Volume 22 Issue 7, July 2018


Does Pakistan really need an election? Because it is a democracy, it probably does. Elections are a part of the democratic polity and an election must be held at set intervals, say every four years or five years, to elect a new set of parliamentarians to select a new leader of the house. This leader of the house is then asked by the President of the country to become the Prime Minister and choose a cabinet of ministers from among the successful parliamentarians so that he can run the country’s administration. This is how a parliamentary democracy works, at least in the books, and since Pakistan is a parliamentary democracy, it must behave in the laid down manner.

It is a different matter though that democracy and the Islamic world do not go together. There is hardly any Muslim country where there has been or is a truly democratic dispensation. Some Muslim countries have had successful setups and successful rulers but none have been successful and democracies at the same time. Malaysia and Mahathir Mohamad is a case in point. He took Malaysia out of the darkness of backwardness and turned it into a successful Muslim nation. But it took him twenty years to do it and his rule can hardly be described as a ‘democratic’ one. He has come back to power again after a long interregnum and though it is said he has left his old dictatorial ways behind, it is yet to be seen how he will take his country forward as he is already 92.

Another recent example is that of Recep Tayyip Erdo?an, the President of Turkey, who has turned his country into one of the most vibrantly successful economies in the world. He has been in power for 15 years. Like Malaysia’s Mahathir Mohamad, he was returned to power regularly through elections and has recently been elected Executive President of Turkey for another five year term. But is Turkey really a democracy?

No other Muslim nation has been as successful and while many of them may pretend to be ‘democracies,’ none have proved their claims and have continued to be monarchies, sheikhdoms or states with a one-man rule. Bangladesh is under a one-woman rule but it continues to make pretensions of democracy. Pakistan, the world’s second largest Muslim country, too pretends to be a democratic country and so do many Muslim states in central Asia (the former Soviet republics) but is real democracy allowed to exist or flourish in any of these countries?

In the case of Pakistan, visualized by its founders as a truly democratic nation, the country has existed for over seventy years of its independence from British India, either as a civilian or military one-man rule. It has never been a true democracy and it looks like that despite general elections scheduled to take place on July 25, 2018, after the laid down 5-year term, the country would again end up with a doctored government comprising people from all kinds of political parties and would not reflect the true aspirations of the nation. This sort of hotch-potch government will neither solve the myriad problems of the masses that make Pakistan the world’s 6th largest nation nor attend to the huge trials and tribulations that the country is going through both on the internal and external fronts.

The problem with Pakistan is that it neither has a Mahathir Mohamad nor a Recep Tayyip Erdo?an lurking somewhere in the bushes. All it has is a highly disciplined military that, like the military of any other nation, is assigned the task of defending the country’s borders. However, unlike any other country, the Pakistani military, while continuing to lose the lives of soldiers on the borders as it combats neighbours and fights terrorists within the country, also performs policing duties in the cities, nabs dacoits in riverine valleys, rescues people or finds dead bodies in mountainous regions, tackles floods and earthquakes, runs affairs of foreign policy or civilian governance from its general or corps headquarters and generally aids civilian power as it is required to do under the country’s constitution.

If such is the involvement of the military in Pakistan’s ethos of governance and the nation’s pretence of democracy continues to be just that – a pretence, then the time is ripe that Pakistan should have a national government comprising all well-meaning and non-corrupt civilians as well as representatives of the armed forces. This should be a government not based on the results of the forthcoming elections because it is highly unlikely that the elections would throw up a single political party with a clear majority to form a government at the centre. If some kind of a coalition government is managed to be cobbled together, the outcome will only be confusion and the people will not get successful governance anyway.

What Pakistan really needs in the midst of this chaos is a national government. It could have the sort of composition stated in the foregoing and representation of all important political points of view, along with representation of the military so that the self-serving elements in the civilian polity can stop referring to the military as ‘khalai makhlooq’ and start accepting the latter’s positive role based on the fact that so far Pakistan has managed to survive as a nation and as a nuclear nation at that because it has a strong military. Once a national government is formed, it should lay down the rules of the game for Pakistan’s friends and foes and form short and long-term policies for the country that eradicate corruption and nepotism on an urgent basis and tackle both immediate and future governance and economic problems through the advice and involvement of honest and patriotic technocrats guided by members of the national government. The provinces should also have governments on lines of the afore-stated national government.

If the nation chooses to call itself a ‘democracy’ even then, it is welcome to do so but not at the cost of its future as a major nation.

The writer is editor of SouthAsia and a regular contributor on political and social issues.

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