Why is democracy failing in Pakistan?
By: Ali Ashraf Khan
There is hardly a person in the country who denies that the current 'democratic' government has ruined the country and its economy to such an extent that it will take years if not decades to recover from this much trumpeted 'democracy'. And this has been the case with all previous 'democratically' elected governments none of which ever secured even 50% of the total poled votes in a general election and completed its term and this one would have collapsed long ago if not the ones in power would hold on to it ruthlessly and regardless of the damage to the country. One reason for the fatal persistence of the PPP government is the lack of any genuine opposition to it; the ruling elite of the political parties - in power and in so-called opposition as well- are sharing the spoils of their misrule.
There is no accountability worth the name and criminal acts have been committed by the rulers without any punishment ever delivered. If nothing else the culprits would leave the country for a while helped and covered up by the powers that be. Hussain Haqqani and memogate, an act of high treason committed by the government and Tauqir Sadiq of OGRA are examples. But even murder like that of the journalist Syed Saleem Shahzad or Kamran Faisal of NAB is used to cover up for all kinds of frauds going on; the number of 'missing persons'-that are those who have no high connection - is in hundreds. There are crises of Electricity, Gas, CNG, Atta, Law and Order and others and while the public is suffering the rulers have made money out of it.
Now we are looking forward to another round of 'democracy' with the elections expected by May this year. And already we can see that it will be 'business as usual' as all the 'revolutions' of the different parties have proven a storm in the tea cup and all the so-called opposition is conspiring to have more of this same 'democracy'. Where there is unparalleled Western following in our political leaders who prefer Washington and London yatra on Eid holidays also. It was a revealing moment to see how all the parties that had pledged revolution and signed Charter of democracy when change came they meekly hid under the cover of the constitution to share the spoils (fruits) of government, the prime law of the country that has been abused under the current government constantly but that is still a good fig leave for complacency. Even our imported and financially potent Dr. Qadri had to give in and is now defending an undefendable agreement making himself the laughing stock of the country.
The so-called 'hope' of Pakistan Imran Khan is now, after he helped in preventing any real change, complaining that the forthcoming elections are not going to be free and fair.
What a joke! There hasn't been any free and fair election ever in Pakistan and surely there won't be any in future. I think it is high time to realize this and stop calling for 'democracy, democracy' blindly and stubbornly because the West which is the model of 'progress' for our enlightened and westernized elite is insisting that there is only one way towards development - that is democracy. The history of Pakistan shows that this kind of state which is a post-colonial inheritance of the British does not suit Pakistani society; that is why - though we can run elections after every couple of years - that doesn't produce any democracy in our case.
Why is that? Take the example of Karachi, where civic amenities are deteriorating day by day due to politics in establishing an elected local body system for the last 5 years. Why? Democracy was developed in Europe during Enlightenment and as a result of the French revolution. It suits a society that is secularized, educated, that bases itself on reason that is individualized and does not depend on tribal, caste, biradri or other family clan-based communities. And in fact majority of people in Pakistan do not know that: democracy is the political system of capitalism. Capitalism is an economic order that is based on capital accumulation, financial markets and high level of industrial production for profiteering. A society based on such an economy can develop ideas like equality of all members of society, freedom of the individual, justice for all.
Based on these ethical values democracy is running. Democracy presupposes democratically minded people who are ready to accept the outcome of an election whoever wins. But in a country where there are no such values, where there are castes, bonded labour and so-called 'good families' are declared as victors by filing ballot boxes with fake votes under the direct patronage of a hidden hand of election cell operating from the P.M House directly, this is impossible to achieve. In this dispensation democracy can not work. It will always be the elite who have the money and the skills and the ruthlessness - because they are not democratically minded- to manipulate elections and other rules and institutions of a democratic set-up.
Now the right way towards democracy would be to develop capitalism. That is what IMF and WB is trying for many years to make Pakistan do. But this is resisted by the 'democratically' elected rulers who are landlords, pirs, mirs, khan's, maliks, vaderas - that is feudal who find capitalism not suitable because it would undermine their properties and status. Secondly, if we look around in the world, we have to realize that capitalism even in highly developed countries like US or Germany has produced a rising amount of poverty with the gap between rich and poor widening. In addition, the recent financial crises and the inability of the West to fix them shows that capitalism has seen its best days and is deteriorating now with markets and governments dominated by monopolies, multinationals and all-powerful financial institutions. One reason why Pakistan was less affected by the financial crisis 2008 was that it is only marginally integrated into the global financial market. Do we really want to change that by developing more capitalism under the dictation of IMF & World Bank by our imported financial managers and politicians?
The post-colonial state and its economy as it has developed during the existence of Pakistan have aroused critique and resistance mainly from religious quarters. One point is of course the idea of an Islamic state and of Islamic way to run an economy. And secondly, especially in those areas where a different type of rule has been present such as the former princely states of Dir and Swat the realization by the people is there that those types of rule were much more convenient, just and well-organized than the hapless Pakistani post-colonial state with a set-up which it never could run and own properly. When USSR was dissolved, I happen to pass through Tashkent and Moscow, I could not believe that the infrastructure of this communist / socialist country was highly advanced and developed, education and healthcare was available to people even in the farthest corner of this huge country while West and their slaves in Africa and Asia, until today present a black scar on the face of their so-called freedom, liberty, human rights under democracy, where rich are living an adventurous life and poor masses are crippled and struggling for survival.
Communism and Socialism was not that bad as West has portrayed it. Karl Marx has also admitted that Islamic Social Justice programme has moved him, Lenin and others to evolve Socialistic economy as the best system of governance to develop welfare state in which concentration of wealth is strongly prohibited and surplus of each and every item of necessity is willingly distributed to the needy. This is the only answer which can bring harmony and peace in any country and the region. A broader consensus has to be made in Asia, where Russia, China and Iran are living examples of welfare states, they can lead to provide a viable economic and political system bereft of exploitation and nepotism, while communism is dead and will probably not come back Islam does offer a solution for many problems we just refuse to even talk about it.
Islamic militancy, Taliban and Al-Qaeda who want to impose their brand of 'Islam' bring a bad name to everybody who even think about Islam as an alternative this is the first thing that has to be changed. Where it suits US, they take full advantage from Taliban in Afghanistan by waging Jihad against USSR and Al-Qaeda in Libya, Syria to promote Arab spring, when it backfires they blame Islam and not their own weaknesses of character that has made humanity fragile everywhere. A discussion about what Islam actually means in a time like ours has to be started between the 'hard-core' practicing Muslims and the 'cultural Muslims' (those who celebrate Eid and other cultural expressions of Islam but never think about haqooqul-ibad and the hereafter) without calling each other to be Kafirs. Let us just do it as we believe in return of Imam Mehdi, who is going to be the true messiah of the World. God bless the people of the world and Pakistan.
Ali Ashraf Khan