On June 12, 1987, as leader of the free world, President Ronald Reagan stood in front of the Berlin Wall saying, “Tear Down this wall”. Within a span of about two years, the wall came down on November 09, 1989. Freedom was in the air, East Germany was liberated from the fascist Soviet Block to merge with the democratic West.
Democracy and its associated freedom were progressing and expanding worldwide. The 20th century ended on a democratic note. With three major revolutions (Bolshevik 1917, Chinese 1949, Iranian 1979) and two world wars, greed was contained and lessons learned. The importance of individual liberties were fully understood. Welfare states emerged where democracy and social equality were balanced. While the 21st century was coming to a close. Charismatic but conservative leaders like Reagan in the USA and Thatcher in the UK got elected.
The Nordic welfare states are modeled on this approach which can be replicated into a 21st century Islamic Republic
New economic concepts were introduced called ‘Reaganomics’ and ‘Thatcherism’. A free-market approach based on deregulation, globalization, and privatization were introduced. Uncontrolled human greed re-emerged with no limits. Socialism retreated, capitalism advanced. The mighty Soviet Union collapsed bringing the Bolshevik revolution led by Lenin and Stalin to an end. China kept its course of development while allowing the private sector to grow. Despite gains and advancements the Iranian’s had to face tough times due to embargos.
Through the so-called democratic order, empires of greed have been built that now dominate the protection of the state apparatus. Human freedom has been the biggest casualty. Liberalism has been replaced with conservatism. It is a worldwide phenomenon. Media has been taken over by the rich, today 80% is owned by billionaires that dominate worldwide and include leaders like; Donald Trump in the USA, Boris Johnson in the UK, Benjamin Netanyahu in Israel, Viktor Orban in Hungary all right of center conservatives who are willing to use the state apparatus for the fulfillment of their personal agendas. Right next door in the largest democracy of the world Gandhi’s secularism is threatened by Hindu fundamentalism under Narendra Modi.
Only the five Nordic welfare states (Norway, Sweden, Finland, Iceland, Denmark) have kept their course of social welfare, individual liberty, and democracy. China continues to grow economically with a focus on common good at the cost of individual freedom and without democratic dispensation. The engine of growth keeps the entire nation growing. The profits are used for nation and infrastructure building. The wealth generated is not parked into individual accounts. Over a period of time China may liberalize and may allow individual liberties but for the time being the planning is centralized and controlled focus on the common good.
The democratic West is baffled by the Chinese miracle of economic growth. Instead of protecting individual liberties that were the bedrock of their growth, they have decided to curtail it, sending democracy into regression. Democratic order if disturbed will ruin the gains of freedom. Instead of redistribution of wealth, the focus has shifted on curtailing liberties. The de-regulated free market has widened the gap between have and have nots.
Now that the democratic order is gaining strength in the country there is a desire to build a welfare state. Riyasat-e-Madina is being mentioned. The Nordic welfare states are modeled on this approach which can be replicated into a 21st century Islamic Republic. Bhutto introduced the term Islamic Socialism; many scholars believe that Socialism with religion is very close to Islam.
In the checkered democratic history of Pakistan, only two genuine non-establishment political parties (PPP, PTI) came to the fore, while the various brands of Muslim Leagues were never designed to serve democracy
After over 2000 years of dominance, democracy is seriously threatened in the 21st century. What started in the Bazaars of Athens around 625 BC may be on its way out mainly because of insatiable human greed practiced through Multinational Corporations? Today the wealth of the world is controlled by a few while poverty, ignorance, disease, discrimination continues to grow. The power of vote has diminished to dangerous levels almost becoming irrelevant.
India the largest democracy of the world, USA the richest and UK the mother of parliamentary democracy are all in trouble. Despite being elected the leaders have divided their nations both vertically and horizontally. Donald Trump faces impeachment, Narendra Modi has to quell street protests using force, Boris Johnson is trying to move a divided population out of the European Union, in Israel Benjamin Netanyahu is facing serious opposition to his fascist policies of getting rid of the Palestinians. Unfortunately, democracy has failed to deliver for wider common good.
Read more: Has democracy died in India?
On the 12th death anniversary of Benazir Bhutto, with a heavy heart I watch the program about her political struggle; I am also reminded of the phrase that was coined when she fell ‘Democracy is the best revenge’. Indeed it is if it is not manipulated and controlled to favor the few at the cost of the many. In the checkered democratic history of Pakistan, only two genuine non-establishment political parties (PPP, PTI) came to the fore, while the various brands of Muslim Leagues were never designed to serve democracy. PPP has to be liberated from the Zardari’s for the sake of the democratic order to grow.
Corrupt politicians have to be screened out of the system. PTI has to deliver on its promises to pull out democracy from regression for it to return on the path of progress to escape from the revenge of the ravished population of the republic which may lead to a revolution together with bloodshed. While 20th was a century of change, the 21st may witness the end of the democratic order. Unnatural status-quo has survived 19 years of this millennium but it is destined to fall.
Dr. Farid A. Malik is Ex-Chairman, Pakistan Science Foundation. The article was first published in The Nation and has been republished here with the author’s permission. The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Global Village Space’s editorial policy.