Democracy and Pakistan: What is real democracy?

Photo Credit: Pardessexpress


Author: Haroon Barakzai – Lecturer IMS UST Bannu
Democracy is the government of the people, by the people and for the people.
“Of and by the people” implies that state power must be acquired democratically through elections. For the people means that the acquired power should be exercised democratically. Real and genuine democracy exists and survives only when state power is attained and exercised democratically. Democratic transition and consolidation will be helpful here to understand and explore the black box of democracy further.

Democratic transition is the first step towards democracy that is free elections with adult franchise, acceptable competition and then acceptance of the results .Thus we can have an insight about how state power is achieved. In the formative phases we were unable to hold elections because we were without constitution for almost 9 years. Justice Munir, Iskandr Mirza, Dr Khan Sahib, Mumtaz Dawlatana and Ghulam Muhammad were unable to uphold objectivity and keeping national interests supreme but on the contrary used every tactic fair and foul to play havoc with the newly established state. They presented themselves as the masters of democracy but by themselves were completely devoid of democratic understanding.

Pakistan’s transition towards democracy started in March 1969 when Ayub was no more fit to rule. Ayub again flouted his own constitution when he was required to give the reins of power to the speaker of national assembly but deliberately handed over power to Yahya khan instead of Abdul Jabbar, the National Assembly speaker.

Unfortunately the election results were disputed having no universal acceptance implying that the transition was imperfect and caused Pakistan bifurcation. No efforts were made during the lapsed time to impart political education to the citizens of Pakistan.

Democratic consolidation has two pillars that are democratic stability and equality.
Democratic stability is possible only when democracy by itself is considered the only way of rule, when elections are conducted regularly without any meddling, when fair competition is there for political parties and results are accepted without any grudge.

Pakistan’s post transition history shows its constant struggles with democratic stability. More than half of the years have been spent under military rule. The elections held since then were below the globally accepted standards. Finally democratic equality implies that acquired power must be exercised democratically after the elections. It has six-sub pillars.

  1. There should be no meddling from outside the Parliament functionally or geographically. Functionally Pakistan’s foreign and security policy is totally determined by the military. The donors like IMF and World Bank exercise unnecessary influence over the economic policy.
  2. Geographically a number of areas of Pakistan are still outside the jurisdiction of a single law. Power should be distributed constitutionally to avoid its abuse. The judiciary, legislature and executive should get the same amount. The remaining part should be given to provinces and local governments. Although the judiciary has wrested some power the other are still powerless.
  3. The third requirement is rule of law where everyone is entitled to equal protection of law without any discrimination on the basis of religion, caste, sect and colour plus an efficient justice system where law is equally applied to public and public officials. Unfortunately Pakistan still has FCR and other British Era laws in practice. Lower courts have millions of pending cases. There is no coordination between police and judiciary. Public officials escape justice because the NAB is toothless.
  4. Elected government can’t maintain civic liberty and equality. The third gender, minority and women are the real sufferers.
  5. Real democracy promotes economic equity, equal opportunities for all and provision of safety nets to the weaker segments. But most of our policies favour the feudal segment and elites. Karl Marx was true to say that a rich will never made laws which harms his interests.
  6. Real democracy requires frequent contacts between the electorate and elected in between elections. But here in Pakistan the contacts are established only when the elections are approaching completely ignoring the masses when the aim is achieved.
    In a nut shell it will be strange to blame democracy when we have not experienced it

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