People are boot-awakened

Daily: The Statesman
Date: 01.03.08

We here highly resolve that the dead shall not have died in vain, that this nation, under
God, shall have a new birth of freedom; and that government of the people, by the people,
and for the people, shall not perish from the earth
– Abraham Lincoln (1809-1865)

Democracy is not just a system of government but a way to make people share ownership
of the state. Stakes of people are found higher in a government erected by their consent
expressed through vote. In this way, the basic foundation of the state-people relationship
has been laid down through the elections 2008.

Demeanour of the elections 2008 seems different from the previous elections. Despite
apprehension of terrorist acts, people came out in droves to cast their votes. From the
results, it can be concluded safely that it was a reactionary spell that kept voters bound to
visit polling booths to express their opinion, come what may. One can argue that the
opinion expressed was mostly subjective as it rooted out the ruling regime. Further, the
subjective wave did not take into consideration all the construction and development works
done in the past five years.

The results reflect that the assemblies which celebrated completion of their five-year term
failed to satisfy voters during their rule. Interestingly, in past, both the PPPP and the PML-N
which could not complete their respective terms in assemblies and declared failed
governments by their critics have been elected again. It means that people do not consider
development work alone qualifying one for the assembly. Instead, people judge the
contesting parties on the touchstone of some other criteria which might be nothing else but
respect for people’s opinion on certain issues by any ruling regime even during its rule.

Unrelenting oppression through the instruments of state, muffling of the media, and
imposition of the emergency on November 3 are to name a few steps which stirred people
into action. Some one says that people were virtually boot-awakened from their posture of
lethargy and slumber. In a way, it was people’s sense of deprivation of ownership of state
which catapulted the whole scenario to disfavour the Musharraf camp. In 1999, sweets were
doled out on arrival of Musharraf in the political arena, but since 2007, disparate groups of
society have been united in their efforts to reject Musharraf and coterie. February 18
became the judgement day.

Yet the people generally believe that the struggle for finding a true democracy has just
begun: it was not ended on the Election Day. Further, February 18 phenomenon was the
beginning of an end of the state coercion. Perhaps, for the first time people have
collectively mulled over the significance of presence of an independent judiciary around. It
seems that people now feel insecure in presence of a judiciary they consider dependent
and compliant. People now believe that their claim on ownership of the state is not possible
through parliament only: they consider that an independent judiciary can hedge their claim
of ownership against any attempt of its erosion brought about by any usurper. Further, an
independent judiciary can keep the link preserved between people and their rights which
are guaranteed in the Constitution of 1973.

As per the results of the elections, the PML-N stands distinct. The party struck at the heart
of one of the two political power bases of the President Musharraf. Lahore precisely and
Punjab generally have been swept by the pro-Nawaz vote. The second power base of
Musharraf was Karachi where the MQM was his ally. In Sind, the PPPP sidelined the MQM
by securing significant number of seats though the MQM became able to secure its seats in
Karachi. In short, the pro-Musharraf political parties have been reduced to eat humble pie.

Discontented and dejected, the Son of Rawalpindi, Sheikh Rashid is left with no other
option to come out of the humiliating folds of the PML-Q than to establish his own political
party. Electoral defeat might have dulled his political senses to believe that he is
dispensable politically. Had Rashid defected the PML-Q on the Lal-mosque issue (as his
voice was not being heard, according to him), he would have been elected today even if he
had stood as an independent candidate. His political sagacity – on which he was publicly
proud of – egged him on to side with the establishment and that unconditionally. He met an
exemplary treatment at the hands of the voters. As if this were not hard enough, Rashid is
now concerned about his safety when he will be stripped of the state protection once the
transition of power happens.

Having sought apology from the Balochis for the atrocities committed in the recent past by
the previous government, Asif Ali Zardari has raised his political stature. In a way, it is a
confession at the national level that the past government committed mistakes. Further, it is
to acknowledge the fact that there simmer genuine grievances of the Balochis that should
have been addressed to their satisfaction. The reconciliatory posture of Zardari speaks
volumes for acknowledging the claim of the Balochis on ownership of the state. Secondly,
the rueful gesture of Zardari is asserting the fact that it was duty of the centre to assuage
the angst of the provinces instead of compelling the provinces to comply with the dictates of
the centre. In the repentant statement of Zardari, intention of offering provincial autonomy
(as guaranteed by the Constitution of 1973) is veiled. In other words, the constitutional
measures can be employed to appease the Balochis to materialize the concept of
federation. The same are implications of the statement for NWFP where the ANP has got
mandate, among other things, to replace caption of the province with an appropriate and
representative one. A consensus which is emerged out of opinion of people needs to be
respected: a separate identity does not necessarily mean separatism; it is rather unity in
diversity.

If democracy is not considered just a system of government but a way to make people
share ownership of the state, people are upholding their claim of ownership. People are
now awakened; someone says aptly, people are actually boot-awakened.

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