This is an Essay on “Democracy in Pakistan” for CSS, PMS, and Judiciary Examinations.
What is democracy?
Essentials of democracy
Democracy in Pakistan
A brief history
- The early period from 1947-58
- Period of General Ayub and General Zia
- Political turmoil and General Pervez Musharraf
Causes of failure of democracy in Pakistan
- Delayed Framing of the Constitution
- Leadership Crisis
- Lack of education
- No independence of the judiciary
- Weak political parties and their infighting
- Delayed elections and rigging
- Corruption and nepotism
- Quasi-Federalism and Conflict between Eastern and Western Wings
- Terrorism and extremism
Pakistani Democracy vs Western democracy
- Effective accountability of the politicians
- Reforming judiciary
- Abolish feudalism
- Eliminate corruption
- Two parties system on the pattern of the USA, UK
- Amendment in the constitution
- Fair and free election
- Increase the education budget to educate people
- Uninterrupted democratic process
- Strengthening the institutions
Essay on “Democracy in Pakistan”
“You have to stand guard over the development and maintenance of Islamic democracy, Islamic socialJustice and the equality of manhood in your own native soil.” – Muhammad Ali Jinnah
Democracy is a form of government in which all citizens have an equal say in the decisions that affect their lives. Ideally, this includes equal (and more or less direct) participation in the proposal, development, and passage of legislation into law. It can also encompass social, economic, and cultural conditions that enable the free and equal practice of political self-determination. While there is no specific, universally accepted definition of ‘democracy’, equality and freedom have both been identified as important characteristics of democracy since ancient times. These principles are reflected in all citizens being equal before the law and having equal access to legislative processes.
For example, in a representative democracy, every vote has equal weight, no unreasonable restrictions can apply to anyone seeking to become a representative, and the freedom of its citizens is secured by legitimized rights and liberties which are generally protected by a constitution.
Many people use the term “democracy” as shorthand for liberal democracy, which may include elements such as political pluralism; equality before the Jaw; the right to petition elected officials for redress of grievances; due process; civil liberties; human rights; and elements of civil society outside the government. In the United States, separation of powers is often cited as a central attribute, but in other countries, such as the United Kingdom, the dominant principle is that of parliamentary sovereignty (though in practice judicial independence is generally maintained).
In other cases, “democracy” is used to mean direct democracy. Though the term “democracy” is typically used in the context of a political state, the principles are applicable to private organizations and other groups as well.
Democracy in its true spirit has never been allowed to take roots in Pakistan. Since its independence in 1947, a military-bureaucratic establishment has always governed the country. Army generals usurp power at their own convenience and quit only when they are forced to quit by mass political movements or by a sudden unexpected death. When forced by external or internal pressures, democracy is given a chance but in reality, a group of army generals keeps controlling the decision-making.
This direct or indirect military influence is the greatest impediment to the evolution of a stable governing system in Pakistan. Besides, the army is not solely responsible for this mass but it is our inefficient politicians who provide an opportunity for arn1y to take over.
Recalling the last 62 years of Pakistan, democracy is found only as an interval before the next military general comes to the scene. The future of democracy was doomed from the start when Liaquat Ali Khan, the first elected Prime Minister, was shot at a public gathering. Nobody knows to this day who did it and why. From now on, the balance of power was to shift in the favor of the military. A comparison tells us how this shift came up. From 1951 to 57 India had one Prime Minister and several army chiefs while during the same period Pakistan had one army chief and several Prime ministers.
The same army chief, the Sandhurst trained general, Ayub Khan was to announce the first martial law in the country in 1958 and then a series of military rules were to follow.
General Ayub Khan could not withstand a popular national movement against him and transferred power to General Yahya Khan in March 1969. Under him, Pakistan lost its half which is now Bangladesh. Power was then transferred to Zulfikar Ali Bhutto as the first civilian martial law administrator. Bhutto pursued an independent policy, which was against what generals and the US wanted, and he had to pay with his life. Charged for compliance in murder, Bhutto was hanged by the next martial law administrator, General Zia ul Haq. The hanging of an elected Prime Minister was shocking news to the world and Pakistan was to have the effects years later. The general died in a mysterious plane crash.
Then came a ten years gap of experimentation with democracy and every two years each elected government was ousted by the special discretionary powers of the president. An end to this ten-year spell came with a new general coming to power ousting the incumbent elected government of Mian Nawaz Sharif. This time the Prime Minister was charged with conspiring against the state and was ousted from the country.
Military rule has ruined the state structure of Pakistan as a whole with only the elite benefiting from the system and no benefit being passed over to the general public. History is witness to the fact that Pakistan has lost territory while under direct military rule. The dictator mentality and the military’s love for the use of force have fanned various separatist movements in the country.
The immediate and foremost requirement of the Constituent Assembly was to frame a democratic constitution for the country. The constitution had to lay down the form of government, the role of the judiciary, military, and bureaucracy. It had to decide the basic issues about provincial autonomy, religion and the state, the joint or separate electorate, representation of minorities and women in assemblies, fundamental rights, and civil liberties. The debate over the representation of eastern and western wings of the country and religion versus secularism were the two main hindrances in the way of framing the constitution. As against India, which was able to frame the constitution of the country within two years of independence in 1949, Pakistan took nine years to finalize the constitution in 1956, which did not work for more than two years and was abrogated.
The second constitution was framed by a military ruler General Ayub in 1962 which could last as long as he was in power. Finally, it was after the separation of East Pakistan and a lapse of more than a quarter of a century (1947-1973) that the elected representatives of the people under the leadership of Prime Minister Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto framed a consensus constitution envisaging a federal, democratic structure for the country and a parliamentary form of government. This constitution has survived in spite of the breakdown of democracy twice in 1978 and 1999 and hopefully has come to stay. But the delay in framing the constitution harmed the growth of political democracy, as it allowed the authoritarian rule of the Governor-General to continue for seven long years (1947-56), which set this inglorious tradition in the country.
The second obstacle in the way of democracy is the culture of feudalism. Democracy cannot develop in the suffocating atmosphere of feudalism. The history of feudalism in the subcontinent is not very old. It owes its origin to the war of independence in 1857 when different people were awarded large swathes of land by the British government because of their treacherous cooperation with the latter. Those feudal families joined Muslim League when they saw that Pakistan was going to be a reality and inherited power after the death of the founding father. Feudalism has now become a severe migraine for the nation.
Democracy and feudalism are incompatible. Change of faces at the wheel has not served any purpose. Even these feudal lords occupy more than 70 % of our land leaving the people to lead a miserable life. They are senators, ministers, MPAs, MNAs, and also the owners of major industries in Pakistan. There is a crying need to bring some structural changes in order to strengthen the political system. The industrialization has also played a significant role in the strengthening of democracy across the world. Great Britain is considered the mother of democracies on this planet. Some analysts are of the view that democracy has its origin in the Magna Carta, Bill of Rights and Habeas Corpus, etc.
But even after these developments very mighty rulers have ruled Great Britain. In fact, the invention of the steam engine led to the industrial revolution which eradicated the roots of feudalism and the evil of absolute monarchy. All this resulted in the development of democracy. In Pakistan, there is everything from adult franchises to the separation of powers between the three organs of government but no plan for that kind of industrial revolution.
Quaid-i-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah, the father of the nation and the first GovernorGeneral, died just one year after the establishment of Pakistan on September 11, 1948, and his right and lieutenant Liaquat Ali Khan, who was the first Prime Minister, was assassinated on October 16, 1951. About the capability of other leaders of the Pakistan Muslim League (PML), the party which had successfully piloted the movement for Pakistan, Jinnah had ruefully remarked that “he had false coins in his pocket”. Consequently, several ministers appointed initially were not politicians and did not have a seat in the Assembly. Similarly, in 1954, there were several members of the Prime Minister’s cabinet without a seat in Parliament. “The cabinet and other high political appointments reflected a paucity of talent among the politicians.”
It is indeed a sad commentary on the elected members of the first Legislature and Constituent Assembly of Pakistan that they could not find a suitable head of state from among their own ranks.
Most of them came from the civil bureaucracy or the military. The civil-military bureaucracy did not have a favorable opinion about the competence of political leaders and often took decisions without consulting them. This adversely affected their political training, development, and growth. The inability to control the Anti-Ahmadiya Movement in Punjab in 1953 was blamed on inept political leadership. This religious movement was spearheaded by the religious Ahrar Party which had opposed the establishment of Pakistan and now wanted again to come into the limelight. They were supported by other religious parties, i.e., Jamaat-i-Islami, JamiatuiUlema-i-Pakistan, and Jamiat ul Ulema-i-Islam.
The movement was exploited by politicians in their own political interests. But the civil-military bureaucracy was against the religious parties dominating the power structure either in the provinces or the center. To rescue the city of Lahore where Ahmadis were in a “virtual state of siege” and their properties were being “burned or looted”, General Azam Khan, the Area Commander, was ordered by the Defense Secretary, to impose martial law in Lahore. It was met with the general approval of the people. It was demonstrated that the civil-military bureaucracy “would not let politicians or religious ideologues lead the country to anarchy”. This also laid down the foundations of the supremacy of the military and orchestrated the initial rehearsal for the recurring imposition of Martial
Law in the country and its acceptance by the people. Lack of education has remained an important impediment to the democratization of countries. This is not just a problem for Pakistan but of the whole Third world. Laski, a famous political thinker. said that education is the backbone of democracy. Democracy is a system of governance in which the people choose their representatives through elections. Their strength lies in the ballot box. If people are not vigilant and educated enough to make a better choice, democracy will not flourish in that country.
This is the main reason that even in the countries apparently practicing democracy but the majority of uneducated people are among the under-developed nations. Masses in Pakistan have not found ways of compelling their rulers to be mindful of their duty. Their failures in this regard result from insufficiency of experience and training in operating modem democratic politics. Democracy puts the highest premium on constitutionalism, which is possible only with the predominant majority of people. Pakistan’s democracy can neither improve nor become viable as long as the majority of the population remains uneducated.
Judiciary is one of the most important pillars of a state and in a country where the judiciary is not imparting justice, democracy cannot develop. During the Second World War, someone asked British Prime Minister Winston Churchill whether the British would win the war. The Prime Minister laughed and replied that if the British courts were dispensing justice, no one would trounce the United Kingdom. In Pakistan since 1954 judiciary has remained docile to the wishes of the executive. As Shelley says, “If the winter comes; can spring be far behind”
In fact, since its birth, Pakistan has been governed by bureaucratic, military, and political elites. The bureaucratic elite generally became more assertive, steadily increasing their power at the expense of the political elite. Ayub’s term of office [1958-69] was the golden era for the bureaucracy, which exercised its powers, unbridled by any political interference. The weakness of political elites can be demonstrated by the fact that during seven years from 1951 to 1958, as many as seven Prime Ministers had been changed. From 1988 to 1999, four democratically elected governments were replaced on charges of corruption, inefficiency, security risk, etc.
The civil-military bureaucracy has dominated governance owing to the inherent weakness of the political parties and their incompetent leadership, resulting in the derailment of democracy thrice in the history of Pakistan, i.e., in 1958, I977, and 1999.
Pakistan was not created as a theocracy but as a place where an economically marginalized minority could operate a democracy independently. It was to save the people from religious discrimination and domination by an overwhelming religious majority. Moreover, it emerged as a territorial state in the Muslim majority areas of the subcontinent. But the religious and secular groups soon started making conflicting demands while formulating the constitution of Pakistan.
The speech of Mr. Jinnah on August 11, 1947, addressed to the first legislative and constituent assembly of Pakistan, had advocated political pluralism and declared that the “religion or caste .or creed has nothing to do with the business of the State”. This was not adhered to. The Objectives Resolution passed by the Constituent Assembly in 1949, pacified the demands of Muslim religious parties and elements, but was not supported by religious minorities.
The compromise solution attempted to balance the values and the spirit of Islam with the requirements of secularism. Due to a lack of competent and visionary political leadership, and the fact that Muslims constituted 98 percent of the population, the conservative religious leaders, partly due to their conviction and partly owing to their parochial interests, advocated and preached the establishment of a religio-political system based on Al-Quran and Sunnah.
They were skeptical of the politico-social development of modem times and western political institutions and forms of government. Their dogmatic theology clashed with the democratic culture envisioned by the founding fathers. Another adverse impact of the adoption of religion as a guiding principle in the constitution, was the promotion of religious sectarianism, especially between the two major sects inhabiting Pakistan, i.e., Sunnis and Shi’as. Some sections of these sects, instead of peaceful negotiations to overcome their differences, often resort to violence, which is against the spirit of both Islam and democracy. These rivalries fostered reliance on the security forces for the maintenance of law and order, which eroded the hold of democratic institutions in governance.
For any healthy constitutional and political system to function smoothly, strong and well-entrenched political parties are essential. Unfortunately, political parties in Pakistan have failed to develop into strong vehicles of national political will. The main responsibility for safeguarding democracy in a country falls on political parties. Pakistan, since its inception, was lacking well-organized and well-established political parties that could carry the representative system of governance forward. The All-India Muslim League, which had piloted the movement of Pakistan from 1940 to 47, was not a well-organized political party, but it was primarily a movement.
Leading a movement and organizing a political party are two different things. Most of its leaders belonged to areas that became part of the Indian Union and their majority did not come to Pakistan. Those who were in Pakistan, barring a few exceptions, belonged to feudal and landowning classes that in their nature were in conflict with the democratic dispensation. In fact “the leadership of the Pakistan movement had few roots in the land that became Pakistan.” Their incompetence and constant wrangling for power in the initial nine years (1947-1956) were also responsible for the delay in constitution-making. Instead of cooperation and mutual accommodation, there was ceaseless infighting.
For instance, as early as 1953, a clash between the leadership of Punjab and the central government led to intense communal riots and the imposition of Martial Law in Lahore, the provincial capital. Even as late as the decade 1988-99 of civil supremacy, the fight between the PML and the PPP led to the repeated dissolution of national and provincial assemblies and the dismissal of prime ministers and their cabinets. Finally, it ended with the military takeover in 1999.
The representative character of the civilian parliamentary government during the first decade of Pakistan’s existence was eroded because the country was governed under the Government of India Act of 1935. The purpose of the Act was “to make the appointed governor-general exert dominance over the elected prime minister.” The Act had introduced a representative and a centralized system of bureaucratic governance, which was an imperative requirement of the colonial government but not of democratic governance. The first general elections in the country should have been held in 1951, i.e., five years after the previous elections in 1946, but this could not happen till 1970. The reasons for the delay were that the ruling elite, i.e., civil bureaucrats, migrant political leadership, and weak political parties, had few roots in the masses. As a consequence, general elections could not be held for 23 years (1947-1970) of the country’s initial history.
On the expiry of the five years term of Prime Minister Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto (1972-1977), the second general elections on the basis of the adult franchise were held on March 7, 1977, which the PPP won with a vast majority. The opposition parties alleged that the elections had been “rigged on a massive scale”. It has been commented: Elections in Pakistan had been rigged before, notably the presidential election in 1965 and the Provincial Assembly,y elections in the early 1950s, but rigging in these instances does not arouse the mass uprising as it did in 1977. The people of Pakistan were evidently not of the same mind now as they were in those earlier periods.
Corruption in bureaucracy and among political leaders poses a grave threat to good democratic governance. Quaid-i-Azam had termed corruption as “poison” and asked to put that down with an “iron hand”. Now that the international Reconciliation Ordinance .vnich had withdrawn from prosecution of any person “falsely involved for political reasons or through political victimization” between 1986 and 1999, has lapsed on November 28, 2009, the concerned individuals should get themselves cleared in a court of law in a transparent manner. The tribal nature of society in Pakistan is susceptible to nepotism. As an antidote, accountability and transparency are necessary. It is a challenge to the people to reject those leaders and political parties which indulge in corruption and nepotism.
One of the main bottlenecks in the constitutional development in Pakistan was that its two wings were separated by about 1000 miles of hostile territory. The eastern wing consisted of one province but was more populous’ than the western wing which was much larger in the area and had as many as four provinces. The western wing was not prepared to concede majority representation to the eastern wing in the parliament. After a confrontation of nine years between the two wings, the solution was evolved in the l956 constitution in the shape of parity of representation in a quasi-federal structure, neutralizing the majority of the eastern wing and paving the way for the manipulated domination of the western wing.
The domination of the western wing in governance led to an insurgency in the eastern wing which culminated in the separation and independence of Bangladesh in 1971. In post-1971 Pakistan, it came to be realized that ideological moorings alone could not easily overcome ethnic and economic differences. Yet the anti-ethnic attitude and anti-modem thinking prevalent in certain segments of society lean toward a unitary or quasi-federal state as against a true federation.
The latest threat is emanating from extremism and terrorism, especially in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KPK) and the Federally Administered Tribal Area (FATA). This is the spillover effect of the conflict in Afghanistan and is spreading to Pakistan. It is likely to continue as long as there is no peace and stability in that country. However, the military enjoying the support of the nation is successfully combating the extremists and terrorists under the supremacy of the civilian democratic government. It is hoped that the process would continue to its logical conclusion.
Due to the migration of literate Hindus and Sikhs to India, the literacy rate in Pakistan sharply declined. There was about 95 percent illiteracy in Pakistan in 1947, which acted as a hindrance to the growth of civil and democratic society. Feudalism and economic constraint did not permit any Pakistani government to launch a “crash course to expand literacy and grow higher standards. The national economy has gone bankrupt and the national budget has become all foreign aid-dependent.
Islam was the ideology that gave life to the Pakistan movement and later Pakistan itself but is now infested with sectarianism. Military policies gifted the country with cross-border terrorism and three million internally displaced people. Despite having the largest chunk of the national budget and being the seventh-largest army in the world, the Pakistan army is now in a mess of its own creation with little of its hard-earned prestige left to its credit.
The distorted face of the national system as a whole and the failure of the judiciary to guard the constitution of Pakistan are the major factors contributing to the change in the national mindset. The events of the last two years have clearly shown the preference of the people of Pakistan. The masses want democracy as a political and governing system for the country and a judiciary that guard the rights of the people. The military would be respected more if it stays in the barracks or guarded the national borders. The murder of Benazir Bhutto has taught new lessons.
If one compares Pakistani democracy with Western democracy it is said that for over 50 years, Pakistan remains occupied by three major interest groups sharing the time, opportunities, and resources of the besieged nation. The army, civil service, and the neo-colonial appointed landlords. If there was any rational tolerance scale, the Pakistani nation would certainly secure high marks on its standard of tolerance and survival under most unfavorable circumstances.
One of the pivotal factors supporting the notion of Western liberal democracies is that it provides opportunities for participation to ordinary citizens, right or wrong to culminate a sense of legitimacy for the election exercise and chose people of their interest to manage public affairs for a specified term. But the principles and standards for evil and good vary between the West and the Islamic world. Strange as is, in Pakistan, those who come to occupy political offices never intend to quit the political power on their own except implication of military force through a coup.
Comparatively, on occasions, western democracies do” encourage educated and competent citizens to strive for their high ideas and ideals and come to the front stage and demonstrate their intentions and wi11 power to seek the goal of ideal public service agendas. E.H. Carr defines the teaching-learning role of history and its value must not be ignored but preserved. Reca11 the Pakistani military dictators for the last forty-plus years, they each consumed a decade or more to relinquish power, that was not theirs in any systematic and logical context.
Ayub Khan was ousted by Yahya Khan. General Yahya with the complacency of Z.A. Bhutto surrendered East Pakistan to India (now Bangladesh) to share power with Bhutto but was put under house arrest as Bhutto assumed the power that did not belong to him based on the verdict of the people. Rightfu11y, it was Sheikh MujiburRehman, leader of the East Pakistan Awami League who should have been sworn in as the new leader of united Pakistan but it was treacherously undone by Yahya and Bhutto. Both should have been tried as traitors in a court of law and punished.
Not so, they were rewarded and Bhutto became the first civilian martial law administrator and self-made president of defeated Pakistan in December 1971. Dr.Ishtiaq Qureshi, editor of the Urdu Digest recorded it for the history (“Sukoot-e-Dacca seyPurdhautha Hay”- Facts are revealed after the Dacca Surrender) that ” … in the quest for its survival Pakistan lost its destiny. Yahya and Mujib stabbed the body of Pakistan with one dagger and Bhutto will stab Pakistan with another dagger.”
Following are the suggest10ns for improving democracy in Pakistan
An impartial system of accountability enhances public trust in the political system. It provides enormous strength to the democratic process. Moreover, it compels thousand who are charged with governance, to transparently discharge their official responsibilities. It ensures good governance and strengthens the political setup. In spite of facing innumerable challenges and showing unsatisfactory perfom1ance, Pakistanis have the capability to emerge as a democratic and progressive nation. Pakistan can road to democracy with the dedication, determination, commitment, courage, and patriotism of its political leaders.
Reforming the judiciary and incorporating the Islamic laws can also soothe the deprived and poor masses who have been manipulated by the extremists due to the sheer negligence of the elected governments and ruling elite. This natura11y causes bitterness toward the present form of political setup. Moving on, corruption and selfish attitudes are eating away at the institutional structure of our country and such practices never a1low democracy to flourish. There is also a need for mature political leadership, which can think above its own gains. All this can only emerge after the formulation and implementation of strict accountability.
On the contrary, weak public institutions can be made strong and productive if the power and authority seep down. The example of many European countries is in front of us, where
institutions are powerful and not the politicians. Democracy in actuality can only be achieved through such measures.
Our constitution has been a source of constant controversy. Be it the realization of Islamic laws or the concentration of power in the head of the state, the constitution has served as a tool for the legitimization of alien changes and policies. Keeping the constitution intact has been long overdue. No one in power should be allowed to change it for prolongation of rule or appeasing any particular section.
The Pakistan movement envisaged a democratic country with a federal structure. In all Constitutions of Pakistan (1956, 1962, and 1973) the objectives of governance, in the words of Dr. Ainslie T. Embree, Professor Emeritus of Columbia University, are democracy, and freedom. equality, tolerance, and social justice as enunciated by Islam, giving Muslims freedom to live their lives in accordance with the teachings of Islam, but with minorities having full freedom to profess their own religions. Islam lays emphasis on the concept of Shura, i.e., consultation among people, which is the essence of democratic culture. Quaid-i-Azam, the founder of Pakistan had stated:
“We leamed democracy 1300 years ago. Democracy is i11 our blood. It is ill our marrows. Dilly centuries of adverse circumstances have made the circulation of that blood cold. It has got frozen, and our arteries are not functioning. But thank God, the blood is circulating again, thanks to the Muslim League’s efforts. It will be a People’s government. Culturally, ill the region of Pakistan, there is a concept of Jirga or Panchayat, i.e., an assembly of elders, to settle issues and disputes involving two or more two persons. This system has, been prevalent for ages, much before the advellt of Islam. Thus, both religion and age-old tradition advocate the concept of consultation in decision-making through all assembly of people, which is the essence of democracy.”
During the period of British supremacy in the subcontinent, the practice of elections to assemblies (local, provincial and central) was introduced through various enactments. Finally, it was the Government of India Act 1935 under which the dominions of India and Pakistan functioned after independence till they framed their own constitutions. These enactments provided the groundwork for democratic governance.
It may be of interest to note that even when the democratic rule was suspended by the armed forces, the military rulers always came with the promise to restore democratic governance. For instance, in 1970, General Yahya Khan is credited with organizing the first-ever general elections in the country, which led to the establishment of democratic governments both in Bangladesh and Pakistan.
Besides holding general elections in 2002 and 2007, General Musharraf’s introduction of the local government system introduced in 2001 is considered a “laudable model of governance” because of its principle that whatever can be done at the local level should not be done at a higher tier of governance.
The country is on the path to achieving full literacy and progress towards a higher standard of education in important disciplines. This is strengthening the civil society in ensuring the prevalence of democratic culture at the lower and higher level of governance. Secondly, the print and electronic media in Pakistan are vibrant and independent. A responsible media educates the masses, raises political consciousness, and thus promotes democratic values, norms, and culture.
In addition, a number of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) are playing an active role in the field of education and contributing to the growth of a vibrant civil society and good governance. The essential step seems to stop interruption in the democratic process so that we may see more than promos. To judge something, it has to be allowed a chance to survive and act. The elected government must be allowed to complete its tenure in any case. The military has to play a positive role here and not interfere in the smooth democratic process.
As mentioned before, a part of the population wants greater Islamic character in the Govt. and laws. If we analyze this demand, it will be apparent that the enforcement of Sharia is more related to lawmaking. Therefore, what is immediately required is a change in the judicial setup, which has been unable to gain the trust of people until recently. Encouraging steps have already started in this case, but much more needs to be done.
Sadly, the same corrupted pool of thought keeps appearing with new faces and the deceived masses blindly follow them. This is due to the absence of any kind of accountability. Political
compromises enhance this trend. Such practices are against the moral, democratic as well as Islamic principles and should end immediately.
Next, the all-powerful bureaucracy and feudal politicians should be stripped of their unwarranted authority. It has been a slow evil that has weakened the country like nothing else. They are elected for serving people not to control them. The criteria of merit; the right to freedom and equal progress for common people have become a joke due to such an autocratic setup. The people of Pakistan in general lack political psyche and consciousness.
This is largely due to poor literacy and a never-ending feudalistic rule over 60% of the country. Therefore, it is necessary to educate the masses and make them aware of their political rights. This can begin with greater political socialization by political parties and media.
In a democratic state, media has rightly been called the fourth pillar of the state. It can play a most important role in the present age for creating awareness. Our media has risen from the ashes like a phoenix. It, however, needs to play a positive constructive role and not become another compromised institution as well.
Finally, the strategic position and now the war against terror call forth unwanted attention from the international community sometimes. In the past, military rule has been covertly or openly supported by many countries to gain their own benefits in this region. The international powers must stop interfering in the democratic process and for that to happen, our own government, people and media need to be equally strong.
The politicians may have learned lessons from their past mistakes and are more mature politically. Consensus politics seem to be emerging in the country. In the past, the constant infighting amongst political parties had often led to interference and take-over by the armed forces. Now a culture of reconciliation, accommodation, and dialogue is emerging. The ideological polarization is diminishing. After the general elections of February 2008, four major political parties, i.e., Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP), PML – Nawaz (PML-N), Awami National Party (ANP), Jamiat-ulUlema-i-Islam – Fazalur Rahman (JUI-Fl and MuttahidaQaumi Movement (MQM) have joined hands to govern the country and re-establish the supremacy of the Parliament in accordance with the Constitution of 1973.
Our youth constitute 30% of the society they are representative of a new generation. Their participation may ensure structural improvements in the national paradigm. It has been witnessed that during the Pakistan movement youth played a vital role in opinion formation and mass awareness and so is the time now. There is a need to guide our youth to take responsibility for our tomorrow. To sum up, it is the political leadership that can ensure the permanence of democratic governance.
The prospects are, however, not as dismal as sometimes portrayed. Already, the literacy rate in Pakistan has increased to more than fifty-five percent. Efforts are afoot to improve the standard of higher education. The economic growth and industrialization have given birth to a vocal urban society and middle class, which is growing. and gradually lessening the influence of the feudal class.
The vibrant electronic and print media is playing an effective role in constructive criticism of the government and in educating the masses. Elections are being held regularly, representative political leadership and political parties are getting stronger and a peaceful mode of transfer of power is becoming the norm. The bureaucracy (both civil and military), though still powerful, may retreat gradually and submit to the peoples’ power and will and concede to democratic governance. The democratic process is progressing and, hopefully, will be obstructed and derailed, as in the past.
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