Prospects of Democracy in Pakistan – by Naveed Ali

It is strange how the word ‘revolution’ is used by everyone interested in politics or involved in politics, no matter what their ideological inclination is. Everyone simply wants a revolution; perhaps what they mean by revolution is their own rise to power, if you are in opposition you want a revolution to be in government, if you are nowhere in elected constituent assemblies, you want a revolution to be in government, if you are not a democrat but a totalitarian, you still need a revolution to destroy democratic rights of people and if you are in government but do not feel safe you need a revolution to get rid of establishment.

It is an absolute misinterpretation of the term and the history, and it is a mere illustration of naivety and ignorance as well as a lack of political and social discern. Can we ask all such perceived, self acclaimed and ambitious revolutionaries to go back to the books again? And while they are reading the books, can they stop distorting mass opinion and intellect (which is the real target of all such attempts, for masses are the real hurdle in any one’s aim to absolute power)?


Recent events in Middle East and North Africa should also be analysed in correct rationale, these are the movements to attain right of people for self determination and democracy and they were very well organised movements both in Egypt and Tunisia; clear, objective oriented, secular and democratic without any hidden agenda or personal ambitions of few, still it would be a misunderstanding to assume if these movements were aimed to replace the existing social order. Another misunderstanding is that these movements are instantaneous. Although there were factors acting as trigger or impulse behind the mass mobilisation such as rising inflation, unemployment or corruption which resulted in popular support for the movement, but underneath was a long struggle, a long struggle of masses and at the core of it workers and labour associations. It is obvious that the manoeuvring and discipline witnessed in these movements was not possible without planning and relations which cannot be build overnight. Another highly remarkable aspect of these movements was involvement of urban middle class specially the youth; they all go hand in hand, workers (white and blue collar), farmers, students, unions and other pressure groups.

Similar is the situation in Bahrain; this country has a history of peoples struggle to achieve democratic rights, from National Union Committee to Islamic Front, definitely the most important country in Gulf with respect to political struggle. Bahrainis are struggling to gain political freedom and democracy since they were under British, and their struggle continued when Bahrain declared independence in 1973, Bahrain has witnessed political ups and downs, twists and turns and its people continue struggle to achieve their rights. For many in Gulf, Bahrain can be a role model of struggle against totalitarian, dictatorships and monarchies.

Presented above, is a very brief description of recent mass political movements, it is fair to compare them with present situation in Pakistan and analyse if a similar movement is possible in Pakistan. We have similarities, like corruption, inflation, unemployment all are raising in Pakistan and people of Pakistan are still looking to gain their democratic rights and equality despite the fact they have an elected government but a very weak democratic culture and no continuity with challenges such as feudal class domination, involvement of Army and Bureaucracy in governance (which leads to dictatorship and martial laws), rising influence of far right totalitarian ideologies. Hence elimination of the elements must be the objective of any such movement. What is lacking however as the necessary ingredient is presence of a collaborative and organised political entity which must also be very clear in its objectives and goals.  As we have seen in above three cases, this political entity must be a collaboration of different political parties, pressure groups, unions and labour syndicates, farmers, students and other elements in society.  A demand for equality and democracy cannot be fulfilled without constitutional guarantees and guidelines; hence role of elected constituent assemblies and judiciary is very important and must be carefully crafted so that they can complement each other to safeguard rights of people.

At present political scene in Pakistan is very deteriorating, if one simply believes in our free media. Factors such as dominance of feudal and privileged class and corruption have corroded the structure to an extent that people do not have any trust on political parties which goes to the benefit of establishment.   Farmers or those who belong to agriculture as mean of living (and majority of the population), are forced to find means to survive let alone any chances of growth. Labour Unions are struggling to survive, and labour class is under stress with weak labour laws, low wages and no securities. Educated and urban middle class is disoriented and largely under influence of far right beneficiaries of present situation, what remains of them is very sceptical on ability of political leadership and parties to bring any change in status (hence what is called the’ fake’ civil society in these pages), students have no rights to form unions (which promotes violence, no civic interest, and lack of awareness on real national challenges). In this situation political parties at large are inefficient and filled with self serving interest groups (and personalities) even if they have popular support.

So in Pakistan, there are more grass root issues for a sincere political leadership. They have to develop the culture and people which can contribute for an organised mass movement for democracy against establishment; they have to fight against feudal privileges and authority; they have to bring a democratic culture in their own cadre and a revolution beyond personal gains which demands sacrifices, they will be required to create mass contacts and organisation into different elements of society, they have to bring together majority of population which is largely rural. Any such leadership will find institutions and platforms already in place such as farmers and labour unions, student parties, pressure groups and other society organisations. And we have also witnessed, in this country a leadership which can shed its blood but does not leave or turn its back.  If they are able to do so, they will be rewarded with a populace support and a civil society (which will no longer be ‘fake’).



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