Democracy is a system of government in which the people of a country or province choose their own rulers who govern according to their own rulers who govern according to their wishes It is a highly complex form of political system. Democracy is not only a concept; it’s a culture, a code and a way of life.
The ancient Greeks were the first to create a democracy. The first known democracy in the world was in Athens, developed around the fifth century B.C.E. The Greek idea of democracy was different from present-day democracy because, in Athens, all adult citizens were required to take an active part in the government, which was called Direct democracy or pure democracy, in which the electorate decides on policy initiatives without elected representatives as proxies. The Greek system of direct democracy have paved the way for representative democracies across the globe. However, with passage of time, the subject of democracy has become the most confused and confusing system of governance, with substance, concept with practice and illusion with reality.
A democratic system believes power resides in the people who delegate it to their representatives as a trust so that it can be exercised on their behalf. This is self-governance based on constitutional framework, the process of free and fair elections and an institutional structure including parliament, the judiciary and media.
The substance of democracy consists of policies executed through institutions that enjoy autonomy and integrity, supported by strong rule of law, and a just social order. The policies must be beneficial to the people but Democracy in Practice falls short of the concept everywhere including in America and the west but a country may qualify as a democracy if it meets some minimum criteria of political system based on democracy.
Political parties are Pre requisites for democracy. it is not possible to imagine democracy without active political parties, unions, interest organizations, civil society organizations, media, and an active, civilized debate about change in everyday life. Certain fundamentals for democracy are a pre-requisite, which include freedom of expression, association and fundamental rights, free fair and regular elections, competitive party system, rule of law and presence of effective civil society.
True democracy means a system wherein wealth and opportunities would be distributed; where basic human rights of peace, health and education would be equal for all; where rule of law would apply same to everyone — inter-group, inter-society and inter-nationally, so that humanity can be in peace.
Another essential for democracy is about the people having influence over their own lives and it is about having a say about future development of the land. Democracy is about seeking a common foundation and finding ways ahead that are good for all. It is about taking from the rich through taxation and other systems; it is about the rich sharing with the poor, the majority who did not inherit wealth, land, money and opportunities
Democracy is also about choosing and regulating an economic system that creates growth and development, and looks after all citizens. It is considered as the most progressive method of governance, since it recognizes the right of every individual for freedom of thought and speech.
At the same time, democracy is also a very civilized process, as it recognizes that liberty of individual cannot be unlimited and it need not be considered entirely as personal affair and has to be subjected to social responsibility. Democracy is about trust, participation, and inclusion. It is about building a fair system of giving and receiving.
The Foundation of democracy is well defined by John Freidman, in his column carried on February 2, 2022 by the newspaper, The New York Times, “truth and trust provide the foundation on which democracy rests.
History of the developed and developing nations tell that , Democracy is preferable to all other systems of government known to human history. Though Democracy is not a perfect order or an ideal form of governance as described by western political philosophers particularly Plato, Aristotle and Thomas Hobbs but It is the least corrupt system available as an alternate to governance and people’s rule in human societies. Rectification to adopt a perfect democratic system is on the way since 1669 in United Kingdom, America since 1788, and Japan since 1868 and other young democracies around the world, particularly the emergence of nation states after the Second World War. Yet the issues continue to exist and people are striving hard to resolve them. Parliament is ‘supreme’ yet it is not perfect and flawless. Laws are introduced but many of them also backfire and invite crises.
Democracy is essential for Pakistan because with regional, linguistic and cultural plurality and strong local identities seeking self-realisation, it is a necessity not a choice for the sake of national unity, political stability and economic development. But there are multiple impediments to democracy in Pakistan. The first and the foremost is the ideological bases of the country, which misplaced focus on faith has fostered extremism and hindered openness and tolerance contrary to the essence of democratic system of governance. Further Feudal dominance has hindered modern education, gender equality, women’s rights and socioeconomic emancipation, openness to modern ideas and a competitive political process. The military’s pre-eminence has led to the dominance of security over development and has challenged the civilian supremacy. This imbalance in civil military relationship is hardly a life-supporting environment for democracy in the country has undermined the political process, contributing to its crisis of governance, the country.
In fact, without, peace, harmony, Justice and fair play across the country there will be no democracy. Lack of harmony and peace due to discord, dissonance and ethnic and sectarian prejudices or extremism distorts democracy.” Dissent is the extreme part of democracy but it is suppressed by all means particularly in selective areas in the country. Pakistani democracy is often seen as a “ Charade” but in fact, military enjoys a virtual monopoly over foreign and economic policy, and the country’s parliament has become only a debating club. It has been converted into a mere patronage scheme, which preserves family fortunes of their members.
Due to deep penetration of mafias in state institutions, political parties and bureaucracy, has also degraded the democratic credentials of the country. The absence of a vibrant and strong civil society and people’s silence is probably the primary cause that allows governments to adopt policies unfriendly to masses.
F s ijazuddin a learned columnist has rightly described the situation. “ Our politicians have neither the skill nor the will to make democracy work. They suffer from a condition known as legislative amnesia. They have forgotten why they were elected. They forget what laws have been passed, what laws need to be passed and which overdue laws require modernisation. They prefer to chew on platitudes and are content to subcontract legislative business to the expediency of presidential ordinances.
The practice of Democratic politics in Pakistan has become the name of stealing from the people in billions and politically laundering this loot through spending on the people in millions. The robbed are grateful and the robbers are delighted.
When democratic traditions do not seep into institutions like the legislature, executive, and judiciary, resultantly the electoral democracy degenerates into a plutocracy where people get marginalized. Without inclusive and pluralistic governance with real political power devolved down to the local government level, the democratic project yields nothing but politics of patronage and pelf in the service of a predatory elite take place. Pakistani democracy has not yet graduated to that level as the politicians and other main stakeholders, equate their personal interests with the interests of the country and even the State.
What we need is a deeper debate on democracy, Democratic norms and values, political dominance of the people over assets, lands and institutions – not the other way around. If the people are sovereign, no institution can dictate the parliament, no judiciary can meddle in the affairs of government.
What makes democracy the most sought-after political project today for Pakistan is well described by the US former president Abraham Lincoln, “democracy is another name for the public’s government”. Genuine democracy is characterised by minimum inclusion, egalitarianism, active participation, citizen-centric policies, fair, free, and frequent elections, freedom of expression, and equal choice. Unlike authoritative forms of governance where ultimate decision-making lies with the despotic, exclusivist ruling elites club or oligarchs. Contrary to that, democracy provides an inclusive framework built upon the representations of citizens. It enables every member of society to have their say and bring changes that serve the masses in the best possible manner.
On its 75th anniversary, Pakistan faces a set of looming catastrophes at home in the shape of worst political turmoil coupled with economic devastation, derision and isolation abroad. Corrupt civilian leadership, continuing military interference and intervention, and judicial pandering to the power politics have been among the cast of characters responsible for setbacks to democracy and miseries of the general public.
Pakistan has seldom been as polarised and divided on political lines as we find it today. The solutions to the problems facing to the country can only be found in participatory democracy. our salvation lies in letting more democracy take its course. it should be a democracy in the true sense of the word and not tyrannical fascism of the majority. . we must secure the fundamental principle that the 3 to 4 percent non-Muslims who live in Pakistan, as defined under Article 260 of the Constitution, are equal citizens. All stakeholders, particularly leaders of the political parties must unite first to close the doors of hybrid democracy or partial martial law. This is only possible when they make the welfare of the people their prime duty and respect for the constitution as described, in their book, How Democracies Die, Harvard Professors Daniel Ziblatt and Steven Levitsky that mutual forbearance and mutual coexistence are the essences of democracies.
Any extension of the status quo will reduce Pakistan to rubble. By the time the music stops, the lights will be out and there will be nothing except, attrition, regret and remorse.
Sher Khan Bazai. The writer is retired from civil service as Secretary Education, Balochistan Pakistan.He can be reached at [email protected]