Army and democracy in Pakistan
January 3, 2010 § 9 Comments
Lately there have been ripples through my social circle over a recent blog post I wrote, also RSS-fed at my facebook profile. The post in question was about Kerry-Lugar Bill and the reaction that ensued primarily consisted upon telling me how ‘unpatriotic‘ I was and more interestingly, how dispassionately I rejected army’s role as the savior of this nation for the past decades. I confess to the crime and hence, am guilty of charge.
However, allow me a quick traversal of the available facts and my contentions to the cited arguments about the army/democracy issue. The actual point that was made, not by a single or two but many of my friends, which is indeed unfortunate, was that democracy is a system quite unfit for a country like Pakistan and that army is the right choice for running the affairs of this state. Startling as it may seem upon the surface, even startling was the way this proposition was supported. It was said that over the years, democratic governments had totally failed the nation and every time, army was made to intervene. And that it had to, to save this country from falling into pieces. Random citations were quoted of the economic indexes during army take-overs to prove the point, though never with a verifiable source of course.
I must say all this did intrigue me. And hence this article. I’ve been reading through the lines about the way people treat the notion of democracy and how casually they can go on to denounce its validity for Pakistan without pausing for a moment and looking to the finer details of its implications here. To most, the failure of a term or two of the elected governments means the failure of democracy and an obvious switching of choice to army Generals. However, faulty as this perception may be, it’s all the more dangerous considering our youth is still ready to chance dictatorship against democracy, albeit, I admit, a partial and highly imperfect one.
To all such fellas, I’d first want to represent a vivid notion of what really democracy is. No nations are blessed with one hundred percent honest politicians and none have a system without corrupt ones. It’s an amalgam of the very two everywhere. And no country achieves the perfect model of democracy from day 1 either. It may take a term or two or many terms of elected governments after which a suitable democracy may procure. But how exactly this works? That’s quite simple. People elect a government and if it’s unable to satisfy the wants of the masses, they switch their choices and votes in the next polling. The government changes and people are able to test multiple candidates upon the honor of their words. It’s only after many continuous elections that the masses may be able to realize which party precisely may be ‘the party’ for them.
It may be termed the evolution of democracy in a country. Along the course of this system, people learn to make the right choices, the politicians learn to make the right decisions and government witnesses honest politicians dedicated to accomplish things.
However, when the very process is disrupted mid-way on the pretext of faulty apparatus installed as corrupt parliamentarians or an imperfect functioning of the elected government, all goes back to point zero. Usually, the new system installed as an alternative to democracy then attracts all the hatred of the lot and people tend to forgive the mid-way disrupted government’s mistakes. And that’s precisely what has been happening with Pakistan. Throughout the history of more than sixty years, democracy hasn’t been allowed to take its due course for even a consecutive ten years. Every time, army intervenes through one excuse or another, attempting every time to cash into the government’s wrong decisions by buying itself another term into politics. Letting aside the disastrous implications it has on the army itself, it comes as a major blow for the democratic system which then relapses to point zero.
And in our national history, we have witnessed many point zeros and many relapses. Times and again, army has pushed us back on the starting point claiming the inevitability of its intervention and the importance of its presence for the national security. All false and hogwash! Even the exalted stature accorded to army is based, mostly, upon the false tales of its victory. I won’t talk of the accounts of its valor but victory…seriously! There’s been none and we’ve been beaten up by our neighbor upon our nasty maneuvers along the borders in the past, so much for our ‘passions for jihad’, always a prologue for a wrong policy or a false decision. Deaths are easy to cover up when wrapped in the veil of valorous martyrdom, you know.
Talking of army’s rule, one is also instantly reminded of the brutalities deployed in 1971, the severe violations of human rights in East Pakistan at the hands of our ‘jawans’ and the extra-judicial killings and kidnappings in the very recent reign of our dear Mr. Musharraf. I left the mention of Zia intentionally for his ten years ask for an entire other article and of course, an article would it be soon enough, for that duly befits the dictator’s extraordinary moves during his time.
What’s more, our army has been the active incubator for breeding the many jihadi militant organizations of the yester-years, thanks to its own overt religious under-tones. In fact, it’s our army indeed that created the Taliban brathers to fight off the infidel kafirs in the neighborhood land of pure. Unfortunately, through certain twists of time and policy shifts, the ‘original Islam’ ruled Taliban out in the contemporary world and army too declared them gone-mad terrorists who ought to be gunned down. And hence the trouble we have been in of late.
A well-used tactic in creating a better image for the past military interventions has been the ‘we needed to take control of affairs at an emergency basis or Pakistan would’ve been in danger’ argument. A friend did cite that to me to justify her claim of army’s being the best choice for Pakistan. However, there haven’t been any such situations in our history where army became the inevitable force needed at the helm of affairs. Army is always the last and the least desired choice and when it does take over, all democratic institutions move into hibernation for all the years it remains in command. And when it finally makes it back to the barracks, they have to start anew. That’s precisely the reason we are still a long way from a fine model of democracy. Yet, I’d say there is hope of goal in this journey towards a better democracy and when people tell me they’re tired of it mid-way, it is very disappointing!