Why democracy should stay

Published: January 22, 2012
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True democracy needs time, and demands patience from the public. PHOTO: REUTERS

Pakistan’s administrative setup was modeled after the British system: an elected legislative assembly was to give form to an executive government headed by the prime minister. The president was to hold a symbolic role while the judiciary was set to be independent. It remains a reality that despite the narrow scope in the electorate, Pakistan was a product of democracy, and will only thrive and succeed if it is democratic in structure and spirit.

The continuous hampering course that Pakistan is passing through is not helping it become a truly democratic nation which can grow strong economically and deliver welfare to its people. We have military dictators who rule for about one decade or so only to be sacked (or get killed in an airplane crash) and replaced by democratic elected feudal elite who are interested in protocols rather than their subject’s wellbeing.

These days the government is struggling against the army regarding the ‘Memogate‘ scandal and the Supreme Court regarding the NRO verdict. Both cases have got national attention and can conclude in the government either to be ousted by force in a coup (highly unlikely) or made to by court ruling.

Back-channel pressure from the army and huge unpopularity from the grassroots movements can support such a downfall. The upcoming election to Senate in March 2012 is quite important as the governmental Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) is believed to bag the biggest majority ever in its legislative history. This will pave the way for a PPP power even if it loses the 2013 general election.

In these tense times, where the army puts pressure on the government and where many pockets of the nations territory are under army operations, it is healthy that all political parties join hands to strengthen what is best for them all.

You can have a difference in opinion on what kind of penal code Pakistan needs, on the amount of provinces needed and so on but all the political parties do agree that democratic process is the only possible way out of this quagmire.

Why, you ask?

It is simply because the political parties are registered as parties under the Political Parties Act by the Election Commission Pakistan. They all understand that their function is to make umeedvaar (candidate)  to fight and campaign elections, to fill assemblies and to pass legislation. When this very process is at risk, being undermined by a powerful Generals Head Quarter (GHQ) which dictates much of the defense, foreign and parts of finance policies then one voice needs to be uttered:

“Enough is enough!”

Enough of blackmailing of political office holders, of directing public opinion through mass media and enough of rumours where force was oncused. The gentlemen in khakis are highly professional in their training, discipline and conduct when it comes to their own chain of command. They need to remain so and nothing more. Only then can the political parties try and err, election after election, government after government, being tried and voted out by the people so democratic institutions can become transparent in the long term, and therefore auditable. (too much?) 

True democracy needs time, and it demands patience from the public. True democracy is not the name of assemblies and elections each five years only, it is the result of rule of law with all its citizens equal before the law.

Further on, if our political leaders, despite their faults (and those are many) and despite their short term memory (because much of the past is murky) manage to form a principle platform to end the current constitutional crisis they also need to democratise their own political parties.

As a bonus, the elected governments and legislators can thereby finally determine what Pakistan’s national interest really is; the rate of literacy among men and women, the rate of unemployment, the fertility rate, students getting higher education and many others will be the indicators of national interest. Attracting investment in a stable period will generate jobs. The tax system will be effective when politicians slowly deliver, as voters will gain trust and our dear minorities will finally be able to call this land their home, too, while being proud of their culture and religion at the same time.

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Usman.Asif

Usman Asif

Norwegian born of Pakistani descent, writes on politics, society and religion. He blogs at www.usmanasif.wordpress.com. He tweets @UsmanBaghi.

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.