After democracy

Daily: Pakistan Observer
Date: 19.11.08

After the long-awaited democracy should visit serenity and quietude to Pakistan, but this is
not the case – unfortunately. Restiveness and edginess are around making the people
conjecture what is going to happen next. The feelings of insecurity are permeating through
the country. The currently experienced economic crunch may be one symptom of that
anxiety.

The vote cast on February 18, 2008, was necessarily for a change. The people demanded
change that was why they came out to vote out the pseudo-democratic regime burgeoning
under the tutelage of General Pervaiz Musharraf. But then where is the change? Instead,
everywhere is the stink of the status quo – an effort to preserve the acts of Musharraf –
then why did the political parties (comprising the present government) fool the people?

Can the incumbent government reckon the price of practising the status quo? Protecting
the acts of a dictatorial regime is tantamount to be in league with that regime. It may be an
option for the incumbent government led by the PPP to take advantage of the situation –
like the presence of the presidential powers bequeathed by the 17th Constitutional
Amendment – and forward its own agenda, but for how long? One day every government –
be it a near-national government, a hotchpotch of several political parties, like the current
one – has to vacate the treasury benches and consult the voters about their conclusion. It
seems that the incumbent government led by the PPP is more than confident of the loyalty
of its voters: the Jiyalas. But can the loyalty factor override the electoral aspirations, to
undo the dictatorial acts, is still a big question remains unanswered. A party which was a
proponent of anti-dictatorial endeavours would submit to the Nov-3 (2007) brazen,
dictatorial acts of a dictator, Musharraf, had never been imagined.

Why are the political parties which are in the folds of the government observing silence on
the Nov-3 judiciary-specific martial law of Musharraf is still a million dollar question? Will the
Pakistanis be able to find the answer to the question in the five year term of the incumbent
government is yet another question, an annexe to the previous question? Have the ruling
parties forgotten that one day they will have to go to the people for seeking their votes? Are
the ruling parties sure that they will perform and deliver on every front to make the people
forget the deposed judges’ issue, to say the least?

Looking from the other angle, it seems that the incumbent government is banking on the
loyalty factor of the party voters – unnecessarily and unduly – to discount all the frailties
coming in the due course. Further, it seems that the incumbent government is certain –
consider, cocksure – of its performance in the end to stir up the voters in general into re-
electing it (the PPP and its allies) for another full term. The peddlers of such beliefs – one
may call them fallacies – are overlooking the fact that there are at least four political parties
endeavouring for restoration of the judges deposed (or rendered afunctional) on Nov-3.
These four political parties, which are now in the opposition (whether inside the parliament
or outside of it), have also been raising voice to unhook the dictatorial acts of the dictator,
Musharraf. So, the things still hang in the balance to be swayed in the favour of the
coalition on either side of the divide.

The incumbent government has, no doubt, outsmarted the four political parties by engaging
most of the deposed judges into re-employment. In this way, not only the re-employed
judges but also the government has acknowledged the validity of the Nov-3 acts of
Musharraf. Such a big compromise would have never been expected by any democratic
dispensation. The compromise is a display of an extension of the policies being practised
before February 18, 2008. The conciliation so observed also means that the ‘vote for
change’ has been consigned to the dustbin of the history. But is this the end of the story?
Certainly not! Nevertheless, the step is tantamount to severing the will of the people for
independence of the judiciary.

In the history, five years are a short period, but in the memory time-frame of the people, the
situation is the other way round: the memory of the people (say, voters) is never short-
lived. Reputation of a political party (or a coalition of the parties, for that matter) once
tarnished may not get unblemished. What is counted is the pre-election resolve of a
political party and its post-election performance to execute the promised resolve. Once it is
decipherable that a party has lost the expected sense of direction and has been
dishonouring the pledges and violating the principles, the people become oblivious of the
party and start looking for other options. Some still argue that in such a bleak scenario the
government in general and the PPP in particular may experience a revolt from within. In the
post-dictatorial euphoria, a revolt may not be palpable quite early but with the passage of
time the crevices may start getting conspicuous. Deployment of a big regiment of the
ministers in Islamabad may be an attempt to circumvent the cracks before they are
noticeable – and exploitable.

One of the aims of the ‘change through vote’ was to materialize the dream of transition –
rejecting the option of transformation. In the post-election scenario, however, it is becoming
obvious that the process of transition towards democracy is still continuing with, perhaps,
no end in sight.

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