Sunday, July 4, 2010
PAKISTAN: Democracy or Dictatorship? Yasmeen Ali
PAKISTAN: Democracy or Dictatorship?
(This is a cross post from Opinion Maker and Pakistan Observer Islamabad).
The term “democracy “, like many other terms is often abused and misused. The classic debate one hears is a discussion on the merits and demits of democracy vs dictatorship. A definition of both needs to be made to clear the cobwebs.
The term “democracy”, comes from the Greek: d?mokratía meaning thereby “rule of the people”. Even though there is no specific, universally accepted definition of ‘democracy’, there are two principles that any definition of democracy includes: equality and freedom. These principles are reflected in all citizens being equal before the law and having equal access to power, and the freedom of its citizens is secured by legitimized rights and liberties which are generally protected by a constitution.
This explanation raises many questions: Do our political parties within their cadre, allow it’s workers equal access to power? Can a worker within a party structure has the opportunity to rise to the status of the Chairperson of that party, in due course of time? Lady Warsi’s appointment as Conservative Party Chairperson and a full cabinet minister reflects on the progress the UK has made in terms of maturity in their political sphere. Unfortunately, in Pakistan, we remain stuck in the groove of dynastic dynamics and have not progressed from this point in over 62 years of our history.
From PPP to PML N to ANP to MQM and PML N and all shades of parties in between, we see the mantle of leadership being worn by the one who originated the party, and much like a family heirloom passed on from one generation to the other. Is this the much touted democratic order ?Where is the democracy WITHIN the party cadres themselves? Is heredity to determine who heads the party and merit to be ignored? When heredity becomes the corner stone of the political parties, this in turn inevitably leads to sycophancy and appointment by favoritism, not merit. There is no accountability within the party from those who purport to lead the party.
The second part of the definition deals with the right of citizens that is protected by the Constitution. These rights are determined from Articles 8 to Article 28 in the Constitution and deal with various rights of the citizen of Pakistan, for example, Article 25 professes that all citizens are equal before law and have a right to equal protection of law. Article 14 deals with inviolability of dignity of man and subject to law, in privacy of his home is inviolable, so on and so forth. However, words on a piece of paper without implementation loses any standing whatsoever, of any kind. And history proves, these Fundamental Rights are generally not respected.
Many think “elections” is synonymous with “democracy”. I am often told that once the system is “allowed to continue” it will lead to a “better democracy”. Those advocating this thought process fail to appreciate, that there are elections is a step only in the process of democracy, it is not democracy itself.
Democracy is a method of deciding who shall rule. It does not determine the morality of the resulting government. At best, democracy means that government has popular support. But popular support is no guarantee that government will protect your freedom. While democracy doesn’t guarantee either freedom or peace, there are many historical examples of societies that didn’t have either elections or legislatures, but in which people’s rights were strongly protected. Examples include the American Colonies before the Revolutionary War ,the American West in the 19th Century, where violence was on a ratio of one to ten of what it is in large U.S. cities today ,many cantons in Switzerland today which have little government … and the nations of Andorra and Monaco.
On the other hand is the much abhorred term , “dictator”. The term is used to define a ruler who assumes sole and absolute power (sometimes but not always with military control) but without hereditary ascension such as an absolute monarch.
However does this mean, that leaders who repeatedly come to power through national elections, and without first conducting party elections, which is the first rung of the ladder, and once assuming power, become all powerful and discriminatory are democrats at hearts? Or are they dictators in the real sense of the word, as they maintain a dictatorship role within the party cadre and once in power, fail to fulfill the requirements of the term “democracy”?
To achieve a free and peaceful world, we must restore freedom and individual liberty, not democracy.
In the current day scenario, with inflation that has sky rocketed, terrorism, power outrage, non availability of opportunities to improve one’s lot, is it not important to have a man(or a woman) who DELIVERS? Till when do we have to beat the drum of “democracy” thrust on us by vested interest groups?
The first step that must be taken is to conduct in-party elections on every three yearly basis. However, merit must govern, not heredity. No one, must be allowed to contest more than twice for a party seat. The same must hold good for the MNA and MPA elections as well.
Unless and until we appreciate that elections are means to an end, and, not an end in itself, unless and until we appreciate that those who come in power are there to serve not to be served, and, unless and until we appreciate that no system can deliver till it consists of people with a will to serve its people, Pakistan shall continue to flounder.
I am reminded here of Aristotle: “If liberty and equality, as is thought by some, are chiefly to be found in democracy, they will be best attained when all persons alike share in the government to the utmost.”
(The writer is a lawyer, writer & blogger.She currently teaches in a University in Lahore).