International Democracy Day – Points for Pakistanis to Ponder

 In 2007,  the United Nations General Assembly decided to observe September 15th annually as the “International Day of Democracy” and invited all member states and organizations to commemorate the day in an appropriate manner that contributes to raising public awareness.

The preamble of the resolution affirmed that:

“while democracies share common features, there is no single model of democracy and that democracy does not belong to any country or region…democracy is a universal value based on the freely-expressed will of people to determine their own political, economic, social and cultural systems, and their full participation in all aspects of life.”


Pakistan has aptly tinkered with a number of forms of democracies over its history. Be it a democracy without elections between 1947 to 1954, to democracy run by establishment between 1954 to 1958 wherein heads of government changed faster than bed linen, to the basic democracy structure of Ayub Khan to the parliamentary democracy that came out as result of the dismemberment of Pakistan to the referendum based democracy of Zia ul Haq. Whichever the form of democracy, one pattern has been for sure: a decade for civilians followed by a decade for military and its “holier than thou” democrats. Another sad aspect of democracy of Pakistan is that when military runs the government, we remember Faiz and Jalib with calls for the military to go back to their barracks and when civilians are in power, some of us demand for the military to step in and “save the country”. There is another pattern: our patience runs dry with the military after half a decade while with civilian democracies, it is just months into their allowed half a decade. There is a class of people in Pakistan who just do not want continuation of a system and are devoid of consistency of thought.


As a preamble, let me very honestly say: democracy is the best system and a worst form of democracy is better than the most ideal dictatorship. I am one of those who do not reject one system because who heads it. Personally, I have been a beneficiary of the growth Pakistan saw during General Musharraf’s period but as all good things come to an end, a lack of consistency by the General led to his demise.

Coming to the current democratic period, I see a major difference in the approach of its participants: first and foremost is the tolerance of the government. With the favorite punching bag of Pakistan as its head, you can say whatever you want and however you want, but you are never hit back. Every now and then there are reports that indicate towards the intolerance of the government with stories like “Get CJ operation” and “Plan to assassinate CJ LHC”, but what we see is that there is no truth in such reports and they are made to cause confusion and sensation amongst a certain class of people. Secondly, if one sees, there is a general level of accepting each other. Old foes like PPP and MQM are allied; PPP and ANP are working together; PPP and PML-N who couldn’t stand each other’s presence are somehow living together. Result is that despite of skirmishes every now and then, we see them sticking together and not leaving each other in the lurch. One can call it a marriage of convenience or one can call it political maturity, it’s up to you. Thirdly, we see freedom of speech and freedom of media. This freedom has not been curtailed at any cost, despite the biggest inconveniences and nuisances caused by our nadan friends in the media. The biggest curb on the freedom of media are the terrorists who have killed many journalists in the FATA and Swat area. They have killed photojournalists covering rallies by suicide bombs. But then, their sacrifice is not remembered by many and what people choose to remind public is the “humiliation” of a certain journalist belonging to a certain group!

The best thing about democracy is accountability. Not the accountability of Saif ur Rehman and the generals but that by the public. You don’t work, you are voted out.

Let this principle rule us. Give democracy time to function. Let democracy deliver. Be patient. Don’t let our nadan friends trouble the path of consistency.



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