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Pakistan IS ready for democracy! Some have argued that Pakistan is not yet ready for democracy. the argument goes that we are not fit to govern ourselves, and that only after a period of 'civilization' under the rule of a so-called enlightened despot will we emerge as worthy of political freedoms.

This, I argue, is the oldest trick in the colonial chest. this type of arrogant reasoning was fashionable amongst our former colonial rulers - it's a game as old as empire! It's sad when we Pakistanis start mimicking our erstwhile masters and prescribe the same solution on our fellow citizens.

the problem with Pakistan is not that we're unable to govern ourselves democratically, but rather than we need to empower and respect the existing checks and balances in our system of government, meaning an independent judiciary, supremacy of the constitution, the separation of powers (executive, legislative, judicial), a free press, and a robust civil society - all the elements that Musharraf has been crushing since nov. 3rd under the guise of fighting Islamist extremism.

when I say we, I especially mean the military, which needs to return to the barracks and follow the instructions of civilian rulers.

i realize how much distrust we have of our elected leaders given their past records of corruption and ineptitude, but this does not mean we throw the baby out with bathwater.

Instead, what Pakistan needs are multi-party coalition governments (like India has had) rather than single-party structures so that corruption of the political process can be curbed through mutual regulation and compromise.

if our aim at this historical juncture is to battle rising extremism that threatens the safety of ordinary Pakistanis and the territorial sovereignty of the state, then this needs to be done through representative institutions.

When controversial reform policies are implemented by an elected government it makes them a lot more palatable for the populace because representative institutions allow for citizens' interests to be accommodated in the reform process.

Unlike in Pakistan, where the unaccountable military holds the levers of power, and it's illegitimacy naturally makes people question it's austere measures.

the number one priority of military rulers has always been to enrich and bolster the military establishment, because it has been the main source of their legitimacy, and the only establishment that is able to ensure continuity of their autocratic rule.

Martial law has one internal fault line, that starts to surface the longer military rulers extend their unwelcome stay, and that is that they suffer from a crisis of legitimacy.

This compels them to build alliances to hold onto power. enter the religious establishment. the reason madrasas have flourished and religious parties have been either courted or appeased is because despots suffer from a crisis of legitimacy.

In order to legitimize their undemocratic and authoritarian rule, they either directly enable the religious establishment/parties (Zia, or else refrained from directly attacking it (Musharraf).

The morality police is given free reign as a result. such courting would not be necessary under democratic rule since the vast majority of Pakistanis are moderate. that is why religious parties have never won more than 10 % of the vote in national elections.

I concede that elected governments have also made alliances with the religious establishment, but only when they themselves were suffering similar crises of legitimacy (e.g. as a woman, Benazir needed the religious parties to first give her legitimacy as the first female head of a Muslim state, and later when corruption charges emerged).

In the end, only a representative democracy with built in check and balances and respect for the rule of law can lead to progress and prosperity for all Pakistanis. the alternative is martial law, and increasing discontent, and eventually revolt, precisely what we've been seeing over the past year. democracy
22 Nov 2007 | 431 scheherzade says: Location: Hyderabad  Posts: 17
What you are saying is right but things are very difficult, reasons..
1.Pakisatanis have no unity they are totally divided and i mean divided ,into sindhi,punjabi,pathan,baloch,kashmirir,brahvi,sarieki ,moharjis and all will do each and every thing to put others down.Its a fact!aND Not only this calssification there are various others like upper calss/elite(beauraucrates),middle calss,lower class and this is serious one coz these classes have different requirements and they actually do not understand eachother and so elite cant do any thing for other classes ,they are actually in political business and will do everything to make sure that their children only replace them and no midle or lower worms reach there,U can see they have spolied the education syatem in Pakistan and their own children are studying abroad/.
2.Its very difficult under feudalism to promote education,living standards.etc
3.Army rule-army and their autocratic regimes ............... aaah (sigh)
4.Corrupt politicians. the constitution has been susupended.can any1 imagine that.
All we can do currently is like a drop in ocean,unless we alll stand up.Yes we can govern ourselves coz when country like india having these and much bigger problems are able to govern themselves .Y cant we.
I guess you don't live in Pakistan.And you are unaware of the political turmoil here.
Tke care best of luck
22 Nov 2007 | 435 Muhammad Khan Says:   
The points made by some of our learned colleagues in this topic are good and healthy as good discussion will help us to think out of the box.
Some of us have practical views and some idealistic. To begin with, true Pakistan is facing a kind of dilemma it has never faced before. This time the Generals are more cunning and have outwitted all politicians. But lets look at the message they have put forward. As in the past they have began by giving freedom to the media, starting the accountability process, and making real progress by passing on power to the grass root levels. But then once you begin in this process there is no turning back and you have to be very well mind set as on the way you are bound to meet sycophants, and people who look at you not for what you are but for gaining ground while keeping you in power.

All Praises and Glory is for Allah only, but it seems that we have forgotten this. Musharraf some time ago came on TV and said that why should we have this accountability process which is dealing with cases some as old as 15 years, its better to forgive and forget and reach for an out of court settlement. Then he made an excuse that he could not find people to run the affairs of the country if all the leaders were jailed due to the NABs convictions. So he did away with the NAB, can anyone tell me in which country of the world does a leader who says that Pakistan comes first make decisions to suit his interests to keep himself in power. Then the judiciary where the most important case of the land was to be dealt with got dealt instead, what is the message here we are giving to the general public that only the poor should be prosecuted and if the powerful get tangled with the law then the entire judiciary should be sacked.

This reminds me of a hadith in which a Makhzoomi woman stole and Allahs Messenger (PBUH) wanted to apply the Corpal punishment in her case, amputating her hand. The Koraishites thought otherwise and requested the Messengers (PBUH) most beloved companion Osamah bin Zaid (RA) to intercede with the Prophet (PBUH). Upon listening to Osamah (RA) Allahs Messenger (PBUH) said, Oh Osamah! Are you coming to intercede concerning a corpal punishment set by Allah (Subhan Taala)? Allahs Messenger (PBUH) then stood up as soon as he (PBUH) finished his conversation with Osamah and delivered a speech saying,
The people before you were destroyed due to the fact that when a noble person among them would steal they let him go unpunished, but if a poor, weak or gullible person among them steals they will apply the corpal punishment to him. By Allah! If Fatima (May Allah be pleased with her) the daughter of Muhammad (PBUH) stole (the value where she will be subject to Corpal punishment) I shall cut her hand.

Now keeping this in mind should the leader of this nation set an example of might is right in this nation. True that in the beginning he (Musharraf) showed that he was just, and not like the others but then how can one explain his present state of affairs. Sacking the judiciary because they apart from other allegations by the government they were in the process of trying to find missing people that were languishing in private jails without any charges being brought against them. Tell me my friends especially the ones in Canada and other Western nations if such disappearances occurred wouldnt they be a hue and cry all over the media and pressure on the judiciary to get them (victims) back .

According to law nobody is guilty unless proven in a Court of Law that is also a western practice for if it goes unchecked then the intelligence agencies are playing into the hands of the government and the law enforcement agencies will be like slaves in to the hands of the ruling parties (something of this sort was also practiced during the governments of Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif). Hence the law will not function independently and will be tools of the government on the other hand a check on them will remind them of their duties and that they are answerable to the judiciary for their actions. This is not the dark ages of the West where the witch hunt continues in the name of freedom and democracy.
23 Nov 2007 | 437 Mohammed Khan says: Location: Toronto  Posts: 3
salaam muhammad (from pakistan),

there's nothing you've said in your post that i don't agree with. i'm not religious and don't take the hadiths as my guidance, but i hear what you're saying and totally agree.

dear shehrezade,
i agree with you as well. feudalism, poverty and illiteracy are huge problems, interconnected and mutually re-inforcing, the problem is that many of pakistan's elected leaders are either themselves land holding elites, or are beholden to the interests of entrenched power. india abolished feudalism long ago, we should strive for the same. i'm kashmiri but i think the kashmir issue has been exploited by the army to legitimize and enrich itself. as far as i'm concerned if pakistan somehow miraculously reconquered indian kashmir, this would be a disaster for muslim indians, since they would become even more of a minority in india. we should just move on, the line of control is the defacto border and it should remain so. it would make alot more sense to invest more of that defense budget into education and health for the poor so that their prospects can improve, and developing modern infrastructure in less developed parts of pakistan, so that the economy can flourish.
but i respectfully disagree with you about ethnic divisions. i think these divisions are exploited by self-serving ethnic leaders who only want to boost their own power, these are not congenital differences that cannot be overcome through effective governance structures that alot equitable representation in the national legislature to all provinces/ethnic/linguistic groups, and share national resources using a more equitable formula. most non-punjabis will know what i'm talking about here.

muhammad, i wrote this article for my student newspaper here in toronto shortly after the november 3rd emergency, you'll notice we agree on lot of things:

In Defense of Pakistan's Independent Judiciary

The pretext for the recent declaration of a state of emergency by Pakistani President/General Pervez Musharraf was curbing lawlessness and violence by Islamist militants. Astute observers, however, will recognize that the real target of Musharraf's emergency measures is Pakistan's independent judiciary.

It is heartening that Western governments have at least mildly rebuked the General and called on him to hasten the return to democracy, and relinquish his role as Army Chief. Yet at the end of the day, no Western government is explicitly calling for the reinstatement of the sacked judges of the Pakistani Supreme Court, including the Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry, who remain under house arrest. It is only the lawyers and judges of Pakistan that have forcefully put forward this demand.

It is important to examine why this is the case. Who benefits from this arrangement? Why should we care? To be sure, Pakistan's independent minded judiciary, with its increasingly brazen Chief Justice, has been a thorn in the government's side.

Let's take a moment to chronicle their alleged misdemeanours.

Strike 1: Standing up for public accountability. In 2007, the Supreme Court ruled against the government in the case of the controversial sale of the state-owned Pakistan Steel Mills to a business group with links to the current Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz.

Indeed, it is common knowledge that Pakistani politicians have and continue to use their positions in a questionable manner when it comes to the privatization of state enterprises and in the public procurement process. By contrast, Pakistan's judiciary in recent years has served as a major institutional bulwark against rampant corruption amongst public officials. The generally weak public oversight is part of the reason why Transparency International has consistently listed Pakistan high on its Global Corruption Index.

Incidentally, many suspect that former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto and her husband, Asif Zardari, also made hefty commissions off government contracts and tenders during their terms in office. Mr. Zardari's is more commonly known in Pakistan as "Mr. Ten Percent," a reference to the 10% commission he is alleged to have extorted from various businesses during his time in the Pakistan People's Party government.

Court cases initiated by the Pakistani government against Mr. Zardari are still pending in the United Kingdom. Criminal investigations are ongoing in Poland, France and the Middle East. But a conviction has already been rendered against the couple on money laundering charges in Switzerland. Were it not for the amnesty granted her by Musharraf as part of the power-sharing deal brokered by the Anglo-American alliance, Ms. Bhutto would herself be before the Pakistani courts facing corruption charges, or rather in "exile" in Dubai. Given that a legal challenge of this grant of amnesty was forthcoming, it is no wonder that Ms. Bhutto has been relatively silent on the question of reinstating the fired judges, compared with her amplified calls for the return to democracy. If re-elected, Ms. Bhutto stands to once again benefit handsomely from the weak public oversight that comes with a compliant judiciary.

Strike 2: Standing up for the principle of habeas corpus. Since his reinstatement in July, Justice Chaudhry has called on the Director-General of Pakistans Federal Investigation Agency, Tariq Pervez, to produce before the court ghost detainee Hafiz Abdul Basit. When Mr. Pervez alleged that Mr. Basit went off to fight jihad in Afghanistan, Justice Chaudhry threatened to throw him in jail if the detainee was not produced immediately. Mr. Basit is just one of hundreds of such ghost detainees.

Needless to say, this exercise was embarrassing for the government. No wonder Musharraf told foreign ambassadors following the declaration of emergency that he had no choice but to take decisive steps against a court system that limited his powers and "paralyzed various organs of the state and created impediments in the fight against terrorism."

Yet balancing the competing interests of security and human rights is precisely the role of the courts, especially when law enforcement and intelligence agencies run afoul of constitutional protections.

Strike 3: Standing up for the separation of powers. The straw that broke the camel's back was the Supreme Court's review of the legality of President Musharraf's recent re-election while still holding onto his uniform as head of Pakistan's Armed Forces. Many insiders suspected that the outcome of this review was going to be unfavourable for Musharraf, hence the timing of the emergency declaration and the unwarranted charge of judicial activism.

Justice Chaudhry's more recent call on the Pakistani lawyers and judges to oppose the police and defy the declaration of emergency rule might be characterized as overstepping the bounds of judicial restraint. But, given the circumstances of his firing and arrest, he may be forgiven.

The reality is that Musharraf is unwilling to relinquish power. And if this means orchestrating an emergency in order to re-stack the judiciary in his favour, so be it. To hell with lofty concepts such as constitutional supremacy or the rule of law!

Now just imagine if Prime Minister Harper had demanded that the judges of our Supreme Court take an oath of allegiance to him as a condition of their appointment, as President Musharraf has just done with the remaining four Pakistani Supreme Court justices, after dismissing the seven non-compliant ones. We would be up in arms, and rightly so.

In the end, it is a virtual certainty that the new hand picked Supreme Court bench will rubber stamp Musharraf's recent re-election. The General has indicated that once his re-election is confirmed, he intends to remove his uniform.

In times like these, one doesn't know whether to laugh or cry. What we can say with confidence is that in the absence of an independent judiciary to hear cases of illegal interference with the election process, the credibility of the January elections will be questionable. That is assuming the elections are not postponed under yet another fabricated pretext.

mohammed (from canada)
02 Jan 2008 | 475 Riaz Haq says: Location: California, USA  Posts: 10
As a general rule, the transition from a feudal/tribal society to an industrial society has been a pre-requisite for democracy. The only obvious exception to this rule has been our neighbor India.
There are many reasons offered by different scholars for the Indian exception. The latest one can be read in a recent book titled "India after Gandhi" by Ramanchandra Guha who calls India an "an unnatural country and an unlikely democracy". My own explanation of the Indian exception is a follows: 1. The sheer size and diversity of India make it impossible to be governed by any military. Democracy is, therefore, the only option. 1. The real and extensive land reform carried out by Nehru right after independence broke the back of the feudal system there allowing the vast majority of Indians to vote their free will and choose democracy.
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