Compromised democracy

Daily: The Nation
Date: 09.07.04

Pakistan enjoys democracy of its own style where the word democracy is used to get a
sitting government recognized by the European Union or the Common Wealth, while
considering, at the same time, the people of Pakistan unworthy of consultation except for
voting. Reactionary, the people are becoming callous and indifferent to the political affairs.

This is what has been witnessed recently on departure of the former Prime Minister, Mir
Zafarullah Jamali, under the formula, the odd man out. So, the people neither laughed nor
wept — a smooth and peaceful transition tantamount to the acclaimed maturity of the
politicians and system alike!

The prevalent system of democracy can be divided in to two parts safely. In the first part,
the shining aspects are the devolution of executive and political powers, naïve educated
representation, women emancipation, etc.  

In the second part, the prominent aspect is presence of the compromised politicians. That
is, they are vulnerable through the National Accountability Bureau (NAB). They possess two
pronged advantages. First, they possess the know-how of running the government affairs.
Secondly, they have been used as a counter-weight to keep both Nawaz Sharif and Benazir
Bhutto legacies out of the political arena.

In the existing political system, the aforementioned first part is standing at the back, while
the second part is placed at the front. That is how; the compromised politicians are the face
of the government justifying the origin of the term ‘the compromised democracy’. This also
explains as to why Mr. Shaukat Aziz, a senator, is being pushed to stand at the helm of the
affairs. That is, the new faces (from the first part) are not trained enough to be tried, while
the old faces (from the second part) are not reliable to be given a chance to be the PM.

A common person in Pakistan may be happy with the first part of the system, while has
reservations about the second part. If the present system fails, it will be because of the
second part— a common sense prediction. For one politician the criterion was to come out
with a clearance certificate from the NAB, while for another, the reverse was the case. That
favoritism has not, perhaps, been liked by the masses generally. Hence is one of the
reasons of their apathetic attitude towards the political affairs.  


One interesting aspect of the prevailing political system is that in spite of legitimizing the
turn coats, by temporary annulment of the floor-crossing law in the Parliament, the resultant
‘dissidents’ have been seeking hide of the word Pakistan Muslim League (PML) or Pakistan
People’s Party (PPP), in one way or another. It seems that the rebellious are fearful of
rejection by the people if they opt out or form another political party. The trend, which
emerges out of the fear, indicates that the names of the Muslim League and the People’s
Party are well entrenched in the masses. Every one has to play one’s political game within
that framework. The assemblage of the compromised politicians under the stratified PML
and the PPP is result of the same process.

Since the restoration of democracy after the death of General Zia, the main theme of the
Ministers generally remained as if they got a job, which will never come again. So, ‘earn as
much as you can’ became their motto. Where the People’s Party workers demanded a price
(in shape of absorption in the government’s lucrative departments) of their sacrifices (jails
and lashes) that they made in the Zia era, the Muslim League workers started industrializing
themselves by getting more and more loans as well as indulging themselves in various
corporate scandals to fetch more money for never paying back. Hence, the motto was in full
swing. In its wake, it seems that it is less a powerfulness of military establishment but more a
hollowness of politicians out of which the prevailing situation of dictation by the military has
emerged.

Pakistan’s political system is haunted by two factors: corruption and inefficiency. Had this
not been the case, formerly the bureaucracy and latterly the military would not have taken
hold of the political recourse of the country. Interestingly, owing to the engagement, the
bureaucracy also became corrupt and inefficient. To that reference, having been involved,
the future role of the military is yet to be seen, especially when it has no rival now in shape
of integrated and powerful bureaucracy.

In fact, an effort to bring non-corrupt politicians and educated ones, besides women
representatives, is laudable. However, the wrong has happened where the compromised
politicians have been brought forward. If the politicians in the Cabinet or at the face of the
government are the defaulters or their cases are in the NAB, it is a great misfortune to let
them come up again to play with the future of Pakistan.

It is equally interesting to consider the four realities. First, for a long time, two powers
(COAS and President) cannot concentrate in one person. Secondly, the 1973 Constitution
of Pakistan envisages basically a Parliamentary form of government. Thirdly, the heads of
the two major political parties cannot be kept out for a long time. Fourthly, the one who can
be a turncoat once can be it again owing to some other compulsions.

Hence, it seems that the whole existing system has been compromised somehow. It seems
more a temporary arrangement than a permanent one. Whenever the two powers are
devolved; the political atmosphere will start witnessing change towards the Parliamentary
form of government. Moreover, with the repatriation of the leaders of the two main political
parties, the change may be witnessed towards emergence of two or three main political
parties in transnational dimensions. Further, the moment the war on terror dies down; the
aforementioned changes are bound to arrive earlier.

Back to columns in 2004