Has democracy failed in Pakistan?
Magnitude of problems faced by Pakistan is gigantic. The present success and failure of an elected should be analysed in that perspective. It is through this analysis that one can reach an unbiased conclusion whether the present government should be changed or not. The process of change has to be however within the normal constitutional framework and not outside as demanded by MQM or a section of the media.
Positive news is that it seems after many mistakes the political parties have matured at least by one notch. Unlike the 90s they are not inviting the Khakis to change the government. Even recent statement of Nawaz Sharif is clear that if a change has to happen it has to be within the parameters provided in the constitution. MQM is isolated in the parliament by pleading the “patriotic generals” to step forward for supporting a revolution. History has now shown that all revolutions led by the army in the world ultimately degenerated into dictatorship and are anti-people.
I would even urge the honourable judges of the Supreme Court not to fall in the trap of those who want to bring the army at the courts request. Such move would be counter-productive for the judiciary and its supporters who worked hard to bring military government down but not without the support of the political parties. Those who want to give the sole credit of bringing down Musharraf government to the restoration of sacked judiciary are only misreading the history and distorting the political process which the country went through.
When this government came into power in 2008 it was evident that what lays ahead is a rough ride. That they will have to face political, economic, internal security and foreign policy challenges of no ordinary nature. And more recently as if other major challenges were not enough the history’s worst floods has exposed the government to all the just and unjust criticism. .
Before I move to analyse the mistakes and achievements of the democratic forces in the country that includes the government a disclaimers is necessary: No government and democratic process delivers 100%. The beauty of the system is that they are criticised and exposed for their mistakes and shortcomings till the next elections. There is no short cut in the evolution of democratic systems, as desired by some impatient politicians and journalists.
Let’s now analyse the challenges faced by the government and other elected parties when they landed in Islamabad and how they have faired so far. First political challenge before the political parties was to accept the election results or to reject it as rigged. The parties by and large accepted the results in true democratic spirit.
Second challenge was how to cobble a coalition to the satisfaction of all the partners. The good sign is that Benazir’s reconciliation ideology helped in building a government. It was the right approach set by Ms Bhutto, who had the vision and sagacity to understand Pakistan’s serious internal and external problems. This is no time for one party to take a heavy burden of solving the problems single-handedly.
Third challenge was how to get President Musharraf out. The democratic forces led by the government tactfully got him out without creating any major commotion in the country.
Fourth challenge was how to handle the issue of restoring the judiciary to its rightful place. Independent judiciary is one of the three pillars of the state. Though belatedly, and after some pressure from the opposition, the judiciary was restored. PPP dragged it for its own ulterior motives as it was afraid of the Chief Justice. Subsequent developments proved that they were taken to task by the newly independent judiciary.
Fifth challenge was how to manage the economic difficulties such as high food items inflation and energy crisis. So far they have failed to meet this challenge even half way. But again the government’s advocates may say that just when the economy had started to stabilise and 4% growth rate was in sight, the floods washed away all the gains. As far as the energy shortage is concerned it is mainly mismanagement by the government, which failed to remove the bureaucratic red tapism and control the losses which result in circular debt.
Sixth challenge was regarding the most serious issue of internal security which is directly related with our foreign policy also. Here all important decisions are made by the GHQ. Historically all important foreign policy issues related to India, Afghanistan, Iran and the USA are decided by the GHQ. Political government did try to claim its rightful place, but we have seen that they were hounded to concede this right to the establishment. As our establishment is not willing to accept that the policies followed by them since early 50s were wrong, there can be no rethinking and corrections of the mistakes. For this leading political parties are on the same page and want to have fresh approach to our national security policy. But they are helpless because this domain is no go area for them.
Seventh challenge was establishing the writ of the government in the terrorists’ infested areas in the North. Swat and South Wazirstan operations have been successful. Khaki co-evolutionists may say this was done by the army. Yes they led from the front many soldiers lost their lives. But then many politicians and journalists also lost their lives. And the operation was given full political support by the democratic forces and financial backing by the government.
Eighth challenge was amending the constitution and drawing consensus on the division of power and economic resources between the federation and the provinces. The democratic government came out with flying colour on this, although the military government had failed in this regard.
Lastly, the latest challenge is to rehabilitate the people affected by the floods and reconstruct. This is a colossal job. I think for this all the democratic forces should first decide that this is not the time to squabble about the change. This is the time where entire nation to work hard, honestly and with only one focus — rehabilitate the 20 million affected people. All moves to destablise the democratic process at this stage would only add to the misery of the people. The government’s focus would be diverted to saving itself instead of saving the flood victims. The transition to the new government, even if it comes through constitutional means, would slow down the rehabilitation process. Something the people cannot afford. But this does not mean that the government should have a license to continue making petty mistakes of cronyism and allow corruption. If the government can gear up and perform even to 50% of the people’s expectations it would not need to worry about its media image as it did in last meeting.