The Democratic Process

An uninterrupted political process, no matter how messy, and the holding of regular general elections are indispensible for every country in today’s world.
In our circles, it is sometimes argued that democracy is a suitable form of government only for the advanced countries and that it is not suitable for less developed countries. Among the arguments put forward for this view is that people here are uneducated so they need to be governed by technocrats. Such arguments are misguided and perilous.
The bulk of our electorate and people may be illiterate and uneducated, but they are wiser politically than our half-baked intellectuals. The so-called intellectuals are themselves no angels descended from heaven to run the country. Besides, those who claim to be technocrats or are self-proclaimed intellectuals are not wiser than the people at large. Nor are they always unselfish.
Politics involves choice. The choice must be that of the people, and not of a handful of men.
I am very fond and proud of our armed forces. They are indispensible for us. Their courage, valour and ethos merit the admiration of us all. But the 11-year rule fanatic bigot Gen Ziaul Haq, and the nearly nine years of egotistical dictator Gen Pervez Musharraf’s abominable rule-more than 19 precious years of our national life – did irreparable harm to our body politic. Besides being harmful to the country, those 19 years were also bad for the army.
These two military dictators not only systematically destroyed each and every aspect of our national life, but they laid the ground for all the present troubles we face. Our future now depends on a resuscitation of the political process-no matter how shaky it is-and a continuation of regular general elections.
Gen Musharraf’s local government scheme and abolition of the office of the deputy commissioner with magistrate powers has led to the current complete breakdown of the writ of the government and prevalence of near anarchy in the country. The Civil Service of Pakistan, despite its shortcomings, was a comparatively neutral and meritorious administrative body. With the entry of Musharraf’s local bodies and nazims, the political neutrality and administrative independence of governance in Pakistan has been grossly compromised.
Gen Musharraf is responsible for the complete disruption of the political process in Pakistan, to say nothing of his innumerable blunders. His giving a free hand to CIA operatives to the entry and exit of into Pakistan led to their stranglehold here and his complete subservience to American dictates subsequently complicated Pakistan’s foreign policy in a highly detrimental way. I am glad I retired just four days after Musharraf’s coup as I would never have been able to continue in service justifying him.
Turning to another aspect, there is advocacy by some elements of a change to a presidential form of government in Pakistan. I am of the view that switching back and forth continually from presidential to parliamentary forms of government is not at all desirable. We have had too much experimentation. Let us make the existing system continue, with all its faults. No system, including the US and British, is perfect. Let us avoid the fate of Sisyphus-heaving a boulder up a mountain slope, only to see it roll down again to the bottom.
If we want a real change in our politics, we need to devote our attention and efforts to improving our society as a whole and its culture and values. It is on the culture and values of a society that the proper functioning of the political process depends. The mental pattern of a people is shaped by art, music, education, scientific rationality and intellectual heritage.
We need to imbibe the best ideas of humanity and encourage reason and tolerance in all our discourse and actions in order to lay a firm foundation for a healthy and successful democratic political process.