Is democracy for us?
It is a popular opinion these days that democracy is the best form of government available to the countries of the world. Perpetuated (and forcibly implemented in some cases) by the west, the system of democracy seems to be the preferred system in the minds of the people of the world; more so after the events of the Arab Spring.
My main contention against democracy is this: is it the best mode of governing a country for every country of the world? It seems to work great for the west and developed countries but does it necessarily work for developing countries?
Malaysia has demonstrated exceptional growth over the last 30 years yet the government is not a conventional democracy. In our own country, people in the media and the political parties are always calling for democracy to prevail, but what has democracy done for the country?
The current government is accused of corruption and mismanagement, and in its tenure, the law and order situation in the country has deteriorated to an all-time low.
Sounds familiar? That’s because previous democratically elected government were charged with the same things. So again I ask, why democracy?
In my opinion, democracy only functions in an environment that supports and complements it. Many hail the US as the champion of democracy and try to replicate its democratic system but fail to recognise the systems that they have in place.
Democracy in USA works because the people are educated enough to make the informed decision of choosing a president based on the agenda that they propose. Rarely do we hear allegations of rigging in the presidential elections. These systems ensure that democracy functions as it is supposed to.
These systems are not in place in a country like Pakistan. People do not make informed decisions as to whom to vote for. In rural areas, their votes are determined by their landlord and in the cities, it is determined by where the person lives and which party claims that area to be their territory. Almost every election is marred with allegation of rigging.
Political parties in Pakistan are not democratic. They are family legacies with the children inheriting the popular position of their fathers based on the ownership of land and status in the society.
The PPP is the family legacy of the Bhuttos with the party leadership being handed over to the next generation of Bhuttos regardless of whether they live in Pakistan or not.
The Sharif brothers head the PML-N and have many relatives as MNAs and MPAs; Nawaz Sharif’s son-in-law Muhammad Safdar was heading the party’s youth wing before his membership was suspended. Asfandyar Wali became head of the ANP after his father Khan Wali Khan.
The democratic process is flawed as well. The recent promulgation of the local government ordinance in Sindh was done without the consultation and support of the major political parties like ANP, PML-Q and PML-F. The democratic process of the political parties boils down to personal attacks on opponents, vague and empty promises, and conducting rallies on main boulevards in cities causing traffic problems for the average citizen.
Gaining support from the people involves controlling territories in the urban areas. The areas where these territories meet are turned into battlefields for armed members of rival political parties leading to the death of innocent people caught in the crossfire. Parties are financed through armed wings that snatch people’s possessions, forcibly collect animal hides on Eidul Azha, or collect extortion money from traders.
If this is what democracy can do for the people of this country, then I say we’re better off without it.
If democracy is really what everyone wants then they should realise that they need to have the appropriate systems in place for democracy to work. Otherwise, I don’t see anything changing in the way this country is running.
This shouldn’t be taken as an advocacy of dictatorships or pseudo-Islamic caliphate.
Follow Faizan on Twitter @arif_faizan
Join us on Facebook for blog updates and more!
The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.