Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Failure of Democracy in Pakistan

Almost 150 years ago, Abraham Lincoln defined democracy as a Government of the people, by the people and for the people. Democracy is a form of government in which the authority of government is based on the will of masses. Democracy aims at defining the relationship between the ruler and the masses in such a manner that primacy is assigned to the latter. After sixty years of its existence as an independent country democracy has remained an elusive dream in Pakistan. Let us try to dig deep into the factors which have hampered the growth of democracy in our country. First of all, the overdeveloped rule of military institution has remained an impediment in the way of the development of democracy. Once a military general comes in power he has no mood to go back. In this way the dictatorial rule for a long time results in the atrophy of democratic forces. Dr. Hassan Askari rightly pointed out in his book. The Military and Politics in Pakistan that initially after the inception of Pakistan the civilian governments were confronting a host of problems including communal riots, poor law and order situation, problem of refugees etc. which they were unable to solve through the civilian administration so they kept on inviting military to solve internal and external problems. This inability of political forces led to an increased military role in the process of decision making. After the assassination of Prime Minister Liaquat Ali Khan in 1951, military emerged as a strong institution and it was in the position to assume powers through the imposition of Martial Law in 1958. Since then military forged a partnership with bureaucracy to run the country. During last 60 years our military has become addicted to power and no amount of sermonizing will cure it. 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 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 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. There is a crying need to bring some structural changes in order to strengthen the political system. Industrialization has also played a significant role in the strengthening of democracy across the world. Great Britain is considered as the mother of democracies on this planet. Some analysts are of the view that democracy has its origin from 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 steam engine led towards industrial revolution which eradicated the roots of feudalism and evil of absolute monarchy. All this resulted in the development of democracy. In Pakistan there is everything from adult franchise to separation of powers between the three organs of government but no plan for that kind of industrial revolution. An active civil society has a significant role towards the success of democracy in a country. A civil society is a law governed society where the citizens are politically conscious of their rights and they are organized in multifarious institutions. There is no gainsaying the fact that the presence of a well-aware civil society helps in the development of social capital in a country. A civil society is not mere an association of people. It refers to the presence of democratic culture where tolerance is the most prominent feature. There is hardly any doubt that in Pakistan the civil society has remained deficient, insignificant or absent from the scratch. Lack of education has remained an important impediment to the democratization of countries. This is not just a problem of 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, the democracy will not flourish in that country. This is the main reason that even in the countries apparently practicing democracy but with 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 results from insufficiency of experience and training in operating modern 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 population remains uneducated. Judiciary is one of the most important pillars of a state and a country where judiciary is not imparting justice, democracy cannot develop. During 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 executive. As Shelley says. If the winter comes; can spring be far behind. There is always light at the end of tunnel. However recently a landmark step has been taken by the lawyers and political forces of Pakistan towards the restoration of judiciary but more efforts are needed to be taken towards the independence of judiciary in order to make democracy successful in Pakistan. The challenge that we face today is that how to make the fragile plant of our nascent democracy grow into a full-blown tree of real participatory democracy. We must pay heed to Benjamin Franklin’s advice at the time of signing the Declaration of Independence. We must indeed all hang together, or most assuredly, we shall hang separately.

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