Monday, June 13, 2005

Do we need democracy? by Mohsin Hafeez

We have all heard ad nauseam on the need for democracy in Pakistan. But so far I have not even any semblance of democracy in Pakistan. We have had either 'militaryrule' or 'a sham democracy.' The rot started with the onset of the first Army takeover in 1958 and its diktat, even though there are views that date it back to soon after the Quaid's death. The apparent economic developmentin the early 60s, preceded by the start of the less than transparent Pak-US friendship, what with all its vissicitudes, went a long way in masking the real state of the State (the Union). Everybody basked in the glory of what they saw, totally ignoring the cancer it was spreading all over the institutional structure.The bureaucracy, in cahoots with the military junta,pitched in solidly then and continues to dominate therunning of the country to date. The feudalisticcharacteristic of the country has only gainedstrength. No government has had the courage to dealwith this evil. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to see how the social system got further plagued. With no emphasis on education among the masses, we are today at the lowest ebb of the LDCs in terms of literacyrate. The population growth has been explosive becausewe have let our 'mullah' class overrule 'rationale.' In addition, with contsant boosting of the military budget under the pretext of standing tall against theneighboring enemy has only drained the nation ofcritical resources. The trickle down theory works at its best when there is a spiral of ill-thought out decisions. To boost the military, we must borrow and thus increase our debt-servicing obligation. Word has it that between defence and debt-servicing, we are left with a mere 9-10% of the annual budget for social sectors. That includes, but may not be limited to, education, health, and women's development etc. With a good part of the population living at the subsistencelevel, does it make sense for us to even entertain the thought of acquiring F-16s? And what about the nuclear detonation of 1998?. Isn't this all a scourge that we must get rid of if we are to really and seriouslyrethink our country's priorities? The above may sound a little idealistic but there issomething to be said for 'idealism.' In a country where democratic institutions have been totally annihilated, the foremost concern should be the irreconstruction. Media need(s) to be liberated. We must choose, in this embryonic stage (imagine after almost58 years of physical existence), between 'liberty' and'democracy' as a start. It's a myth that the two are mutually inclusive. We know from our example in thegood, old US of A, which prides itself as the greatest political system, that while democracy flourishes,freedom or liberty diminishes. There is a frameworklaid out by the forefathers of this country that hascome to stay as the 'law.' I doubt if the majority ofthe population necessarily agrees with everything that has been handed down. Democracy is a loose term that has been used rather vaguely at times and equallyconveniently so as well. We need in Pakistan a system that respects the wishesof the people of the country, irrespective of theirreligion, caste, creed, or color. To maintain andexercize the famous management concept of simultaneous'loose-tight control,' there has to be a politicalsystem that is not only laid out but actuallyimplemented at all costs. This will take disciplinewhich makes me shudder as our nation is known to bequite nonchalant and cavalier. The military needs togo back to the barracks and leave the civiliangovernance to civilians. Musharraf's ideas for thecountry notwithstanding, I'd be happier to see him as a civilian president putting forth these policies. Additionally, I'd like him to be consistently clampingdown hard on the religious/extremist element. Finally, I'd like him to have good people around to advise him as, really, this is what it's all about!!I am willing to be patient as long as there are signsof promise...the product should be reliable and MUSThave 'promise of delivery.' Unfortunately, while I dohear about this boom (?) from the elite of thecountry, I see little hope of any improvement on the socio-political plain. And this is sad and must change!

Best,Mohsin Hafeez"


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