The Future of Democracy in Pakistan
1. What is democracy
2. Roots of democracy
3. Democracy vs. Dictatorship
4. History of Pakistani politics
- Partition till Fall of Dhaka
- Bhutto vs. Zia
- Power politics b/w Benazir and Sharif
- Sharif vs. Musharaff
- Reconciliation and Present
5. Causes of derailment
- Politicians vs. Statesmen
- Role of ISI
- Lack of Transparency
6. Future and Solutions
- Mass Awareness Campaign
- Independent Election Commission
- Strong Foreign Policy
For years now we have been hearing the word democracy being used endlessly in our media, homes and offices. But do we really know what democracy is? What does it stand for? What are its principles? And most importantly what is the role of different state institutions and their respective jobs and duties as prescribed in the constitution.
The word democracy is derived from two Greek words, Demos and Kratos meaning rule of the people. In simple words academics like to define it as, Rule of the people by the people for the people.
This unique system was first introduced in ancient Greece. City states like Sparta prided in their governments. Platos Republic is one of the best known works in this regard. In times when absolute monarchs and kings ruled and often called themselves gods, the Greeks had developed a beautiful and exceptional system of governance. People elected their representatives and they formed a Senate which advices the king on every aspect of the state. Their opinion very much mattered and they basically ran the country in the name of the king. One of the most famous examples which magnify the powers of a senate was the refusal of the kings request for an army, when Xerxes of Persia attacked Greece.
This model of governance was briefly carried on by the Roman Empire. With few minor modifications it was this strong system of democracy which became the foundation of the mighty Roman Empire. The Romans were the first Super Power and democracy (senate) played a pivotal role in their world dominance. The events of Gaius Julius Caesars death are another testament to the importance of democracy in Roman Empire. After Caesar the Romans dumped democracy and that meant the end of the grand empire.
The mighty Muslim empire too carried on this system. The Caliphs used to consult their Shura on matters ranging from foreign expeditions to price regulations. As soon as the Caliph started to undermine their councils, they too had witnessed the same decline as the Romans.
The modern democracy has its roots in England. The roots of modern democracy were laid down with the Magna Carta in the 13th century. The Glorious Revolution in the late 1600 was an important landmark in the history of democracy. It firmly established the parliament as the supreme power in the State. By 19th century many countries adopted and adjusted this system according to their needs. Two major types of democratic systems arose: The Parliamentary and Presidential System. But have their merits and demerits but nonetheless they both are democratic systems with the public playing the role of King Maker.
Democracy stands for peoples rights and representation, whereas dictatorship represents absolute power and totalitarianism. The very spirit of dictatorship is oppression and tyranny. In the eyes of Political Scientists the basic idea of dictatorship is flawed and unbalanced. On the other hand democracy is a very well balanced system which has slowly evolved into the fair and reasonable system we all know. If we analyse the difference between democracy and dictatorship we see that dictatorships are better suited to expansionist policies e-g. Mughals, Mongols, Nazi Russia. But democracy favours a progressive society. It encourages arts and science. We come to see that all technological, social and political progress that man has made was in a democratic society e-g Muslim Spain, British Empire, USA.
The founding father of this nation, Quaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah was a strong proponent and advocate of a democratic system. His own life is a beautiful example. Throughout his life he never stepped out of his democratic rights. He is unique in the sense that he was never arrested in the struggle for independence. After Independence he clearly stated his vision. He envisioned Pakistan not only as a free and prosperous democracy but as a leading and a model state. But the enormous problems of post partition did not allow him the time to oversee the framing of a new constitution.
After his death a period of unease persisted over Pakistan. The political and military leadership of the country continued to experiment with the young state. They experimented with parliamentary and presidential forms of government, civilian and military rule and local body systems. These little adventures of our leaders led us to frame two constitutions. We fought two wars with India which finally resulted in the formation of Bangladesh.
After the fall of Dhaka a new democratically elected government of Z.A. Bhutto took over the reins of Pakistan. He framed a new constitution in 1973. His government was dismissed by General Zia and martial law was imposed. Later Mr. Bhutto was sent to the gallows. General Zia ruled the country for a decade when he mysteriously died in a plane crash in 1988.
In the elections that followed Benazir Bhutto, daughter of Z.A. Bhutto won the elections. Her major rival was Nawaz Sharif. For the next decade these two parties, The PPP and PML ruled the country between them. The only common element between these two parties was the rampant corruption and nepotism which had crept into every level of the system. Both these parties, under of cloud of democracy plundered the national treasures. After Zia fell from the skies, it was trumpeted that 'democracy' had been 'reborn' when Benazir Bhutto was installed as head of government after emerging victorious in the elections.
She robbed freely, caring a damn when caught with her fingers deep in the till. She was dismissed and replaced with our second democrat, Nawaz Sharif, who robbed until he was dismissed and replaced with Benazir who robbed again, was again dismissed, and again replaced with Nawaz, who went dangerously berserk and was again dismissed. This systematic plunder gave the military a perfect opportunity to take over the country for the third time and the government of Mr. Nawaz Sharif was overthrown in a bloodless coup in October 1999. Both Mr. Sharif and Ms. Bhutto managed to flee the country with a combination of evasive tactics and political deals.
General Pervez Musharaff, the self appointed Chief Executive of the country held general elections in 2002 and an establishment backed PML-Q; a faction of the PML, now the PML-N; won the elections. General Musharaff became the President and later took off his army uniform. In 2007, a weakened Musharaff tried to save his political future by cutting out deal with Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif under the pretext of National Reconciliation. Elections had been announced for 2008. But suddenly Benazir Bhutto was assassinated. This acted as a catalyst for Musharaffs downfall and catapulted PPP, Bhuttos party to the corridors of power. But even after 3 years, the general public has not been able to reap any benefits.
To better understand the future of democracy in Pakistan we need to know the reasons for the derailment of democracy up till now. There are many reasons which have prevented democracy to grow in our country.
Like any political idea, democracy also needs time to spread its roots. The universally accepted method of trial and error is also acceptable to it. The system of democracy in Britain has gone through a long period of evolution. They have experimented with the system on more than one occasion, and finally they have managed to establish a system according to their needs and circumstances. Unlike Britain this process of growing up did not take place in Pakistan. One way or another some external force has always derailed this delicate process. Countless military coups have wrecked havoc on our political system and destroyed it completely. Lets us not forget that it took Britain and United States over two hundred years to form an agreeable and workable system.
Another reason is the lack of political leadership in our country. We have numerous politicians and few statesmen. Historically speaking it has always been a statesman who leads his country out of troubled waters and guides them to safety. We need leaders like Churchill and Lincoln, but we got people like Ayub, Iskandar Mirza and Zia. We need a man who looks past the obvious and strives to secure the future of our country. We need leaders who are willing to sacrifice their lives, wealth and health for our motherland. Unfortunately after Quaid-e-Azam, there have been few good men and many pretenders.
The dubious role of the ISI is also one of the major obstructions in the path of democracy. Pakistans premier spy agency has had more than its share on many occasions. It has funded parties, rigged elections and created cosmetic problems in the past. The so called Establishment has never let political parties to have an independent thinking and mission. On the outside they present a very strong look but when we look inside the picture is not that rosy.
Once a politician enters the corridors of powers, there is only one thing on his mind: corruption. He is not bothered by the idea of serving his constituency.
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