Dysfunctional democracy

Shakeel Ghouri

Democracy is a system where the state officials and institutions have to play their role in a defined and constitutional manner. There is no room for personal whims and no one can do anything that is unconstitutional, irrespective of one’s authority or official position. However, what we are witnessing in this country is an usual misuse of power by those who are in authority and they simply walk free owing to their influence.
Besides this, institutions are also found to have little respect for their constitutional mandate. Encroaching constitutional limits is not a big deal. More often than not, legislators are inclined more to amend laws than ensuring the implementation of already enacted constitution. Escape routes are preferred to make illegal things easy and plausible. Those in position of authority can do whatever suits their purpose and thus they appear to be above the law of the land. Is it democracy?
Secondly, what differentiates a democratic state from any oppressive regime, is the dispensation of justice in a timely, requisite and impartial way. This is the prime responsibility of any democratic state. As far as the true meaning of justice goes, it must be admitted that if justice system of any state is not capable of protecting the poor and weaker segments of society from the oppressive clutches of powerful people, it will not be able to serve its true purpose. There are countless examples which only testify how justice system of this country has failed to play an effective role in protecting the rights of every individual and punishing the perpetrators without fear or favour. In the absence of a judicial system that can provide everyone an environment to live with the sense of security, is it after all fair to claim that ours is a democratic state?
Thirdly, a democratic government always attaches paramount importance with the public opinion. It takes decision only for the public welfare. Only contesting elections and coming to power is not enough. What is genuinely required for a government to become democratic is to remain accountable to public for all of its actions. Accountability is a rare commodity in Pakistan. Can we think of holding Prime Minister or his cabinet members accountable for their actions? If the answer is no—and this will surely be so— we are far from becoming truly democratic.
It goes without saying that in this country powerful can easily bypass accountability which is against democratic values. Every person who holds any office is accountable to public, is the hallmark of democratic system. On the contrary, dissenting voices are seldom heeded and the members of civil society and journalists are often silenced for raising their voice against injustices being done to ordinary citizens. Is it democracy?
Last, democratic governments take on the responsibility of coming up at the expectations of people. On account of any negligence on their part, democratic leaders do not try to brush realities under the carpet only to save their own face. They acknowledge their wrongdoings and promise to rectify them for the well-being of public in whose name they rule. Does it the case in this country? Do the elected representatives have the courage to accept responsibility for their actions? Surely, not. And this makes our democracy a dysfunctional entity.
—Mirpurkhas, Sindh

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