“Dēmokratia”, now known to the world as “Democracy” is a form of government under which the power to alter the laws and structures of government lies, ultimately, with the citizenry. Democracy is the most essential and fundamental element for managing the affairs of society systematically. In a broader sense democracy encompasses the leading features; fair and free election process, supremacy of the constitution, the rule of law, and freedom for the people. In other words democratic state must practice the principles of equal citizenship irrespective of religion, caste, ethnicity and regional background. It must also ensure equality of opportunity to all for advancement in social, political and economic domains and guarantee security of life and property to its citizens.
It is fact that democracy is the major constituent for social, political and economic development. It is considered as the backbone of the system, without which an effective running of system is impossible. The crucial importance of democracy can be observed by the experience of East Asian countries. Between 1965 and 1990, several countries of this region registered the highest growth rate and proved it with high living standards. The most important factors behind this economic miracle are good governance.
Democracy today appears to be the most popular choice when it comes to choosing a form of government, it brings with it many complications that would be absent in a dictatorship. Making bold decisions for long term prosposerity, executing controversial decisions and making bitter choices for the common good can be very complicated processes in a democratic form of government.
Democracy presupposes an understanding of issues. The sine qua non for a Western-style democratic system is education, which means that the people must be educated to a level to understand the issues so that they can make a meaningful choice. Unfortunately, literacy rate in Pakistan is a mere fraction, even the most optimistic estimates believe it to be less than 50 percent. An illiterate person is like an aimless wanderer, who lacks a clear vision, consequently fells an easy prey to the caste related vote canvassing. Moreover, Pakistani society is divided along the fissures and faults of caste and sects that has retarded it to act like a cohesive unit and concentrate only on issues. Under such circumstances, caste, sect and creed sentiments are exploited by the unscrupulous politicians.
Democracy is one of the universal and indivisible core values and principles of the United Nations. It is based on the freely expressed will of people and closely linked to the rule of law and exercise of human rights and fundamental freedoms. Democratic governance feeds into economic and social policies that are responsive to people’s needs and aspirations, that aim at eradicating poverty and expanding the choices that people have in their lives, and that respect the needs of future generations. In essence, therefore, democratic governance is the process of creating and sustaining an environment for inclusive and responsive political processes and settlements.
It is also important to note that the United Nations does not advocate for a specific model of government, but promotes democratic governance as a set of values and principles that should be followed for greater participation, equality, security and human development.
The Quaid believed in democracy, the following are a excerpts from his speeches on democracy:
Democracy is in the blood of Muslamans who look upon complete equality of man. I give you an example. Very often when I go to a mosque, my chauffeur stands side by side with me. Muslamans believe in fraternity, equality and liberty.
Dec 14, 1946, Quaid-e-Azam said at Kingsway Hall, London.
There are no people in the world who are more democratic even in their religion than the Muslamans.
The democratic system derives its strength from people. As former American President, Abraham Lincoln said.
“Democracy is Government of the people, by the people, for the people.”
Anna Garlin Spencer is of the opinion.
"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."
History has always provided evidence for the fact that ideas and values come before actions. Democracy has its origins in Ancient Greece. However other cultures have significantly contributed to the evolution of democracy such as Ancient Rome, Europe, and North America. The motherland of modern democracy, i.e. England is a manifestation of this principle. In the changing times of 16 and 17th centuries, during the age of discovery and at the dawn of industrial revolution, these were the ideas of Thomas Hobbes, John Locke and Jeans Jacques Rousseau which paved the way for democracy. These were their political ideas in the social contract, treatises on government and other such political classics which got acceptance among masses and intellectual elite and became a part of political socialization and ultimately political culture. Coupled with these ideas were the socio-economic changes going on in Europe particularly, England. With the advent of Industrial revolution emerged a new mercantile class which had wealth but not prestige and political power. The ideas of democracy, rule of law and adult franchise went to their favor so armed with the weapon of these ideas, this new class succeeded in building up a new political culture under which a new political order was established.
Political harmony and democratic evolution is facilitated primarily by political parties and leaders. These are important instruments of interest articulation and aggregation and serve as vehicles of political mobilization. In Pakistan, political parties have traditionally been weak and unable to perform their main function in an effective and meaningful manner. The role of the political parties has suffered due to, inter alia, periodic restrictions on political activities under military rule, infrequent elections, weak organizational structure and poor discipline among the members, absence of attractive socio-economic programs, and a paucity of financial resources. Political parties also suffer from factionalism based on personality, region and ideology. The Muslim League that led the independence movement failed to transform itself from a national movement to a national party. It suffered from organizational incoherence, ideological confusion and a crisis of leadership. The parties that emerged in the post-independence period could not present a better alternative. They suffered from the weaknesses that ailed the Muslim League. Consequently, the political parties could not work for political consensus building and political stability and continuity. Most Pakistani political parties lack resources and trained human-power to undertake dispassionate and scientific study of the socio-political and economic problems. The emphasis is on rhetoric and sloganeering which may be useful for mobilization purposes but it cannot be a substitute to serious, scientific and analytical study of the societal problems. The level of debate in the two houses of the parliament and provincial assemblies is low and these elected bodies often face the shortage of quorum which shows the non-seriousness of the political parties and their members in the elected houses in dealing with the national issues and problems. Quite often the ministers and parliamentary secretaries are not available in the house to respond to the issues raised by the members.
When the leadership of a country has all the power, which originally should have been with the institutions, the civil society is prone to become weak. The Pakistani society could not even properly voice their rights until recently, let alone struggling for democracy due to subjugation. Last but not least, the current stream of extremism and terrorism has brought forth a new ideology. These extremist elements equally manipulate the government and the common people. Their own version of Islam has become a means of playing with the sentiments of the already deprived masses. Hence, the bearers of this new ideology of governance consider democracy non Islamic and thus completely useless for an Islamic State. The prevailing conditions of the country and the demand for implementation of Sharia (their own version), is a testimony to this ideological belief. For these elements, the concept of democracy is western thus against Islam.
Moreover, this new ideological approach is also the most immediate threat to democracy in Pakistan today. In the war against terrorism, the realization of the fact that it is also a ‘ a ‘war of two ideologies’ but not necessarily a clash of civilizations is essential for preventing the country from another dead end.
Islam as we know is a complete code of life. But in the political sphere the decision for choosing the form of government has been left for the people, provided that the described requirements for vicegerency are met and the fact that sovereignty lies with Allah alone. As our constitution clearly states Pakistan as an Islamic Republic, there should be no misunderstanding about the governmental form.
Islam speaks of sovereignty of Allah, while western democracy advocates that sovereignty belongs to people. This means that democracy has been accepted within the limits of Islam so that in the name of democracy Islamic principles cannot be violated. Islamic Scholars and Islamic Politicians have come to accept the word democracy and what it means within these limits. The fear of some people here that democracy makes the people a source of power and even legislation although in Islam, besides Allah, no one has the right to make laws. Allah is our Creator, our Lord and he knows well that what is good and what is bad for us and Mohammad as its Prophet and Islam as its Religion. Such a people would not be expected to pass a legislation that contradicts Islam and its incontestable principles (Sharia) and conclusive rules.
Hence, in essence and soul democracy is not un-Islamic. There is compatibility between Islamic concept of government and democracy but it requires a well executed procedure of its incorporation in the constitution or making Pakistan a true Islamic democracy.
The people generally have also an important role to play in democracy—that of intelligent critics and no democratic govern¬ment worth the name can afford to ignore or bypass public criticism. If it were to commit, his folly, it would soon become unpopular loss it hold on the people and hence its majority in the legislature. Thus the public shares the role of the opposition whenever occasion demands it.
Public opinion may be passive and false or active and real. It is claimed in theory that all governments are ultimately based on the opinion or sanction of the governed. But we find that in practice the people's rights are often trodden down and tyranny and oppression are allowed to continue. The government does it not because the people want it to do so but because they are too idle, too uneducated and too disunited or timid to oppose the govern¬ment. Such public opinion is passive and false and not an active verdict. But when we find people alert, intelligent and determined to let the government know their will, when they want to exercise actively their voice in the management of their country, we have an instance of true or active public opinion.
True public opinion is formed by and expressed through the press, the platform, political parties and educational institutions. These have sacred duties to perform, duties on which depends the ultimate good of the entire community. The press today wields a tremendous influence, so it should support the causes and move¬ments and condemn the wrong ones and thus teach people to form correct opinion. A free and fair press ventilates the grievances of the public. Thus a healthy relationship develops between the people and the government throughout an unbiased press. Political parties also help to create and regulate opinions. No less important part is played by the educational Institutions which train the minds of the young people who will be the citizens of tomorrow. It has been said that modern Germany and China have been made by their universities.
It is necessary that the young and the growing minds should imbibe the spirit of fellow-feeling, the spirit of tolerance, the habit of compromise, and show due regard for the feelings and opinion of others without which a democratic society cannot function, let alone succeed. When there is true awakening of the people, we shall have the real and conscious public opinion. And justice will reign on earth and truly will the voice of the people be the voice of God.
Democracy is not only a form of government it is a philosophy which encompasses all aspects of rights and freedom. If we are to survive as a nation, we must allow it to grow or it will be hard to escape another catastrophe either internal or external.
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 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, colossal efforts at every level are required for democracy to take root and relieve us of our ever increasing catastrophes.
Democracy is not only a form of government it is a philosophy which encompasses all aspects of rights and freedom. If we are to survive as a nation, we must allow it to grow or it will be hard to escape another catastrophe either internal or external.
Pakistan, like India, adopted the Government of India Act, 1935 as the Interim Constitution, 1947 to meet the immediate requirements of an independent state. It provided parliamentary form of government, although the Governor General enjoyed special powers and the federal government exercised some overriding powers over provinces. Pakistan's early rulers did not pay special attention to democratization other political system because their major concern was how to ensure the survival of the state in view of internal and external challenges. The fear of the collapse of the state encouraged authoritarian style of governance.
Pakistan had faced serious administrative and management problems during the partition process. These problems were the division of civil and military assets of the British government between India and Pakistan, communal riots, the migration of people to and from Pakistan, and the troubled relations with India, including the first war on Kashmir, 1947-1948. In this critical situation when Pakistan was facing initial administrative and humanitarian difficulties, Mohammad Ali Jinnah, the father of the nation, died on September 11, 1948, thirteen months after the establishment of Pakistan. The separation of Quaid within a short span of time undermined the already weak political institutions and fragmented the political setup. Most of the post-Jinnah political leaders had no nationwide fame and appeal to reorganize the massive crowd again as a result regional politics within the state flourished. This critical situation, made it difficult for the political parties and leaders to pursue a coherent approach and gather under one leadership. They were unable to develop consensus on single point.
Exploring the last 63 years of Pakistan, democracy is taken as a comic relief between military regimes. Assassination of Liaquat Ali Khan, the first elected Prime Minister, was in fact the demise of democracy in Pakistan. Since then, the balance of power tilted in the favor of the military. Though Liaquat Ali Khan laid the foundation of the constitution by introducing objective resolution but several years later constitution of Pakistan was introduced (March 23, 1956) which even could not get popular support of all major parties, leaders and regions. By the time the constitution was introduced a strong tradition of violation started, the political parties were divided and the assembly was unable to assert its primacy. In this situation power was shifted to the Governor General/President Iskander Mirza, who had military background. Iskander Mirza took support of top bureaucracy and the military. This contributed to the rise of the bureaucratic-military elites in Pakistani politics which further suppressed future of democracy.
Democracy was not evolved out of the Pakistani culture; rather it was imposed by our colonial masters so there was a lack of democratic culture and its associated values. Pakistani society consisted of tribal or feudal landscape. Pakistan even when created had a fair share of the feudal ruling class in the Muslim League who represented a culture of suppression and personal gains. These landlords and feudal cum politicians hijacked the political system. Tribalism or feudalism, as a political system, has certain values associated with it which include authoritarianism instead of mass level participation, kinship instead of merit, patronage instead of rule of law due to which our military and political elite could not embrace the idea of democracy wholeheartedly and that is why, there was no strong resistance whenever the military toppled the elected government. The first Martial Law was imposed by Ayub Khan in 1958 and lasted till 1969. He abrogated the constitution of 1956. He also introduced presidential system with indirect elections. In April 1969, General Yahya imposed second Martial Law and lasted till 1971. He had abrogated the constitution of 1962, banned all political activities and dissolved National and Provincial assemblies. Again Martial Law intervened in 1977 and the popular leader elected by the common people through dubious elections was hanged. Zia's Martial regime was supposed to be the shortest one but it turned out to be the longest in the history of Pakistan. Zia did not abrogate the constitution of 1973 but suspended. He also passed his famous 8th amendment to restrict the power of head of government through article 58 2(b) and provided significant powers to the president who could dissolve National Assembly whenever he think that need has arisen. In 1999, again military intervened in political setup led by General Musharraf. The Army was yet again in power promising of smooth transfer of power to grass root level within three years.
Consequently, the list of gross failures kept mounting and even after realizing the underlying causes, they weren’t addressed. Of the major causes of failure of democracy in Pakistan, the substantial ones are related to those in authority i.e., the leadership, army and bureaucracy.
Firstly, the failure to sustain democracy is the over developed state structure. The monopolization and centralization of power, decision making structure, hegemonic ideals vis-à-vis civil society and also a need to control them terribly weakened the de facto government institutions and in turn the social and economic structure as well. Secondly, a clash between main organs of government such as judiciary and executive lead never gave democracy a fair chance. Personalization of rule has been in vogue. This trend by the executive to influence all and sundry made. Pakistan an international study case of a failing democratic state
In addition to this the military rulers strengthened the bureaucracy for their own rule. Securing a permanent role in the establishment, the bureaucrats preferred to compromise with the feudal system as well. The circulation of power in a handful of families made the structure hollow.
Similarly, as cited earlier the authority at local level accumulated in the hands of feudal cum politicians who had the public vote bank with them. The military rulers were thought to curb them in the beginning but instead of nipping them in the bud they also compromised with them to prolong their rule. In such circumstances, even universal suffrage could not be effective and non-political powers began to play a greater role.
Likewise, the weak institution of political system, from the parliament- which became a proxy of dictators- to the regional political parties which had hereditary and non democratic leaders is another cause. These political representatives had no idea of political socialization and no organized quarters of leadership, who could establish a democratic culture.
Sadly, the political psyche of the people is also very negative due to low level of political awareness and socialization. And this trend allowed the hegemonic forces to keep media, educational institutions, peers and public forums from incorporating a political consciousness into the people. The masses were even not able to resist the Martial Laws, and the civil society always succumbed to the military rule.
Another important cause has always been the constitutional crisis and absence of rule of law apparatus. There has always been a great demand for incorporating Islamic principles in the constitution or implementing them (as implied by the ’73 const.) as Pakistan is an Islamic state. Also the several amendments in the constitution concentrated power in the President, which was against the democratic soul. There is still the need for intact constitution.
Next, the all powerful bureaucracy and feudal politicians should be stripped of their unwarranted authority. It has been a slow evil which has weakened the country like nothing else. They are elected for serving people not controlling them. The criteria of merit; the right of freedom and equal progress for common people has become a joke due to such an autocratic setup.
The political system which we have in Pakistan is rather something else in the garb of democracy. Where one needs at least ten to twenty million rupees to contest a National Assembly election and around half of that for a seat of provincial assembly; where the legislature has become a club of the elite is rather actually plutocracy, i.e. a government of a rich few. Middle class, having understood that the doors of the political system are closed for them, get disenchanted and ultimately get alienated from the system; and here lies a basic reason for the lack of development of democratic values and culture in Pakistan.
It is fact that democratic governments in Pakistan have been witnessed of corruption, mal-administration, and nepotism. The people reluctantly visit public institutions because they know that without any favor or bribe it is very difficult to get any work done from the public officers. Moreover, due to malpractices of the public official and misappropriation of public fund the infrastructure of public institutions has been cracked and a situation like chaos is prevailing all over the country.
In 1990 the government of PPP was dissolved due to corruption charges set against Benazir Bhutto by the President of that time. The next government of Nawaz sharif was also dismissed in 1993 by Ghulam Ishaq khan on plea of corruption and nepotism. Again elections were held in 1993 and Benazir became PM but this government was also dissolved on corruption charges in 1996.
Democracy and participatory governance are popular political notions in today’s world. Fair and free elections are the key pre-requisite of democracy. However, democracy lacks substance unless the electoral process is coupled with the supremacy of the constitution, the rule of law, and civil and political rights and freedoms for the people. The state must practice the principle of equal citizenship irrespective of religion, caste, ethnicity and regional background. It must also ensure equality of opportunity to all for advancement in social, economic and political domains and guarantee security of life and property of its citizens.
The failure to institutionalize participatory governance has caused much alienation at the popular level. A good number of people feel that they are irrelevant to power management at the federal and provincial levels. The rulers are so engrossed in their power game that they are not bothered about the interest and welfare of the common people. Such a perception of low political efficacy is reflected in the declining voting percentage in the general elections. A good number of voters maintain that their vote does not matter much in the selection of the rulers. Invariably they express negative views about the rulers as well as those opposing them. Despite all this, the people have not given up on democracy. While talking about their ‘helplessness’ with reference to changing the rulers, they continue to subscribe to the norms of democracy and participatory governance and emphasize the accountability of the rulers. They are therefore vulnerable to mobilization for realization of these norms and values. The political system of Pakistan is characterized by intermittent breakdown of constitution and political order, weak and non-viable political institutions and processes, rapid expansion of the role of the military bureaucratic elite, military rule and military dominated civilian governments, and narrow-based power management.
Democracy does not guarantee equality of conditions - it only guarantees equality of opportunity—Irving Kristol
History is witness to the fact that Pakistan has lost territory while under direct military rule. The dictators’ hawkish attitude has fanned various separatist movements across the country. Absence of Democracy is a significant reason for nurturing terrorism in a country. A democratic government is supposed to represent the people and provide political means to voice grievances, hence essentially providing a sphere where terrorism has no place. Democracy is necessary to peace and undermining the forces of terrorism—Benazir Bhutto. For this reason, in theory, there 'cannot' be an aggrieved group that is not adequately represented; but absence of democracy and areas outside the realm of democratic setup in Pakistan has proved conducive to terrorism.
The political leaders lack a clear vision and they never had the capacity to alleviate the status of democracy and strengthen it, in fact the mutual squabbling of the political leaders excited the other players to assume a role. Moreover, in Pakistan the politics is more personality-driven rather than issues-driven, which has an overall negative impact on the evolution of independent institutions and has fanned the vested interests. Political parties are mere puppet in the hands of different families and party elections are considered taboo and it seems that political parties have dictatorship at their own core!
In true democracy, political leaders derive their power from the people thus they are intrepid and assume more audacious visions, consequently the respective country forms an independent foreign policy that best suits its interests but feeble democracy is devoid of these characteristics. Pakistan has so-far failed to furnish its independent foreign policy, with faint support in their own country; political leaders are swayed by the world powers, thus they undermine the national interests and sovereignty of the country
All the ills of democracy can be cured by more democracy- Alfred E. Smith
Though democracy has failed many times to establish its firm roots in Pakistan, but every dark cloud has a silver lining, all these failures actually provide us an insight into what went wrong and how democracy can be preserved from de-railing next time. The first essential step seems to stop interruption in the democratic process and the elected government must be allowed to complete its tenure in any case. Secondly, a major chunk of the population wants greater Islamic character in the democratic setup and legislation. Incorporating true Islamic injunctions will lead to a more cohesive civil society and will foil any attempts by the extremists to paint that democracy is antithesis to Islamic form of government. We must learn to live together as brothers or perish together as fools— Martin Luther King, Jr.
Reforming the judiciary and incorporating the Islamic laws can also soothe the deprived and poor masses which have been manipulated by the extremists. Moving on, corruption and selfish attitudes is eating away the institutional structure of our country and such mal-practices never allowed democracy to flourish. There is a need to engineer an accountability mechanism, so that these wrong-doings are kept in check.
There is a dire need to strengthen the public institutions, in order to ensure the supremacy of law so that rules govern the country rather than the personalities. The glaring example of many European countries may be quoted, where institutions enjoy the ultimate powers. Democracy in actuality can only be achieved through such measures.
Common man was compelled by the existing setup to stay away from contesting an election. Hitherto it was a prerogative of the affluent and feudal classes; such practices are against the moral, democratic and Islamic principles. The necessary ingredient for the success of democracy in Pakistan is the emancipation of the rural areas from the clutches of the local landlords, i.e. to take steps for the abolition of 'Jagirdari' System. The criteria of merit; the right of freedom and equal progress for common people should be promoted. Young and morally upright persons should come forward and actively take part in democratic setup and elected member must be nurtured with the notion that they have to serve the nation and they have to bail out this nation. A leader is a dealer in hope—Napoleon Bonaparte
Our constitution does not provide an effective system of check and balance. That is why every elected civilian government becomes omnipotent and powerful which give rise to corruption and mal-administration. There is no effective system of governance which can keep proper check on the decisions and the steps taken by PM and his cabinet. Judiciary must be made strong enough to keep a strong check over these important matters.
In Pakistan, the rulers, political parties and leaders and the civil society groups support democracy at the normative or conceptual level. The politically active circles demand representative governance and participatory decision making in the political and economic fields. They highlight fair and free electoral process, the rule of law, socio-economic justice and accountability of those exercising state power as the pre-requisites for a political system.
The credulous masses were an easy prey to the mercenary politicians, had they been educated, they must have asked the elected members for their rights denied, opportunities curtailed and for defrauding the tax-payers money. Imparting education on a national scale will galvanize the masses to form a check on political leadership. The political energy in Pakistan is extravagantly wasted on inter-provincial squabbling. There is a dire need to get the nation out of the rut of provincialism, so that they feel proud on being Pakistani and strive for the cause of Pakistan thus strengthening the institutions and democracy in the country.
In a democratic state, media has rightly been called the fourth pillar of the state. It can play a more vibrant, positive and constructive role rather than becoming another compromised institution. Information is the currency of democracy—Thomas Jefferson
Finally, the strategic position and now the war against terror has brought Pakistan in the limelight of the international community, so international community should help Pakistan in establishing a workable democratic system or should at least stay away from anointing the dictators, but it is only possible through the visionary and sagacious approach of the med
The world has ultimately come to a conclusion after having experimented different forms of government like Monarchy, Oligarchy, military or civil Dictatorships etc. These governments failed despite sincere wishes of the individual leaders who came to the fore through any of these Processes. 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. Democracy is not only a form of government; it is a philosophy which encompasses all aspects of rights and freedom. In Pakistan, however, the already difficult situation has been aggravated by constant failures which never let democracy to survive. The positive change is still slow, but a bleak past or murky present in no way means a foredoomed future as well. However, colossal efforts at every level are required for democracy to take root. In all this hopelessness, there must be a desire for moving forward. The future of democracy may be doubtful but it not at an end yet.
The road to democracy may be winding and is like the river taking many curves but eventually the river will reach the ocean—Chen Shui-Bian(10th and 11th-term President of the Republic of China)
The historical facts and arguments validate the notion that democracy is a culture rather than a process. The democratic values and socialization have to gain acceptance in a society if democracy is to flourish as a political system. However, this does not mean that democracy cannot be established in the long run, in a state where there is absence of democratic culture. Culture itself is an organic thing and changes with the course of history. If the intellectual elite of a country succeed in propounding those ideas to the extent that these values are embraced by the people of that land at a mass level, and the socio-economic conditions, to some extent, are conducive for them then the democratic system can genuinely flourish in that society and country.
There is a need to reform the judiciary, in the presence of an independent judicial system, the discrepancies are kept in check thus it ensures enduring democracy through fair and free elections, without fair and free elections the actual shape of democracy can’t be prevail. It is the responsibility of the state to hold elections in such a way that everyone be able to contest elections regardless of his financial status. The state must try to build up a culture of meritocracy instead of monetocracy (money as the basis for progress) which is the prevailing norm of the political culture of the underdeveloped world.
In order to develop an effective system of governance participation of women should be encouraged as according to latest count, women ratio is .48:52 respectively.
Media should also play a positive role in creating awareness among people regarding their problems and their solutions. In this way people will be able to demand their rights and will perform their duties and responsibilities in a more organized way.
Democracy in Pakistan faced a host of difficulties which did not let the democratic principles, institutions and processes develop firm roots in the polity. In Pakistan, periodic breakdown of the political order and repeated military take- over or attempts by the top brass to shape the political process to their political preferences did not ensure political continuity and the competing interest did not get equal opportunity to freely enter the political mainstream. . Democracy and the autonomy of civilian institutions and processes has been the major casualty of the expanded role of the military. Whenever Pakistan returned to civilian and constitutional rule, the quality of democracy remained poor. It is a case of democracy deficit. The long term endurance of the political institutions and the prospects of democracy faces four major challenges in Pakistan: the non-expansion of participatory opportunities for those viewed as adversaries by the military dominated regime, the poor performance of the elected assemblies, failure to build consensus on the operational norms of the political system, and a drift towards confrontation, religious and cultural intolerance and extremism.
This does not mean that the people have given up on the primacy of the popular will, participatory governance, accountability of the rulers and governance for serving the people. The ideological commitment to these principles persists which will continue to question the legitimacy of no participatory and authoritarian governance and political management
I cannot define democracy but I know it when I see it — and I do not see it in Pakistan.
The writer is a PhD Scholar at West Virginia University in the US
Democracy is a highly complex form of political system. It is not only a concept; it’s a culture, a code and a way of life. Despite infinite writings on democracy, no one could ever explain this concept better than the English philosopher John Locke. In his Second Treatise on Government in 1690, he presents his famous ‘consent theory’, the essence of a perfect democracy. According to Locke, the “whole power of the community” is in the hands of the “elected representatives” of the people. In other words, government should be based on people’s consent. Any political system, where people are kept away from the electoral process, may be anything but democracy. The will of the people is the ‘jugular vein’ or linchpin of a democratic society.
Due to historical, cultural, socio-economic and religious reasons, many people in Pakistan do not truly believe in democracy. These anti-democrats are in all segments of society, mostly in political parties. In the past, the Muslim League has had the worst track record supporting anti-democratic forces. Of course, the military junta played havoc with the democratic process. What did the politicians do to consolidate democracy whenever they got the opportunity? They did nothing because they had no love for true democracy. But their lust for power and position was higher than the Himalayas. Politicians in Pakistan have miserably failed to give the people the ownership of democracy. This is why the people of Pakistan distribute sweets and celebrate the demise of so-called democratic governments. Our political system is mostly based on non-democratic features and does not truly reflect the aspirations of the people.
No single executive in Pakistan is directly elected by the people, including the president, prime minister, chief ministers and governors. The upper house, the Senate, is not a directly elected body. All members who come from the Fata area and are either in the Senate or in the National Assembly are also not true representatives. In all legislatures in the country, the seats reserved for women, minorities and technocrats are filled by mere nominations and not through elections. Consequently, more than 200 out of a total of 1,070 seats are non-elected, which constitute over 20 per cent of members of the legislative bodies. This leads to graft and corruption in the legislatures since many politicians purchase seats in millions of rupees not only for themselves but for their wives, sons, daughters, siblings and relatives. This practice is the worst form of political patronage and has nothing to do with democracy. The induction of non-elected members is highly non-democratic, discriminatory and against the spirit of equal rights, equal treatment for all and rule of law. Who do Kashmala Tariq, Sharmila Farooqi and Marvi Memon, etc represent? Have they ever contested an election? Democracy is about electoral contest not beauty contest.
The American democracy is based on a two-tier electoral system where the registered voters of a party first elect their nominees/candidates in primary elections for all types of positions from president to mayor. At the second level of the general election stage, people elect their representatives from those nominees of both parties. In Pakistan, candidates are imposed by the party leadership on the people to vote. None of them is the people’s choice as a candidate. Nevertheless, I am not here to talk about fair and free elections. I only want to give people a chance to choose their leaders both as nominees/candidates and contestants. The caretaker governments of the future will have no mandate from the people. For three months, not a single elected member will be running the seventh nuclear power of the world. There is only one example in our history when a directly elected member was the executive head of a government: the Union Council Nazim under General (retd) Pervez Musharraf’s Local Government system.
Democracy is a very broad concept and I’m unable to define it. However, I quote the US Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart who will long be remembered for his statement that he could not define ‘obscenity’, but added “I know it when I see it.” Hence, I cannot define democracy but I know it when I see it — and I do not see it in Pakistan. Pardon me for this analogy.
Published in The Express Tribune, December 11th, 2012.