Will Pakistan seize true democracy?
Eleven political parties under the banner of the Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM) are presently on a rampage to drag Imran Khan’s government out because they believe his party has been ‘brought’ to power.
What they mean to say is that the military establishment has stolen elections to put their favorite on the saddle. But how much truth does this blame hold?
A popular belief is that Pakistan is a victim of a leadership vacuum, which, as is allegedly believed, goes in the interests of the establishment who had been filling the space earlier through direct intervention, and now under a new hybrid democracy.
Under this methodology, a political in power is expected to play subservient to the establishment’s vision-- otherwise the light on the exit door turns on. This script has been used so often that almost every move is now known and predictable.
The question is, why has no political party passed the test of patriotism? Before we attempt to answer these questions, it’s pertinent to see the other side of the fence.
The truth is that political parties are equally responsible for this war of turf. Never has there been a sincere effort to draw citizens into a consultative process to elevate their core interests and reshape the political leadership. That explains why the elected government had been reluctant to conduct local bodies elections.
Even when the elections were held, on the insistence of the Supreme Court of Pakistan, local governments were not given financial independence. For the execution of an act as small as replacing a street light, councillors had to rush to the DC or his other teammates for approval. The uncontrolled inflation berated with equal force by everyone is the product of the deviation from establishing communities at the local level.
The truth is that political parties are equally responsible for this war of turf. Never has there been a sincere effort to draw citizens into a consultative process to elevate their core interests and reshape the political leadership.
Political engineering is not only the forte of the so-called establishment but of every force reluctant to devolve and share power. It is all about power. The one who has power is the one who owns resources and determines the direction in which justice moves. It is here that the rut lies. It is here that things go wrong— badly wrong.
Two major provinces of Pakistan— Sindh and Balochistan— both with the potential to turn the fate of the country around have been either turned into warzones or allowed to remain dilapidated. It is absolutely confusing that if progress is the mainstay of those pulling the strings, then why has the MQM been allowed to render Karachi and by extension, all of Sindh hollow.
If improving quality of life necessitates the third force’s intrusion, then why has Balochistan been left to squander in poverty with no development despite various economic packages announced by almost every new government.
Until recently, we were being fed the ‘intervention theory’ according to which India was behind all that went wrong in both these regions. Not that it was untrue, but this reality begs the question about how a state that could bulldoze Indian aggression in Afghanistan and in AJK, failed in pulling the same punches in its own cities.
Fishy as it sounds, the problem is that we are forced to accept this theory unless we want to be blamed as one of the characters of the theory-- an ‘agent’ or a traitor.
Do we have to be in a problem zone forever? Or can we move on, especially now when the political circus is reduced to a bedtime story told so often it can put a child to sleep.
We have two options to come out of this rut.
One is in play right now. We are following the rule of justice framework wherein a dishonest or corrupt leader deserves to go. The supporter of this framework believes that having a righteous leader at the top motivates power wielders at the bottom to behave righteously, and inspires public morality. This theory of divinity incarnate has unfortunately failed. We have been banishing corrupt leaders without creating a just society.
The other option is that of the rule of law framework. Supporters of this theory believe in harnessing the propensity for excesses intrinsic in human nature. They develop laws and constitutions; balance out the power of the executive and legislator with oversight of a powerful judiciary. When everyone in society is held accountable for their actions, it stops the power wielder in their tracks, before they contemplate corruption.
Rule of law is the only way through which the world has seized true democracy and so shall Pakistan. The existing script, promoting arbitrary justice, has worn out— time to revive constitutional democracy to disperse power, so that leaders emerge naturally from within the political system.
*Durdana Najam is an oped writer based in Lahore. She writes on security and policy issues. She can be reached at [email protected]