Democracy in Pakistan


In the beginning, Musharraf got a God-given opportunity, but unfortunately he lost it. When the corruption-ridden Nawaz Sharif regime was ousted, he was widely acclaimed as a hero by the masses in Pakistan, as if a Messiah has descended upon them from heaven to solve all their problems. But his later performance constantly decreased his support.

All the previous governments were supporting Taliban against Northern Alliance in Afghanistan. Under heavy American pressure, his turnaround of this policy was hailed in the West but loathed by the Pakistani masses, which see him as a traitor of Pakistani national interests, as his policy resulted in bringing the Northern Alliance into power, which had never been friendly to Pakistan. The first act of a Minister of the Alliance was to fly to India direct from the U.N. sponsored conference in Germany and issue a joint statement with India against Pakistan.

After betraying Taliban, he betrayed all those Mujahedeen who were fighting for Kashmir cause since 1948 for the implementation of U.N. resolution of 1948 and 1949 for a free and fair plebiscite under U.N. supervision. He did this to pacify and please India and to present his credentials of faithfulness to the United States in accordance with his January 12 speech promises. Thus he succeeded in demoralizing all Kashmir Mujahedeen, to whom he had called as ‘freedom fighters’ in his earlier meetings with Vajpayee in Agra.

His record of betrayals continued further to encompass his previous colleagues and Generals. He silently sacked all of them, who had brought him into power, like Gen. Usmani, ex-Karachi corps commander, ISI chief and several others. He took away Islamabad corps from the control of Gen. Aziz, who had deposed Nawaz Sharif in a military coup on the ground, while Musharraf was hanging in the air, about ten minutes away from his probable death. Gen. Aziz was doped by a promotion to a higher rank of a toothless ceremonial position. He made all these personnel changes after firmly securing his own position by extending his own expired tenure as Commander-in-Chief.

The Economist has summarized his ‘achievements’ in the following words: “In three years as Pakistan’s leader, General Musharraf has largely bleached out the Islamist colour given to the armed forces by a former dictator, Zia ul Haq. The top ranks have been purged; many lower-level officers with over-zealous views are being discreetly retired.

The secularists have been lauding him as a Pakistani Ataturk. Islamists regard it as a betrayal of ‘the ideology of Pakistan’. The Economist has confirmed this betrayal that in three years he ‘has largely bleached out the Islamist colour’.

His record of betrayals, as seen by the Pakistani public, is too long. Finally, he betrayed democracy. Even his supporters in the Western media started criticizing him and dubbed his referendum as ‘bogus’. Now, in the eyes of a common man in Pakistan, he looks like a power-hungry General bent upon perpetuating his dictatorial hold, ruling the country on secular lines, throwing the ‘ideology of Pakistan’ in the dustbin like Ataturk, encroaching upon the freedom of religious education in Madressahs and thus acting as the most faithful servant of American imperialism.

The conclusion is that Musharraf, despite all his sincerity for the country and a clean record, untarnished by any allegations of corruption, is marching towards his increasing alienation from his own countrymen. Thus he is proving the truth of the dictum that there have been very few benevolent and successful dictators in history and he will not be one of them. This is the best example of how dictatorship, as a form of government, alienates itself from the aspirations of the people under their rule.

The crux of the problem does not lie in the individuality of any leader. It is the ‘System’ or the ‘Process’ that counts. Through what Process one has emerged as a leader will be a decisive factor to lead a country out of trouble and turmoil.

The world has ultimately come to one conclusion after experimenting different forms of government in history. Monarchy, Oligarchy, military or civil Dictatorships and similar other forms of the government have all failed, irrespective of sincere wishes of the individual leaders who came to the fore through any of these Processes.

In line with the lessons of history and despite all its past experiences of failure, there is no other messianic way out to lead Pakistan toward a progressive state except to establish the roots of democracy firmly. We should examine the causes of failure and the ways and means to rectify them.

It has been ruled by Generals for more than half of its history. They came in the name of rooting out the corruption of the politicians but actually they weeded of the seeds of democracy from the country. Instead of believing in democracy, the people started to believe in the forthcoming miracles of some incoming Messiah from the ranks of soldiers. In the end they always found themselves more disappointed by the ‘short-sighted’ Generals than by the ‘corrupt’ politicians.

Secondly, mass illiteracy is mentioned as a basic cause of failure. But this is not the case. Even an illiterate human being has his own concept of moral values, his own likes and dislikes, his own standards of right and wrong, his own sense of good and evil. He can take a decision concerning what is good for him, for his family and for his country. Lack of education does not prevent him from taking a right decision. Lack of character, integrity and the moral sense makes the real difference. If he is a responsible man with the fear of God instilled in him as a true and pious Muslim should have, he will make a responsible decision to vote for an honest and God-fearing leader without any fear or favor of his local landlord in a village, despite his illiteracy and lack of education.

Therefore, for the success of democracy in a Muslim country like Pakistan depends on the success of the efforts towards the implementation of the ideology of Pakistan, instead of driving them out toward secularization of the country, as the Pakistani Ataturk, Musharraf, is trying to do. The Islamization of the country will not make people religious fanatics but will train them to be responsible citizens to choose honest leaders in elections to root out corruption and to work for a modern progressive state.

The third ingredient necessary for the success of democracy in Pakistan is to emancipate the rural areas from the clutches of the local landlords, i.e. to take steps for the abolition of ‘Jagirdari’ System. Religious scholars like Maudoodi and other Ulema have long ago issued religious decrees i.e. Fatwas for their abolition. Their point is to investigate the origins of landlords in our country. Most of them will be found to have gained rights on the lands as awards from the colonial British masters. They got these rewards for acting as traitors, who sided and supported the British betraying the common interests of the ordinary people.

Indian masses are also illiterate and uneducated like the masses in Pakistan. But the power of landlords has been broken over there by the successive Indian governments. As a result, it is now recognized as the second largest democracy in the world after the U.S., while Pakistan, until recently, was defined as a rogue state. Against all such expectations, Musharraf has displayed no enthusiasm toward any such reform of landlordism.

Fourthly, he was not found serious or sincere enough for the accountability of the corrupt politicians and the bureaucrats. He allowed the big fish to escape away from the net. After freeing the main culprit of corruption, Nawaz Sharif, to whom the Court had sentenced to death, he is now trying to catch the small fishes. But, in this process, he has lost all creditability.

If the elections would have been held after the accountability of corrupt politicians without his bogus referendum, there was some hope that the leaders elected through such Process would ultimately have been able to save the country.

Fifthly, an important phenomenon on the political horizon of Pakistan needs to be observed carefully. Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif have been elected twice to the seat of power. It means, despite all the illiteracy and the hold of local landlords in rural areas, a change of government had been effectively taking place. Whenever their governments were found guilty of inefficiency and involved in corruptions, people threw them out of power. The influence of local landlords and their own lack of education and illiteracy did not prevent them to make their own judgment of the prevailing situation and to act according to their observations and experiences under different governments. This fact throws light upon the necessity of one more ingredient for the success of democracy in Pakistan.

This fifth ingredient is concerned with the period of elections and the period for the Prime Ministers. In this regard, the system prevailing in Japan is very successful and that should be adopted for Pakistan. The term of office for the Prime Minister is two years and for the elected Diet or the legislative bodies’ members is four years, but country-wide elections are held every two years for fifty percent of the legislative bodies’ seats. With a gap of two years, half of the Diet members are elected for four years. The term of the remaining uncontested half members would expire after two years, when they can be elected again for four years.

A period of two years is quite enough to draw conclusions. The popularity or the efficiency of every government comes to the fore very clearly. If the people are given a choice for elections every two years, there would be no need for the President or the military to remove any corrupt or inefficient, unpopular Prime Minister, as in practice, Pakistan has experienced change of governments after about every 2 years during the period after the demise of Gen. Zia-ul Haq. Instead of military coups every now and then, new elections every 2 years would wipe out the corrupt politicians and thus the democratic process and its traditions will be established firmly. In addition to the accountability in courts, this accountability through elections will provide a double check. Besides, the Press freedom, which Pakistan is already enjoying, also provides a strong check against political and bureaucratic scandals.

I had given this suggestion to Moinuddin Haider, the present Home Minister, during his visit to this country as a guest of Japanese Foreign Ministry, when I played host for him in a five-star hotel on behalf of Pakistan Association, Kansai, in Kobe. He joked that he will no more remain Governor of Sindh, if he talked such things. But I hope now he can remain as Home Minister if such a system is introduced in Pakistan on the pattern of Japanese democracy.