Democracy and Dictatorship
The military in Pakistan is not willing to play the regime change game anymore, nor will the judiciary compromise on its new-found independence while the opposition has shown patience in waiting for 2013 to contest the elections.
South Asia is home to a variety of democracies
and serves as a classic example of political pluralism. Our cover story this month highlights the ups and downs the region has faced while
traveling the bumpy road to democracy.
The Pakistani nation has had very painful experiences of democracy, for reasons, not difficult to identify if one remains focused on the Political Fault Line. The Muslim League was the platform from where Quaid-e-Azam launched the Pakistan Movement and won the political battle, without bloodshed. Bloodshed started only after 14th of August, 1947 and under chaos and confusion, Pakistan came to be governed by institutions, parties and individuals, who never had struggled for Pakistan, nor made sacrifices, such as the military, the civil bureaucracy and the feudals. The religious parties, who opposed the very creation of Pakistan, declared themselves as the defenders of the ideological frontiers of Pakistan. Muslim League, weak and fragile, provided the foundation for political structuring. Its main base was in East Pakistan and the second base was in Sindh, in West Pakistan, that possessed the military and economic power. Thus the political, military and economic power dispersion disturbed the power balance of the federation. The separation of East Pakistan resulted because of this fault.
The ethno-nationalism of the federating units added to the problem of national integration and continues to haunt us more seriously even now. The demands for political and economic rights of the provinces were taken as ‘revolt’ to justify use of force, which ultimately led to imposition of the first military rule in 1958, establishing the dangerous Nexus between America-ArmyJudiciary and the Political Opportunists, as the catalyst for ‘Regime Changes’. Thus every military regime, debased and degraded the democratic process, creating long periods of political emptiness, and retarded the growth of political culture. This was the scenario in 2008, when the Nexus decided for ‘Regime Change’ through the democratic process and made plans to prop-up a choice government, with the help of the Army intelligence, as it had done in 2002 under Musharraf, with ‘Q’ League as the ruling party. The military refused to be a party to the crime. The conspiracy thus failed and the voters were free to make their choice. It shocked Washington, as Washington Times’ lamented:
“Washington’s Pakistan kibitzers will soon rue the day, they squeezed President Pervez Musharraf to restore democracy. “Democracy” is what has now emerged, or an unholy alliance of long-time America haters. Acting as behind-the-scenes catalyst are two prominent America-haters, Gen Aslam Beg, former army chief of staff (1988-91) and Gen. Hamid Gul. Both Beg and Gul are strongly opposed to military action, encouraged by the United States, against Taliban and Al-Qaeda safe heavens in the tribal areas along the Afghan border. What the United States and Britain describe as Taliban “terrorists”, according to the two generals, are the “freedom fighters” of a Muslim world facing unprecedented oppression and injustice.
The new behind-the-scene god-father of this broad-based, anti-U.S. coalition is Nawaz Sharif, chief of the Pakistan Muslim League. This also puts Kiyani in a quandary, Musharraf has handed over his military powers, along with a Rubik’s Cube.”
The present regime, despite its weaknesses, inexperience and weak political culture, is struggling to stabilize the democratic order, whereas the anti-democratic forces are demanding change through undemocratic means. But, the military is not willing to play the regime change game any more, nor the judiciary will compromise on its new found independence and the opposition has shown patience in waiting for the year 2013, to contest the elections. At the same time a very significant change has taken place, in the Pakistani society, that is, the very high level of awareness about our problems, highlighted by the free media. Compare it with 1971 period, when the media was suppressed and so was the public awareness about the impending fall of Dacca and the people in West Pakistan were raising the slogan, ‘Crush India’ and India was all set to break Pakistan. This is not the case now. The media has kept the people informed about the weaknesses and the strength of the present democratic order. The civil society is visible and active and the middle class is gradually emerging with greater consciousness of national matters. And the way the media and the civil society recently asserted themselves in case of Raymond Davis matter, is significant, as it has placed the government of Pakistan in a position of superior diplomatic orientation, to ward-off the American pressure. As a consequence, General Petraeus now is deploying coalition forces to guard the infiltration routes along the borders than to demand military operation in North Waziristan by Pak Forces and the ISI is demanding disclosure of the names of CIA operatives deployed in Pakistan in violation of the law of the county. These obtaining conditions thus provide the opportunity for developing balanced Pak-U.S. relationship.
Some elements in the country are painting a dooms day scenario and are calling for revolutionary changes in Pakistan as the Arab World is now experiencing, not realizing that, revolutions are dangerous because they generate energies which must be controlled and given proper direction, otherwise they turn inwards, causing very serious damage to national unity. The examples of Czechoslovakia and Yugoslavia are there. Pakistan suffers from serious internal contradictions, such as, confrontation between the state and judiciary, ethno-nationalistic divide, political instability, social violence, ideological contradictions and serious economic disparities, and distortions. Pakistan cannot sustain a revolution, particularly when there is no leadership, worth the name, to rally round the people for a common cause.
Revolutions dismantle the existing order and establish the new system of governance. Is there any other system in sight, better than the present one we have opted for, under the constitution, approved by the nation? Therefore the present democratic order must prevail, under the Peoples Power. It is better to wait for the elections 2013 and reject or accept this government, on the basis of their performance. That would be the best bet for Pakistan, to let process of democracy draw strength from continuity, experimentation and exercise of rights of the people guaranteed by the Constitution. The writer is the former Chief of Army Staff of Pakistan Army. Upon retiring in 1991, General Beg went on to establish the Foundation for Research on International Environment, National Development and Security (FRIENDS). He is an avid commentator on national political and security issues.
Pakistan has had an interesting mix of leaders.