Monday, October 18, 2010

Pakistan – the dying democracy

Repeated alterations in the constitution to suit different military rulers have left little opportunity for democracy to take root

Bilal Hussain, The Guardian, October 16, 2010

Recalling the last 63 years of Pakistan‘s history, democracy is found only as an interval before the arrival of the next military regime. Democracy was doomed when Liaquat Ali Khan, the first elected prime minister, was shot at a public gathering.

From there onwards, the balance of power shifted in the favour of the military. An interesting comparison reveals this shift: from 1951 to 1957 India had one prime minister and several army chiefs while during the same period Pakistan had one army chief and several prime ministers.

From Ayub Khan to Pervez Musharraf, military rule ruined the state structure of Pakistan as a whole, with only the elite benefiting from the system and no benefit being passed to the general public. Military policies have given the country cross-border and internal terrorism, millions of internally displaced people and a bankrupt national economy. Ironically we are always ready to welcome them again.

Although every person in Pakistan, whether in a position of power or not, is very vocal about the very idea of democracy, no collective effort is seen to establish it as an institution. As the political and government culture in Pakistan is a product of its links to the pre-partition British rule, Pakistan’s leaders knew best from this inheritance the vice-regal system that made little or no provision for popular awareness or involvement. Consequently, even after more than half a century of the country’s independence, we are still entangled in age-old feudal, tribal and panchayat systems.

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