Why blame democracy? | By Riaz Missen

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Why blame democracy?

RECENTLY, a well-known intellectual has trampled on democracy insisting that the system should be wrapped up and whoever takes its name should not only be shot dead but also the price of the bullet should also be recovered from his heirs.

Those who hold such views should either be sent to the land of Hejaz at government expense, as in the old days, or they should be forced to quarantine, for such views are against the public interest.

But the level of tolerance in our society is that much high. Such people will be tolerated by giving the benefit of intellectual fallacy, which is quite common in view of our objective circumstances.

Those who belong to the generation that reached the age of maturity in the nineties felt the heat of jihad in Afghanistan at that time and Lahore and Larkana were face to face. One party would come to power and the other would pour water on its foundations.

Through constitutional tactics and protests, the opponent’s breath would be suffocated and the country would be pushed towards early elections. This vicious cycle ended only when General Musharraf took over the reins of power.

The Charter of Democracy provided an opportunity for reform, but instead of passing the fruits of the democratic system to the grassroots level, the dynastic parties used it to serve their own ends.

Now if a part of the country’s intelligentsia has turned against democracy altogether, then it is not their fault at all. Blame it on the ignorance that afflicts us because of centuries of external domination and consequent slavery.

Seventy-five years of independence have also failed to dispel the darkness for the reason that the very concept of freedom has been tarnished. The pro-imperialist elite are not allowing patriotism to enter the realm of passion.

Ideological confusions have been created in such a way that it has become difficult to differentiate between right and wrong. The question of the failure of democracy should not have arisen in a country which came into being through a democratically run independence movement.

Democracy is not a scripture coming down from heaven. It is a man-made system that determines the peaceful transfer of power.

Democracy provides a system of decision-making and accountability so that the rulers stay on the right path remembering that they represent the people not the vested interests. In order to reap the benefits of democracy, its three pre-requisites are worth mentioning.

First, the source of sovereignty is the people. Second, all citizens are equal regardless of color, race or creed. Third, there will be no restrictions on regional trade. Go through the constitution and analyze the foreign policy, we have gone somewhere else in the name of democracy.

A state’s sole objective is to preserve human dignity in its confines through promoting freedom and dispensing justice among its citizens.

But if it takes sides and prefers one religious community, sect or ethnic group over the others then it not only violates the principle of equality and the universal notion of citizenship but also erodes the foundation of justice so vital for its survival.

It is said with great pride that Pakistan is the second ideological state after Israel. By saying this, people forget that Israel is a racist state. We have a lot of ethnic groups. Three major religions have grown up in the region.

Sectarianism, tribalism and communalism are also matter of concern. Democracy is a very appropriate system of government in an ethnically, linguistically and culturally diverse country like Pakistan provided its requirements are met.

If, after centuries of slavery, freedom had been achieved and at the same time a system of government had been found, it was our duty to strengthen its foundations. That is to say, they would try to make it a real and functional state rather than putting it on a destructive path.

The land of the five rivers — the Indus Basin — has always been prosperous since ancient times.

Snow covered mountains, lush green valleys, flood plains and four seasons make available necessary resources and factors for the growth of a society and, consequently, a state. Obviously, many civilizations thrived here and fell victim to climate change or foreign invasions.

The Ganges-Yamuna valley (Bharat) has always sought to consume the Indus valley, which stands its way to Central Asia, the largest source of foreign trade, with a distinct identity and state structure.

The same question that was raised during the Partition of India was raised two thousand years ago as well but the people here refused to be a part of the Brahman society insisting that they would follow Buddhism, instead, and have their own independent existence.

Thus the Rai Dynasty flourished which survived for centuries till it was shattered by successive Arab invasions in the early eighth century.

Whenever we were defeated and, consequently, lost our independence, it was because of the confusion that resulted from the narratives deliberately spread among us by the powers around us.

We have always had a choice. Either we transform ourselves into an organized and disciplined society following the universal principles of peace and harmony and spread the light of our civilization all over the world, or we get lost in the darkness of external domination and ignorance by falling prey to suspicion, greed and fear. While our objective conditions remain the same, we have still this choice to make.

Surprisingly, even after losing half the country, our policy-makers and the intelligentsia they prop up are stranger to the magnificent civilization of this region. One faction even denies that there was ever a state here before the Arab and then Central Asian invasions.

There is also denial that this region has a separate identity from the Ganges-Yamuna valley. I mean, this intellectual confusion is a reality and needs to be fixed to move forward to have a proper place under the sun.

—The writer is politico-strategic analyst based in Islamabad.

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