We do NOT live in a democracy

15 Jun

Who doesn’t love freedom of the people, by the people, for the people? Why wouldn’t you love democracy? We keep hearing how Pakistan has experienced its first smooth transfer of power between two democratically elected governments. Our definitions of ‘democracy’, ‘elections’ and ‘smooth’ are clearly questionable. Here’s the problem i have with something we’ve labelled ‘democracy’ in Pakistan. We are far from a democracy and the sooner we accept that, the sooner we can actually reform to achieve that goal. Countries where there are strong democratic traditions have struggled for decades before achieving what can honestly be called “democracy.” And here’s the irony: the French and American revolutionaries were those that opposed what was then their embedded “constitutional” system. They were the flag-bearers for radical reforms which eventually led to the consolidation of democracy. My point being simply that, often we misrepresent systems as being democratic when they are actually the opposite of that. How Pakistan can call itself a democracy or how our politicians can keep referring to our system as ‘democratic’ is beyond me. Yes, democracy takes years of struggle to consolidate but we’re not even on the right track for that struggle to ensue. We’re on a track so far off from democracy, we wouldn’t be able to recognize it if it hit us in the face. 

In Pakistan, we suffer from constant military coups which have greatly hampered the development of the system. There is no denying that the role of the army in politics has greatly damaged the system from day one. However, the role of politicians in that system hasn’t been any better. It is indisputable that the Army has no place in politics but it is equally incontestable that politicians rely on the army to hold onto their vested interests for a little longer. Our army is made a constant scapegoat (and here i’m not saying our Army is innocent – by no means is it blameless) but we seem to blindly accept anti-army propaganda implicitly and explicitly ingrained in our brains by our politicians, media houses and so forth. The army has become the easiest institution in Pakistan to selectively endorse and abuse, depending on our vested interests. When the army doesn’t launch a military operation (to give the ‘democratically elected’ leadership a chance to develop some kind of policy to deal with the threat of terrorism), they’re accused of sleeping with the enemy. How conveniently we shift blame from those that the blame is rightfully supposed to be attributed to: our incompetent politicians and bureaucracy. We ignore that PMLN allows LeJ’s offices to flourish in Punjab. We ignore that Rana Sanaullah went around campaigning for elections with a bunch of terrorists and thugs. We forget that PMLN and PTI supported these failed peace talks and kept pushing against military action. Our politicians are confused: they have to protect themselves (and look towards thugs and terrorists for the security of their lives rather than relying on state machinery which they have never even tried to develop to deal with the threat of terrorism) but they also have to perpetuate the image that they’re “giving peace a chance.” Our military has always done its job – it has been our politicians that are unable to take political ownership which has consistently created a vacuum of political power that terrorists capitalize on. Military operations, in which we lose our most vital assets (our brave jawaans), have proved to be successful, for instance, in Swat. However, it is not the job of the military to establish political presence in an area where there has been an operation. It is the responsibility of politicians to consolidate a system of representation in these areas to ensure terrorists cannot regain their support. So what democracy are we talking about in a system where there is zero political ownership and responsibility? We still have an Interior Minister who refuses to resign despite an embarrassing, dangerous security breach at Karachi Airport which is, again, something our politicians are refusing to take responsibility for. 

The biggest failure of a civilian government is when they have to call in the Army to carry out the basic responsibilities of Law Enforcement Agencies (LEAs) that are the direct responsibility of the Interior Ministry. The Interior Division refuses to provide adequate training and equipment to our LEAs due to which they are thrown into situations where they can’t even defend themselves, let alone defend the civilian population. So what does the Government do, instead of reforming and addressing this failure? They call in the Army (after allowing GEO to hurl accusations at it for 8 hours with no interruptions): proving my point of selective endorsement and abuse. Similarly, Imran Khan at a recent jalsa said “we stand by our army.” Were you standing by the army when your jawaans were dying and you were opposing military operations? How can we allow our politicians to get away with insulting a state institution the way they have consistently done?

Like i mentioned earlier, the Army is not blameless. But let’s be fair when we attribute blame. And let’s recognize that we do not live in a democratic society. What democracy can exist or develop if there are no policies? And building a Metro Bus is not the kind of ‘policy’ i’m referring to. Without a counter-terrorism strategy, securing basic constitutional rights (like the right to life, the most fundamental of all human rights), and political ownership, we’re only fooling ourselves by calling this a ‘democracy.’ 

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One Response to “We do NOT live in a democracy”

  1. shamrezkhan December 29, 2014 at 6:31 am #

    Reblogged this on shamrezkhan.

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