DEMOCRACY IN PAKISTAN BY SEHRISH MEHMOOD
“As I would not be a slave, so I would not be a master. This expresses my idea of democracy.”
Democracy is a very common idea but usually it is not understood correctly. Democracy defined by oxford dictionary is ‘a system of government by the whole population or all the eligible members of a state, typically through elected representatives.’
Democracy is not just a government. It is a fabricated system of many departments working together to support the government, but not depending on the government. It is a system in which the elected rulers are held responsible for the outcome of policies made and laws enforced. As Bertrand Russell, a British philosopher quotes it;
‘Democracy is the process by which people choose the man who will get the blame.’
Democracy is about the security of life and provision of basic human rights which is only possible through the supremacy of constitution. It is a way for every individual to exercise their right of having a say in how the country will be run. For democracy to work properly, it is necessary that it is understood correctly. It is often mistaken with freedom and liberty but it is not limited to just that. Freedom is one characteristic of a democracy along with many others such as rule of law, equal weightage of every vote etc.
Pakistan came into being on 14th august 1947. Democracy is one of the founding ideologies of this country. The founder of Pakistan Quaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah made it clear after independence that the country is to be run as a democratic state in the future. But with the independence, along with other initial problems, Pakistan inherited ailments as feudalism, political corruption and bureaucracy. All these factors played a vital role in disrupting the democratic setup of the country from time to time. The political history of the country is blotted with martial laws and dictatorships. The first martial law of Pakistan was enforced in 1958 by Gen. Ayub Khan. Later on the democracy was punctured twice by martial laws in 1977 by Gen. Zia ul Haq and in 1999 by Gen. Pervez Musharaf.
The democratic process in Pakistan is hindered by a number of factors. On the top of the role is absence of leadership. Pakistan has never witnessed a true leader throughout its history after the death of Quaid e Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah. The political leaders of Pakistan always put their own interest above the wellbeing of nation. As a result we have the richest politicians but poorest nation. Lack of responsible leadership resulted in disharmony among different institutes of the state. There have seldom been agreement among the main institutions of our government. Different departments of the state has always been in a state of fight over issues. This lead to an even more fragile democracy in the country.
Feudalism, corruption and bureaucracy are among the other factors threatening the democratic setup of the country ever since it came into being. Due to the strong hold of some strong families over the politics of the country, people from lower classes seldom get to participate in politics, which serves as a poison to the democratic setup. It is against the sheer meaning of democracy, which as Abraham Lincoln stated; ‘government of people by the people for the people’. This circulation of political power among a few families restricts the democracy.
In Pakistan, from the very beginning, military had always interjected its influence over the government, which affected the trust of the common people in their government. The history of the only ideological state of the world, Pakistan is marred by military controls over the government. The interventions of the military into the government created an air of distrust among the political leaders and the public of the country.
Another factor which contributed a great deal in slowing down the democratic process was the tempering with the constitution of our country. Constitution is a sacred document which act as the custodian of democracy. Pakistan took nine years to formulate a constitution after its independence but it was discarded twice by the military rulers and dictators before it took its final shape in 1973. But even after that, every new person holding the presidential office, made changes in it to tame it according to their personal interests.
Democracy is not an overnight process. It is a seed which needs to be sown and protected until it becomes a strong tree. It is to be understood by the political leadership of Pakistan that it’s their responsibility to strengthen the democracy. The people of Pakistan vested a sacred trust in them by voting and they need to shun their personal interest in order to grow as a nation. No doubt it is a difficult and slow process to gain democratic stability but it is not a lost cause. But it can never be achieved if all the political parties do not join hands in hand to work for the wellbeing of the country and try to eliminate the factors hindering into the democratic progress. If Pakistan is to survive as a nation, then it needs a democratic transition, which is only possible if each and every citizen understands and work for strengthening the plant of democracy to nurture it into a strong tree.