, it is now recognized as the second largest democracy in the world after the U.S. while Pakistan, until recently, was defined as a rouge state. Against all such expectations, our leaders have displayed no enthusiasm toward any such reform of landlordism. In fact they themselves belong to this category and therefore always protect the same.
Fourthly, the absence of non - accountability of the corrupt politicians and the bureaucrats in another reason for failure of democracy. The big fish are always allowed to escape away from the net. After freeing the main culprit of corruption. None of the former dictator or even the civilian rulers have been held accountable for their misdeeds. All the proclaimed accountability institutions were established simply to victimize the opposition and not for fair accountability. ABDO by Ayub, Ehtisab bureau by ppp, ehtisab commission by Nawaz and non accountability bureau (NAB) by Musharraf and zardari all failed for the same reasons.
Even the last dictator was provided official security with in the country after his resignation and was allowed to proceed abroad safely. None of our earlier rulers have ever been punished for their malpractices. Resultantly the leaders and politicians continue to do misdeeds when ever n they are elected. The same practices are continued even by the present regime.
Fifthly, an important phenomenon on the political horizon of Pakistan needs to be observed carefully. Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif have been elected twice (1988-99) to the seat of power.. They were therefore governments were found guilty of inefficiency and involved in corruptions, thrown out of power by the then presidents. Both PPP & ML didn't learn the lesson & committed the same follies after they were re¬elected. Again the prevailing situation in Pak is not different & the current regime is not acting according to the merit. Our leaders hold their accounts in Swiss banks. They have huge assets built with corruption.
Cases against Sharifs & Zardari are no more hidden from the people. Merit is never followed & the nepotism & favoritism are the main instruments for exploitation of the masses by the leaders. The commissions & kickbacks in all kind of military & other purchases are norms of the day. Similarly the public contracts such as installation of the rental power plants are awarded not by transparent system but through secret deals & maneuvers.
This sixth factor effecting democracy has been the period of elections and the period for the Prime Ministers. The tenure 5 years, both for the prime minister and the next election is too lengthy. Through out our history the democratic tenure has never been completed by our parliament. Except one parliament in Musharaf s regime all the previous parliaments were removed on various charges. The politicians were intoxicated in power to such an extend that they never realized their responsibilities and tried to deliver to the people. They were always in haste to make money and plunder the public resources.
In this regard, the system prevailing in Japan is very successful and that should be adopted for Pakistan. The term of office for the Prime Minister is two years and for the elected Diet or the legislative bodies' members is four years, but country-wide elections are held every two years for fifty percent of the legislative bodies1 seats. With a gap of two years, half of the Diet members are elected for four years. The term of the remaining uncontested half members would expire after two years, when they can be elected again for four years. Therefore we need to drill the masses for regular voting at brief intervals.
The public awareness about the democracy & the performance of their leaders, both would improve. Once the things are streamlined we can switch over to four- year election process. The list of failure of democracy is a long one. The other factor like neglect of the small provinces, ethnic discord, centralization of the power by Islamabad, media crubs, lack of tolerance, absence of rule of law, and control of judiciary by executives, all have stifled the process of democracy in pak. In these circumstances what hope for democracy?? Always an optimist we still se a glimmer of hope if steps are taken to really restore democracy and not inflict more home made recipes on this country.
A good starting point of reforms by the present government of zardari, such as 7th NFC award, Baluchistan package, 18th amendment, provincial autonomy and restoration of 1973 constitution in its original form are welcome moves. A nation suffering from the negligence of its recent rulers has certainly welcome new endeavors provided these initiatives are implemented in true spirit.
The nation has to go a long way. We have to work on true mobilization of people and building of institutions, exclusion of army, elimination of corruption, accountability, respect for law, inculcation of morality, imparting education etc could be the next steps towards establishing the genuine democracy in the country.
The Judiciary & media which are the corner stone of any democracy need to be truly independent and if the rulers are sincere they would allow both these pillars of Democracy to flourish & safeguard the democracy. For all those with different recipes of democracy and their supporters we can only say that democracy is a way of life, it is a culture, it is a product of the wishes of the people and not the of the desires of an elite few. It evolves by itself and true democracy like a truly beautiful tree takes many decades to grow and spread out is branches to provide shade to the people.
Democracy is an evolutionary process. There are no shortcut no matter how pressing the need. Patience is another name for democracy. If our leaders could have demonstrated this quality we would not be the outcast in a democratic world at the turn of the century. The road to democracy may be winding and is like a riverse. recipes on this country. A good starting point of reforms by the present government of Zardari ,such as 7th NFC award Baluchistan package, 18th amendment, provincial autonomy & restoration of 1973 constitution in its original form are welcome moves. A nation suffering from the negligence of its recent rulers has certainly welcome new endeavors provided these initiatives are implemented in true spirit.
The nation has to go a long way. We have to work on true mobilization of people and building of institutions, exclusion of army, elimination of corruption, accountability, respect for law, inculcation of morality, imparting education etc could be the next steps towards establishing the genuine democracy in the country. The Judiciary & media which are the corner stone of any democracy need to be truly independent and if the rulers are sincere they would allow both these pillars of Democracy to flourish & safeguard the democracy.
For all those with different recipes of democracy and their supporters we can only say that democracy is a way of life, it is a culture, it is a product of the wishes of the people and not the of the desires of an elite few. It evolves by itself and true democracy like a truly beautiful tree takes many decades to grow and spread out its branches to provide shade to the people. Democracy is an evolutionary process. There are no short cuts no matter how pressing the need. Patience is another name for democracy. If our leaders could have demonstrated this quality we would not be the outcast in a democratic world at the turn of the century . the road to democracy may be winding like a river taking many cures, but eventually the river will reach the ocean Chen Shuhi-bian.