No democracy was built in a day. It takes generations to develop a democratic polity. And democratic behaviour and way of thinking takes even longer; may be many generations. The good news is that the information and knowledge revolutions of the last few decades have hastened the process.
Thus to my journalist and civil society friends I say that we should be patient with democracy and not push PPP and PML (N) into confrontation even before they have settled in. We have been pretty impatient in the past with each elected government and killing democratic dispensation in infancy. We blame democracy for being noisy, wetting the bed and giving us sleepless nights. Please study how various democracies, we idealise, have been nurtured patiently to have a right perspective.
People of Pakistan have voted against President Musharraf’s government. It would be deceiving oneself if we say that the vote is against the group of politicians who labeled themselves as PML-Q. So it cannot be said that the vote is against Shaukat Aziz and Shujaat Hussain. They were just serving the one-man rule. Although under the constitution we are supposed to be a parliamentary system, it was run as a presidential system. The prime ministers who served us in the last eight years were just de-jure chief executives of the country and not de-facto. This reality was accepted by the world and hence they always emphasized on calling it and treating it as President Musharraf’s government. His strength was not the public support or vote, but backing by the military. No major decision was taken by the parliament in the last eight years, they just rubber stamped whatever had the blessing of the President.
Now the recent polls have shown that the people of Pakistan want a change. Before Barack Obama ‘change’ in US (if he makes it to the presidency) people here have voted for a change. They want a government with a sovereign parliament and a real chief executive just as envisaged in the Constitution of Pakistan. There is growing realisation in the political and opinion-makers of Pakistan that most of the political problems can be solved if the 1973 constitution is followed. Of course minus those amendments which the dictators have injected to justify there unconstitutional rule or which gives them undeterred powers.
But strangely the US government is reading this writing on the wall. According to various reports in the media they are still trying to push the newly elected PPP and PML (N) leadership to share the power with President Musharraf. Yes the reality of last 8 years was that the President was all powerful mainly by virtue of being the Chief of Army Staff and he had managed to bring in a kings party in the government through 2002 one-sided elections.
What the US administration is not realising is that the ground situation has changed thanks to the sensible voting by the people. First the lawyers and people’s movement forced the general to leave the army, which was his power base. Then they have voted his supporters out of the new parliament. Agreed that some credit should also be given to the US and other Western countries for pushing General Musharraf to shed his uniform and hold elections.
US wished that Pakistan should elect the moderate and liberal forces. The whole purpose of this policy was to gain people’s support for war against extremists, which was missing in the previous set up. Their wish has come true. It seems that they are now apprehensive that the elected government may not carry on their war against Taliban and Al-Qaeda with the same vigour as was done by President Musharraf. Repeated statements by the US administration that they want to work with Musharraf and that he has a role to play show they are getting jittery.
What the US administration fails to appreciate that had the people of Pakistan not realised that terrorism and Talibanisation are national problems, they would not have voted for parties left of centre. True PML (N) does not fall in this league, but it is also clear that terrorism was one of the most important problems of the country. It is our national agenda, so please lay off and let the people of Pakistan manage it their way. Any elected government will have to find a political solution to the problem while keeping the military pressure on the Taliban and their allies in Pakistan. There are no two ways, as we need to carry our people’s support in this war. The US support should be in line what we want and should not be forced down our throat. US should also understand the fact that any popularly elected government would also like to snatch back its legitimate share in power from the President and limit him to his due position. By meddling too much in our domestic affairs they are further raising people’s aversion against them and thus damaging the long term US interest in Pakistan. To win people’s heart and soul you have to be a friend not master. (firstname.lastname@example.org)