Dr. Zeeshan Khan |
Democracy failed exceptionally quickly after independence because Pakistan possessed a weak and fragmented political party that was unable to resolve key governing conflicts. In the wake of intensifying political instability, the civilian bureaucracy and military assumed governing power in 1958. Since its independence, Pakistan’s democratic system has fluctuated between civilian and military governments at various times throughout its political history, mainly due to political instability, civil-military conflicts, political corruption, and the periodic coup d’états by the military establishment against weak civilian governments, resulting in the enforcement of martial law across the country (occurring in 1958, 1977 and 1999, and led by chief martial law administrator-generals Ayub Khan, Zia-ul-Haq and Pervez Musharraf respectively).
Democracy in Pakistan, however imperfect, has been allowed to function to varying degrees. Until 2013, Pakistan did not experience even one democratic transfer of power from one democratically elected government that had completed its tenure to another. All of its previous democratic transitions have been aborted by military coup. The national media environment is dismal. Pakistan ranks 139 out of 180 on the World Press Freedom Index compiled by Reporters Without Borders. Pakistan’s history is a story of missed goals, squandered opportunities, and a loss of vision or a long-term sense of direction.
The civilian machinery won’t be able to keep pace with his soaring ambitions but high expectations of Pakistanis are needed to be addressed with due providence of proper time to new government to operate.
It was supposed to be a state based on Islam’s progressive; ideals encouraging dynamism and pursuit of knowledge, and offering full protection to non-Muslims in practicing their religion. We have turned it into an extremist, almost obscurantist, Islamic state where the state accords a low priority to education and where non-Muslim minorities suffer adverse discrimination. It was supposed to be a welfare state committed to Islamic injunctions of human equality and brotherhood. Instead, we have an exploitative system of government in which the masses suffer under grinding poverty while the exploitative elites rob the national wealth to fill their pockets.
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Pakistan, which came into existence through a political struggle and the exercise of the right of vote, was meant to be a democracy. The responsibility for this deplorable state of affairs lies with both the political and non-political leaders of the country although each of them has the tendency to put the blame at the door-step of the other. The most important task of the leadership of any country is to devise a political system which suits the genius of its people, sets down the responsibilities and rights of different organs of state, the social contract between the state and the people, and the way the leaders of the state are to be chosen and held accountable for their deeds and misdeeds.
Pakistan at its inception was expected to be a democracy ruled by elected representatives of its people. It was hoped that these elected representatives would be responsive to the wishes of the people in running the affairs of the state. Quaid-e-Azam was quite clear about the necessity of a democratic set-up in the country when he warned the military officers to remain faithful to their oath of honour and keep away from involvement in politics during his famous talk to them in Quetta.
The national media environment is dismal. Pakistan ranks 139 out of 180 on the World Press Freedom Index compiled by Reporters Without Borders. Pakistan’s history is a story of missed goals, squandered opportunities, and a loss of vision or a long-term sense of direction.
The responsibility for derailing repeatedly the democratic order and stunting the evolution of the political process on healthy lines in Pakistan lies squarely with the country’s adventurous and unscrupulous generals who refused to learn from history and repeatedly subjected the nation to military rule with the connivance of the superior judiciary and elements from the senior echelons of the civilian bureaucracy. It would be wrong, however, to blame the army, which deserves our respect for its sacrifices in the service of the nation, as an institution for the treasonous conduct of these renegade generals of whom Pervez Musharraf was the latest example.
One cannot also absolve the politicians of their responsibility in mismanaging the nation’s affairs and for plundering the country’s resources for their personal benefits. But as far as corruption is concerned, senior bureaucrats, senior members of the military establishment, and even some of the judges have not missed any opportunity for enriching themselves through corruption, whether legalized or otherwise.The policy of doling out state land to the rich at the expense of the poor is exactly the reverse of what should happen in a welfare state.
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There is no magic solution of the serious problems of inefficient management of the nation’s affairs and corruption. The last thing that we need for this purpose is military rule, disguised or otherwise. The rule of law is a must for rectifying our systemic flaws whereas military rule basically implies the absence of the rule of law.
Pakistan’s survival and progress demands that we must stick to the democratic system of government while reforming it as needed in the interest of the welfare of the people and the efficient management of the nation’s affairs. This will be a long and hard struggle. But this is the only way in which the nation’s progress and prosperity can be ensured, its security can be strengthened, and the welfare of its people can be enhanced. The lesson of history is that for nations there is no short-cut to progress or greatness.
Quaid-e-Azam was quite clear about the necessity of a democratic set-up in the country when he warned the military officers to remain faithful to their oath of honour and keep away from involvement in politics during his famous talk to them in Quetta.
Not to many in Pakistan; there is a hue and cry from strange quarters that democracy is at stake and, heaven forbid, that Pakistan’s survival is linked with strong constructive democratic opposition against government’s wrong policies.
We have to rescue democracy from the clutches of political mafias that have kept it in a warped, disrupted form to serve nefarious agendas and personal interests. It’s time to give well-entrenched political mafias a parting kick out of the corridors of democracy, lock, stock and barrel. Let us bid farewell to the Trojan horses of democracy.
Imran Khan has sworn in as the prime minister of Pakistan, he is confronted by daunting challenges. The country has a balance-of-payments crisis. The judiciary is in a hyper-activist mood. The effects of climate change are being keenly felt, with a major water-supply crisis. Hard-won gains against a decade-long terrorist campaign have to be consolidated.
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Pakistanis have been yearning for a messiah-like figure who can turn Pakistan into a financially autonomous and militarily robust nation that is respected globally. They see Mr. Khan as that man of destiny. Mr. Khan takes great pride in his Pashtun ethnic identity. Faced with dwindling foreign exchange reserves, Pakistan desperately needs $12 billion to save its economy.
This is where Mr. Khan’s ambitions meet reality. The austerity measures of an I.M.F. program are the last thing he needs in his efforts to deliver on the ambitious agenda that he has been elected to deliver. Pakistan’s youth bulge needs a government capable of constantly escalating public spending, not one that wears a straitjacket tailored by Pakistani officials and I.M.F. accountants.
As someone who has never held executive office before, Mr. Khan will quickly realize that electoral promises of quick fixes and transparent government aren’t easy to realize in the face of bureaucratic inertia and shrinking fiscal space. The civilian machinery won’t be able to keep pace with his soaring ambitions but high expectations of Pakistanis are needed to be addressed with due providence of proper time to new government to operate.
Dr. Zeeshan Khan is a medical doctor by profession, a content writer, freelance writer, certified trainer and Poet. He is a motivational speaker, Cultural-cum-Political Analyst and columnist and has written for a number of English and Urdu dailies like Dawn, Express Tribune, The Business, The Educationist and Roznama Pakistan etc. He is also Alumni of LUMS and Winner of all Pakistan Ubqari story Writing Competition. The views expressed in this article are author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Global Village Space.