Under the Cover of Democracy?
With the passage of more than 70 days, the prevailing political turmoil in Pakistan has deepened, as protesting groups of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) led by Imran Khan and Pakistan Awami Tehreek (PAT) by Dr. Tahirul Qadri have continued AZADI (Freedom) and INQILAB (Revolution) marches, observing sit-ins at capital city of Islamabad. Although Tahirul Qadri has ended his sit-in at Islamabad, yet he has decided to observe two-day sit-ins in various cities of the country. Besides, both PAT and PTI have been conducting larger processions in various cities. Thus, demonstrations and protests have been prolonged and extended, because, the government of PML (N) led by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif could not grab the initiative to settle the issue through result-oriented dialogue.
Now, the political uncertainty in the country presents an ugly scenario in which twin protesting parties have maintained a firm stance rigidly demanding resignation of the prime minister, audit of the rigged elections, reformation of Election Commission etc. Both Imran Khan and Tahirul Qadri are not against the democracy, but are against the corrupt system of democracy, being practised in Pakistan. They have said in their various speeches that and PPP and PML (N) are taking their turn, and under the cover of democracy, their leaders have been doing business through tax-evasion and corruption.
No doubt, favorite system of governance in the Western countries is democracy. By using their legitimate right of vote, people participate in political process, and elect their own representatives to govern them. Thus, they give mandate by authorizing the elected members to hold public offices and make legitimate decisions to run the affairs of state. And, the elected representatives remain accountable for their actions, while, the system of electoral democracy also empowers the voters to take away the powers of the elected members, if they fall short of popular aspirations—good governance and so on.
In case of Pakistan’s version of democracy, it has the same system of representatives according to the constitution, but the elected representatives grossly violate the public mandate for obtaining their selfish and materialistic gains. These representatives, virtually shatter all hopes of voters by neglecting their social problems, financial difficulties and psychological distress. Promises made during election campaign are quickly forgotten, while perks of public offices are fully enjoyed. Irony of the fate is that same elite group gets elected over and over again and election campaigns are held as rituals. Unfortunately, voters, become trading pawns in the hands of politicians who regard elections as windows of business opening to plunder national wealth through all possible means of corruption whose result is poor governance.
Most of the elected representatives in National Assembly and Senate hardly make any worthwhile contribution, as they remain absent during active sessions of the parliament. Therefore, sessions of the lower and upper houses are adjourned due to lack of quorum, and the process of essentially required legislation remains blank and weary. Resultantly, the voters’ aspirations turn into hopeless ordeal, dejection and despondency.
It is notable that various mal-practices such as horse-trading, nepotism, bribery, illegal obligations and other forms of corruption are very common among our politicians. In fact, the elite group of elected members uses powers of their public offices to advance their personal interests including engagement in politics of THANA and KUCHHERY (Police and Court), earnestly seeking allotment of development and discretion funds and timely steps of sycophancy to please the top party leaders. Thus, they promote their personal interests, and show total callousness towards torment of their voters.
Undoubtedly, in Pakistan, corruption is a significant obstacle for good governance, supremacy of law, and rational use of authority to run the affairs of state and to maintain public cohesion and national harmony. Regrettably, corrupt practices and misuse of public office lead to general frustration, opening windows of protest with sense of dissent, disapproval and conflict against the governing authority. The environment of agitation and demonstrations carry seeds of large scale disturbances, creating law and order situation, social disorder and political chaos, culminating in poor governance.
It is our misfortune that rampant corruption in the country has infected the entire edifice of national institutions. Political leadership is busy in power grabbing process, while the poor suffer under hard environment where healthy food, clean drinking water, respectable shelter, justice, education and health care facilities are almost non-existent.
In this regard, the ordeal of poor in Pakistan can well be anticipated by prevailing un-employment, poor living and health conditions, price hike, social injustice, contempt for merit, promoting cronyism, and poor law and order situation.
Regrettably, the concerned ministers remain busy in settling scores against their political rivals, using floor of parliament and media channels. Most of their time is spent on preparing fierce speeches to level fresh tirades of accusations and counter allegations.
The poor voters remain bewildered as protesting groups, PAT and PTI, pointed out corruption of subsequent rulers of the PPP and the present ones of the PML (N). While, ruling elite and their associates in opposition benches of the parliament have termed the protests as unlawful, unconstitutional and undemocratic.
Besides, political leaders enraged outbursts, filled with allegations and counter accusations. Some of them, especially of the PPP and PML (N) have shamefully tried their best to drag the Armed Forces into political turmoil. They have brazenly accused Pak Army and country’s prime intelligence agency, ISI (without any evidence) for orchestrating the prevailing political impasse which was created by the politicians themselves. In their fierce speeches, while, indirectly criticizing Army, leaders of PML (N) and some other parliamentarians said that they would oppose any move which could derail democracy in the country by rejecting the unconstitutional demands of PTI and PAT including resignation of the Prime Minister Nawaz and the dissolution of the National Assembly.
On the other side, on September 12, 2014, DG of ISPR Maj-Gen. Asim Bajwa once again elaborated, “Pakistan Army supports democracy and constitution, and does not think it necessary to respond to rumors.” He added, “The army chief in his address on Youm-i-Shuhuda (Martyrs’ Day) clearly said that the army believes in continuation and democracy.”
Some media analysts and political leaders have tended to show their loyalties to top political leadership by mentioning about the possibility of military take over. Such elements have an agenda to spoil civil-military relations—to create division between the Armed Forces, distorting their image in the eyes of general masses. But all these observations proved untrue, as Army did not take any step like military take over or martial law.
It is notable that in 2011, during the Memogate case, some political entities and media commentators were saying that martial law will be imposed in the country. The then Chief of Army Staff Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani stated, “The Pakistan Army has and will continue to support democratic process in the country.” As Army was acting upon the principle of non-interference in political affairs, therefore, the previous government completed its tenure.
It is noteworthy that for the last few months, Pakistan’s Armed Forces are successfully obtaining their objectives in North Waziristan Agency (NWA) through military operation Zarb-e-Azb against the terrorists who had challenged the writ of the state, and had frightened the entire nation by their terror-acts. The Armed Forces also engaged in rescue-operations in the flood-affected areas. Besides, Pak Army has also been coping with subversive activities in Balochistan, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, and other parts of the country including tribal areas in wake of India’s war-like diplomacy and cross-border infiltration from Afghanistan’s side.
However, these parliamentarians and leaders have disregarded the commitment and sacrifices, being offered by the Armed Forces in the operation Zarb-e-Azb and flood relief operation.
In fact, under the cover of democracy, some politicians of the government and the opposition parties are diverting the attention of the general masses from those articles of the constitution, which are mentioned in the ‘Principles of Policy.’ These articles clearly mention that people would provide with justice, gap between the rich and the poor would be reduced, and poverty would be eradicated in the country. However, our politicians and the subsequent governments of the industrialists and feudlords failed in delivering good governance to the people in accordance with the constitution. They have only deceived the public mandate in the pretext of democracy which has been named as a ‘corrupt democracy’ in Pakistan.
Nevertheless, rampant corruption in Pakistan is posing a very serious threat to the state as well the true democracy. It has become a significant obstacle towards development, and adversely impacting the good governance and rule of law, culminating in poor governance. Now, the right hour has come that the political leadership must conduct introspective analysis of their style of governance, and must develop a desire to fight the menace of corruption through accountability and transparency. The aim should be to put the house in order.
Sajjad Shaukat writes on international affairs and is author of the book: US vs Islamic Militants, Invisible Balance of Power: Dangerous Shift in International Relations