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Pakistani brand of democracy

By: Adv Syed Abdul Rasool 

Democracy is undoubtedly a brilliant concept currently in practice in most parts of the world. It is, according to the best understanding and wisdom of the political scientists, the best political system that the world has ever devised for smooth governance and proper functioning of the state.  To the protagonists of democratic dispensation, democracy is the only antidote against all the diseases that humankind suffers from. It can be agreed to some extent, as Lowell said, “no form of government is panacea for all human ills. No one can deny the defects of democracy. But no one should shut his eyes to the merits and achievements of democracy”. Moreover, the advocates of democracy also maintain that even the worst form of democracy is better than that of the best form of dictatorship. No doubt, if democracy is practiced in letter and spirit, it can outclass all other alternative forms of polity that the world has invented so far.

The key ingredients that fashion a genuine democracy are sovereignty of parliament, inviolability of the constitution, supremacy of civilian rule, rule of law, protection  of fundamental rights of the people, fair, free and transparent election, high –powered  and impartial election commission, ruthless accountability, free press and independent and incorruptible judiciary.

 Sadly, ours is a sham democracy devoid of virtually all of the lofty democratic ideals that are regarded as inescapable sine qua non for any democratic dispensation. It makes everyone of us to be of ashamed of what is happening in our country in the name of democracy.

Pakistani brand of democracy is unique in its flavor and substance. It is the type of democracy where parliament that serves as vertebral column in any democratic edifice, is nothing but a Potemkin village, a rubber-stamp, a conglomerate that issues license to its members to plunder the national kitty with  impunity; where  the constitution is  amended more easily than modifyingthe traffic canons; where laws are so tailored as  merely  to serve the whims of the rulers; where a person once disqualified by the apex court  of the country  is declared qualified to head a political party in utter contravention of the spirit of the constitution and democratic ideals; where  issues pertaining to the people are seldom deliberated; where prime minister visits once in the blue moon…

Democracy as a system germinates at ballot box which provides the people with an opportunity to elect the rulers of their choice.  Therefore, holding fair, free and impartial ballot is part and parcel for launching any democratic setup but in our country after every election rigging becomes a buzzword. In this way, democracy at its embryonic stage is corrupted to its core. Additionally, Money, Maneuvering and manipulation are also blatantly employed in ourcountry to win the polls. Feudal lords by virtue of their enormous land holding egg their serfs on to vote in their favor and business tycoons with the help of their big bucks lure the destitute electorate into casting ballots for them.Consequently, our parliament is occupied by rich plutocrats rather than true democrats.   A Parliament predominately dominated by men of affluence and not the men belonging to impoverished section of society insinuates that we only have a ritual and spurious democracy because “democracy is , said renowned Greek philosopher Aristotle, “when the indigents and not the men of property are the rulers”…

The recent election of the upper house is the testimony to the fact that how lucre bought the loyalties of the stalwarts of different parties. It depicted the scene of stock market where buying and selling of parliamentarians gave a feeling of déjà vu as nothing new happened; the same marionette show with mere change of faces was staged. It was not election but extremely sorry to say, an auction, an auction of the horses popularly called as horse trading. The farcical election brought vivid reminders of how money disfigures democratic physiognomy, poisons our law making, and inevitably widens the gulf between those who can buy influence and the vast majority who cannot.The whole story of senate electioneering reflects that we have no democracy at all. The thing that we promote in the name of democracy is nothing but a stigma on the immaculate face ofshining democracy.

Regardless of the blatant use of unfair tools and political shenanigans in election, the upper house deserves kudos on selection of chairman from Balochistan. This sagacious move would definitely help allay the feelings of deprivation and alienation of the baloch masses and would ultimately cement the federation and bicameral legislature. It would also transmit a positive signal to centrifugal forces that arefanning the flames of separatism across balochistan and are sowing the seeds of secession on the land of pure on the diktat of their foreign masters.

Apart, dynasty and democracy are mutually exclusive and therefore, cannot Co-exist in any dimension, sense or definition of the real democracy. But in our so-called democracy, dynastic politics is on peak. Sharifs and Bhuttos   have been ruling over us for decades. They are deeply entrenched in our system and therefore don’t let anyone else to govern. They have turned our sovereign country into their fiefdom and a commercial enterprise and run it in accordance with their caprices. The selection of younger brother Shehbaz sharif as new party head of (PML(N)) and elder brother as lifetime “QUAID”   truly reflects that how people are fooled in this country in the name of democracy. It also suggests that our politicians don’t practice what they preach. They, themselves are indifferent to the real spirit of democracy but always advise us to hold democratic principles in high esteem. It reminds me the words of Benjamin Disraeli who once remarked for such demagogues that “we do not know what words mean, but we rule the people with them”. This is exactly what is happening with the people of my homeland.

In addition, the independent judiciary is dubbed as the bedrock and a linchpin of a democratic ship without which the ship of democracy cannot stay afloat. Unfortunately, our judiciary is under attack in our country nowadays.  The political midgets on behest of their political masters are found engaged to subject the honorable judiciary to mud-slinging and character assassination.  Contempt of the court and defiance of its orders have become favorite pastime of our ruling elite. It pains me a lot when I see politicians behaving in such a nasty way and think that what legacy shall our politicians bequeath to our posterity; this question haunts me every time. This unruly behavior of the politicos cannot be justified in any civilized and purely democratic society. I am afraid, if our politicians don’t set their own house in order and perpetuate their ongoing move to undermine and malign the esteemed judiciary, the history may repeat itself and 111 brigades may be summoned. The very apprehension was expressed by retiring Senator Aitazaz Ahsan in his farewell speech, he said “we have to make introspection and set our own house in order, if we don’t change our reprehensible behavior, then it is inevitable to listen famous mantra of the military  usurpers “MEARAY AZIZ HUM WATNO” again…

Furthermore, it is not only the politicians who can be blamed for not allowing the democracy to flourish in our country; the power hungry generals are equally responsible in plunging our country into abyss of darkness and political chaos. Dr, Tocqueville and other theorists argued that democracy and large standing army were incompatible. It seems to be axiomatic truth in case of Pakistani democracy. Military juggernauts have subverted our fledgling democracy four times by holding the constitution sometimes in  abrogation, sometimes in abyss, sometimes in suspension and sometimes as dysfunctional… ironically, we hang the petty thieves but those who stole our constitution go scot-free in our country.

Let bygones be bygones, let’s turn over a new leaf and bid goodbye to military Bonapartism and civilian fascism for good. Let’s elect a scrupulous and competent leader in election 2018. “Perhaps no form of government“, said the historian and diplomat Lord Bryce, “needs great leaders so much as democracy”.

 To cap it all, if we truly want democracy to blossom and take deep roots in our country, we have to be vigilant and active. “indolent and indifference on the part of citizens, said Lord Bryce,” are two enemies of democracy”.  Nothing but Indifferent and inactive electorate in democracy paves the way for crafty politicians, clever demagogues, rich plutocrats and such other enterprising persons to capture the political power and abuse it for their selfish ends…hope, this time, we will not  repeat the same mistake in forthcoming election and elect crème de la crème from our political world as our rulers.

    Published in The Balochistan Point on March 16, 2018

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this piece are of the author and The Balochistan Point does not necessarily agree with them.

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