Saturday January 28, 2023

A beleaguered democracy

May 05, 2017

It is sadly true that Pakistan is a country where the concept of democracy is not only practised but also brazenly defied at the same time. It has become a place where democrats of all hues are proudly insulted for defending democratic dispensations.

The overwhelming reason and logic behind criticising democracy is that the politicians are indescribably corrupt, dishonest and inefficient. This premise is itself quite erroneous because corruption and inefficiency should never be a reason for not believing in democracy. Those who are too ready to highlight the weaknesses of electoral democracy should be mindful of the fact that dictatorial regimes have always been more corrupt and least accountable.

It is ironic that even after seven odd decades we are still grappling with the structural issues of a functional democracy which is dispensed through a constitutionally-backed civilian supremacy. We have been wrong enough to assume that we have come of age and the shoddy past has faded away in the pages of history.

Even today, we are shying away from respecting and practising constitutional democracy. This is precisely what we witnessed a few days back when a tweet from ISPR’s official Twitter handle subjected an elected prime minister to a public snub regarding the infamous Dawn leaks issue. This is not to suggest that either of the offices is infallible. But the mode, behaviour and language adopted was exceedingly distasteful.

It is not a secret that the military does not trust the civilian governments on the matters related to national security. Civilian leaders are generally considered to be dishonest and disloyal to the country who neither have the requisite knowledge nor the capability to take strategic decisions in the national interest. But most of the monumental strategic disasters in the history of Pakistan have been carried out by dictatorial regimes.

This includes sitting in the US’s lap through Seato and Cento, renting ourselves in a foreign-funded jihad in Afghanistan to the radicalisation of the social behaviour in General Zia’s time and providing air bases to the Americans without any questions asked. These are some out of many historical examples that can be given. So the mere fact of viewing political leaders as security risks does not bode well all the time.

Be that as it may, the political elite are rightly criticised for being too conceited and self-serving. They are too busy protecting their petty interests and are far from being accountable to the electorate. It is about time that the political elite realise that they can only earn respect through good governance. However, even if they don’t govern well they are elected for five years and should be overthrown by vote only.

An elected prime minister, whoever he or she is, has all the executive authority to take decisions in the national interest. An elected prime minister should not only be backed by the constitutionally-protected doctrine of civilian supremacy in theory but also implemented in practice. Any elected prime minister should not be considered less loyal to the country in comparison to those in uniform.

The state of democracy will remain beleaguered in Pakistan unless all the stakeholders – which include the executive, the military and the media – respect the notion of civilian supremacy. The unpleasant exchanges will continue to take place unless the historical thought, memory and mindset change on all sides. It is unfortunate that many don’t see it happening in the years to come.


The writer works for Geo News.

Email: muneebfarooqraja@