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December 24, 2015

Democracy deserves a chance this time!


December 24, 2015

This time again PTI chairman Imran Khan played a wrong political shot by uttering that the Gen. Musharraf’s era was much better than the present PML-N regime. These remarks on the one hand were enough to send many wondering while on the other hand exposed the “depth of wisdom” of a man whose party is running a provincial government and who has repeatedly expressed his deep desire to become prime minister of Pakistan. This was nothing but a political somersault of Imran who, despite having improved his vote bank, still carries the sobriquet of “the man of contradictions” doing politics only for the sake of politics and making points scoring out of non-issues.

In fact, the cricketer-cum-politician’s trail of contradictions on national issues makes masses unable to understand what in fact he wants. He once appeared as a political supporter of Gen (R) Pervez Musharraf who had dislodged the democratically elected PML-N government in October 1999. But soon he parts ways with the General and sits with Nawaz Sharif, Benazir Bhutto and other national politicians at the time of signing of the Charter of Democracy in London. Surprisingly, Imran, later, again takes a somersault and turns critic of both Nawaz and Benazir branding them symbol of corruption. One fails to pass a comment when Imran himself along with his party’s lawmakers sits in the democratically elected parliament which is the symbol of real democracy. This is almost baffling as according to Imran, the real democracy exists only in the PTI-run Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

There is a very quotable saying that “Worst form of democracy is better than best form of dictatorship”. Khan’s remarks about the democratically elected civil government send the impression that he still lacks understanding of what a state under dictatorship loses both internally and externally and how masses are forced to live in an environment where most of their rights are usurped.

Pakistan since its inception has been witnessing a series of crises. Political instability, law & order situation, confrontation between the provinces and the centre, foreign interference, sectarianism, and regional issues like Indian hegemonic designs as well as Afghanistan instability have been the main factors behind low progress in Pakistan. But the more important factor that has always pushed Pakistan back from one crisis after the other was the repeated derailment of political system through imposition of direct army rule.

People in Pakistan had to bear the brunt of the rollback of democratic governments through imposition of martial laws. The first martial law was clamped down in October 1958 by President Sikander Mirza who appointed General Ayub Khan as chief martial law administrator. Same was the case in March 1969, when President Ayub abrogated the Constitution of 1962 and handed over power to Army Commander-in-Chief, General Yahya Khan. The third martial law was imposed by Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, the first civilian to hold this post in Pakistan after the fall of Dhaka in 1971. The fourth martial law was imposed by General Zia ul Haq on July 5, 1977 by ousting the elected government of Z.A Bhutto. In October 1999, Gen. Pervez Musharraf dislodged the elected government of Nawaz Sharif. Though no martial law was slapped on the country at that time, yet it was not less than the martial law by any means.

Non-democratic governments are widely abhorred across the world especially by developed states that encourage and promote democratic systems, human rights protection, provision of justice to all, sustainable economy, political stability, etc. But unfortunately about 25 years of Pakistan’s 68-year life have been consumed under the shadow of martial laws or dictatorship. Democratic governments were wrapped up, constitution was repeatedly abrogated, human rights were denied, political victimisation was at peak, public hangings too were there. Similarly, ranking of a state under dictatorship slides down in the comity of nations. For instance Pakistan had to lose its membership of Commonwealth during the martial law.

Gen. Musharraf’s era though not under the martial law but was not less than this. He threw the most powerful political government of Pakistan in 1999 and pushed the country into an unnecessary and endless war against terrorism. People can still remember the blunders the former army general committed during his despotic rule. Instead of resorting to political dialogue, he through use of force attempted to “resolve” some important issues like sending Sharif family to Jeddah, Akbar Bugti episode, Lal Masjid operation, imposition of Emergency in the country, putting senior judges of Supreme Court under house arrest, etc. This all not only pushed the country back into political chaos and instability but also earned a bad name for the county in the world.

While on the other side, the review of what the incumbent PML-N government has done during its over two-and-a-half years rule establishes the fact that the Imran’s comparison between Musharraf and Nawaz rules holds no water.

Political reconciliation/tolerance, respect to even political opponents, launch of operation against terrorism, Karachi operation, mega development projects, bringing huge investments from China (which is by all means is the game changer in Asia), democratic transfer of power through local government elections, etc. can be among the major steps the Nawaz government can boast of. Even the PTI government in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa was also the result of PM Sharif’s policy of political reconciliation; otherwise the PML-N could have formed its own government in the province by gathering other parties’ support. It was also due to the ruling government’s policy of respecting even political rivals that the PTI enjoyed the freedom to hold over 120-day protest sit-in in the federal capital though the country had to pay a heavy price of it in shape of subsequent political instability and national economic standstill. Such democratic freedom could not have been enjoyed during the Musharraf government rather political rivals faced worst kind of victimisation.

It is quite unfortunate that the country’s political history is replete with the episodes where political rivals invited rather pushed the army to intervene, wrap up elected governments and take over the rule. The PTI’s protest rallies and sit-ins in Islamabad too were no less than an attempt to make the civil dispensation hostage to the army by inviting it to take over. However, this time good luck was with the nation as the army as well as the government were on the same page. The peaceful transfer of power to next elected government is the essence of democratic system. Our politicians must give democracy a chance to stay – the only option now left with the political leadership.

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