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The people’s will

By Saad Hafiz:

As Pakistanis gear up for elections in the new year amid clarion calls from some elected and self-appointed ‘saviours’  to rediscover clean and true politics, it may be worth examining the state of Pakistan’s democracy.

As a start, it is significant that democracy in Pakistan survived at all, as it seemed doomed from the start. The young country had no democratic traditions; in fact, Muslim culture with its ingrained authoritarianism discouraged the creation and nurturing of a democracy.
The task of establishing a democratic state was left to the feudal-controlled All Pakistan Muslim League, which had a questionable devotion to democracy. Many leaders to come, including those from the armed forces backed by reactionary elements, some of whom had opposed the creation of the country, actively conspired to overthrow democracy.

A key weakness of democracy in Pakistan since its inception has been that the supremacy of the people, including over parliament and other institutions has never been established. This is probably why unelected ’leaders’ often strike a chord among the people, which is a source of concern, for it underscores the traditionalism of Pakistani society and the shallowness of the roots of democracy.

Many elected leaders rely on the politics of expediency to retain power instead of relying on the popular will of the people. Coalitions are often impossible to build, or are so transient that they dissolved as quickly as they formed. The hurly burly of politics or the dark side of
any democracy is that ambitious leaders manoeuvre for power, strike deals, double-cross each other, and try to find the most advantageous alliances. On the flip side, the give and take of democracy is reflected in the example of President Lincoln, who struck a deal to pass extraordinary legislation to abolish slavery in the US. Representative Thaddeus Stevens described events leading to the passing of the amendment in this remarkable quote: “The most liberating constitutional amendment in history, had been ‘passed by corruption, aided and abetted by the purest man in America’, meaning Abraham Lincoln.”

Political deal making, intrigues, double-crosses and the corruption that breeds has been going on in Pakistan for years now. However, the entire blame for the massive greed and corruption that Pakistani society seems to have spawned at an alarming rate since independence cannot be placed on civilian politicians and on democracy alone. In a society that reveres power and greed, it is probably a reflection on society itself that it is unable to find elected and unelected leaders that choose ethical behaviour.

The other characteristics of a strong democracy that do exist to a degree in Pakistan are active people’s participation, engagement and dissent. Democracy fundamentally means an active role for the people in determining the affairs of society. They not only elect representatives periodically to parliament, but also interpose actively through protests, strikes, meetings and demonstrations to convey their mood to the elected representatives. There being no single mood, freedom of expression ensures that different moods have a chance to be expressed, provided the manner of doing so takes the debate forward instead of excluding it. For all this to happen, people have to be properly informed. Political activity of this kind assumes an active role of the people and prepares them for it; it is essentially democratic.

The ebb and flow of democracy among the people and the republican system of bargaining among those who are elected has been a fascinating subject through history. Together they represent the interdependence of a system that is supposed to produce a cohesive nation that is capable of getting done certain critical tasks necessary to maintain a free and ordered civilised society that moves ahead as one people. Quite apart from the
fact that democracy has to deliver tangible economic and social benefits to the people, it must also work towards removing the state of powerlessness of the people and not reinforce it. The people must do their part by electing leaders who can be trusted to keep their word. The people must also remain actively involved to ensure that their government is held accountable. Corruption happens when citizens do not stay involved and permit it to happen. The worst excesses take place when citizens do not speak up to stop them.

If democracy is allowed to continue uninterrupted, Pakistan will eventually move up among the spectrum of democracies because the democratic fundamentals, although weak, are in place. One remarkable fact remains: where there is a failure of democracy, there is usually a lack of democracy. To the extent that democracies fail, it is because the will of the people is not being carried out. Pakistan offers this lesson itself: the secession of East Pakistan in 1971, military coups and undemocratic setups for most of its 65-year history and a ruling oligarchy playing with the country’s democratic and constitutional  weaknesses to its detriment.

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17 Responses to "The people’s will"

  1. old idea United States Safari Mac OS says:

    “Of course it will be a democratic constitution; Islam is a democratic religion.” — Jinnah

    Democracy is not just a new thing we are learning,” said Jinnah. “It is in our blood. We have always had our system of zakat — our obligation to the poor.” — Jinnah

    “Our Islamic ideas have been based on democracy and social justice since the thirteenth century.” — Jinnah

  2. wonderer India Safari Mac OS says:

    The questions to asked are these.

    Why Pakistan should necessarily be a democracy? If there is no clear answer to this, then:

    Why Pakistan should not be an islamic society? If there can be no agreement on this, then:

    What kind of a state Pakistan should be? Our problems arise from the fact that we have no answer to this question; and that is because we are still trying to find our IDENTITY.

  3. Kamath. Canada Safari iPad says:

    Saad Hafiz: Let us accept the fact that Pakistan was created for Muslims only. Most people in Pakistan save few like yourself, Irfan Husain etc have internalized very deeply Islamic values, mindset, meaning of rituals, history, Ideas of Sharia laws, promise of deliverance after the Judgement Day , infalliability of Quran and Hadiths and final Prophethood of Prophet Muhammad etc from birth till death.

    Why confuse them with these fancy ideas of Democracy and man-made laws. As they say, do not change horses in midstream. Let Pakistani people accept Constitution of Medina and try it out for a while. Then if it does not work, try something else like ideas of Democracy. Don’t you agree with me?

  4. akb Pakistan Safari Unknow Os says:

    useless rhetoric just scribbled down to stay in the limelight. Democracy has proven unfit for Pakistan. It needs a cruel emperor or Caliph like Hajjaj bin Yusuf.

  5. Rex Minor Germany Google Chrome Windows says:

    And Pakistan military doctrine has all along been very straight forward, if the civilian Govt. cannot administer the country without the use of military, then the military must take over the country and retire or depose the civilian head. Former military chief made a slight alteration, allowing the provincial Govt. to ask for military services without any repercussions.

    Rex Minor

  6. tajender United Arab Emirates Internet Explorer Windows says:

    useless rhetoric just scribbled down to stay in the limelight. Democracy has proven unfit for Pakistan. It needs a cruel emperor or Caliph like Hajjaj bin Yusuf

    i totally agree with u.even saddam hussain will do.

  7. saad Cayman Islands Google Chrome Windows says:


    You are suggesting going back in time while the entire world is trying to move forward to build secular, pluralistic and democratic societies. Some Pakistanis not all are enamoured with the Constitution of Medina as you call it. A lot of it is due to the misgovernance and corruption of elected politicians but there is no widespread call to “throw the democratic baby out with bathwater” as some certified ‘idiots’ on this site parrot periodically offering names like Caliph Yusuf and Saddam.

  8. Milestogo United States Safari iPhone says:

    Ataturk is what Pakistan needs…

  9. tajender United Arab Emirates Internet Explorer Windows says:

    ndia suffers eternally in the hands of the troika of Marvadi’s, Gujju’s
    & Brahmins. The Big three have made India suffocate & suffer by their
    unethical ways throughout the history. Put together they add up to 8 to 9% of
    Indian population and hold more than 90% of Indian money, power and other
    resources. Socially, Educationally, Economically they have always been very
    powerful & superior to the remaining masses of India. Indian Economy is in
    the hands of Marvadi’s. They hold most of the Indian businesses. It is
    surprising to see only one community flourish in businesses, generations after
    generations. These people do not eat mutton but suck the blood out of people.
    They have mistaken cheating & manipulations for entrepreneurship.
    Non-marvadi Indian can succeed in business outside India but not in India.
    Sabeer Bhatia and others in Silicon Valley are great examples. Non-marvadi
    Indian can succeed in Indian Business with Non-Indian clientele. Infosys &
    other big & small software companies are live examples. However, a
    Non-Marvadi cannot succeed in Indian business Environment whereas a Marvadi can
    easily succeed with their competence in manipulatuions and machinations without
    really having the real competence, technical or otherwise. Right from adultering
    milk & other food items in a grocery shop, duping customers with
    non-standard items for branded items, to the big industrialists evading taxes, a
    Marwadi is involved everywhere in cheating this Nation.
    They have mastered the trick of greasing palms of ever greedy
    politicians & bureaucrats to ensure the unethical & illegal businesses
    & methods are ignored by the people in Power. Business are shared within
    their community irrespective of cost and quality to ensure firm hold on business
    & economy with the Marvadi’s. Every attempt is made to kill the
    entrepreneurship from other communities. Businesses given to Non-marvadi’s will
    suffer Non-payment OR late payments to the point of closure of the others
    business. Employees in Marvadi firms are treated like slaves. The most
    qualified, intelligent and effective of the Employees have to work under low
    educated marvadi, appointed by the owner, as their boss, who keeps on learning
    from them and bossing over them at the same time, without giving exposure, value
    addition, or avenue to move ahead in the company. Once a person enters a Marvadi
    company, his learning stops and has to remain clerk forever, even if he is a
    Professional. With no addition in knowledge, he cannot venture outside the
    company and has to live a life of stagnated pond. Marvadi’s are destroying the
    intelligent and educated middle class just because this class is entrapped in
    home loans and other such loans. Earlier they cheated people by lending money at
    exorbitant interests and grabbed farming lands & other properties worth
    crores of rupees. A parallel economy with black money is run by the same

    The unethical ways of Marvadi’s are destroying people
    and the Nation. Gujju’s are aptly represented by people like Harshad Mehta and
    Ketan Parekh. Recent killings of innocent men, women & children from
    minorities can give a peep into the minds of Gujju’s where they are in majority.
    The same Gujju’s have driven out Maharashtrians from Mumbai to the far outskirts
    of Mumbai. Mumbai has been grabbed by Gujju’s. It is only the Parsi’s who do
    business in India very ethically and with a lot of social commitment &
    ecological responsibility. They have tremendous respect from every Indian.

    Brahmins blocked the education for others ensuring no competition.
    Brahmins have hold on Educational Institutions, Software companies,
    administrative jobs in Govt. & Lucrative posts in Private companies. Once a
    Brahmin enters an Organistaion, he slowly makes it the Brahmin Organisation, by
    employing everyone from his own caste. Where are others? They are peons, clerks,
    vegetable vendors, street cleaners, farm labourers, construction labourers, low
    level workers in factories and doing rest of the menial jobs. The suppression of
    masses continues in one form or the other.

    These three communities are
    the ardent supporters of BJP & the RSS. They are blinded by their self
    interests, least bothered about the Nation. Indulging in the superiority on
    Indian masses forever, they have been curse to the Indian masses.

    The new found mantra of Hindutva was a master
    stroke to deflect the attention of masses from the real issue of disparity &
    in equality to the non-issue of religion. Pitting one religion against another
    OR one caste against another are their strategic moves. It is indeed barbaric to
    fight each other just because the other is born in different religion or
    different caste. But that serves the purpose of these communities. Indian
    economy, businesses and education is in their hands. The masses should realise
    the intentions of the saffronites whose real masters are in this troika and
    instead of indulging in barbaric fights we should make every effort to uplift
    the masses to dizzying heights to be equal if not more equal to this troika, who
    have inflicted the greatest of injuries to the masses and this

  10. Rex Minor Germany Google Chrome Windows says:

    Now your write up on India is very well explained in terms of who and who does not controls the economic life and has the real. But i not tell us who is responsible for the social ills of the societies includin the gang rape culture against women. you also did not tell us about the conditions in Pakistan whch Saad has made a great effort in explaining with the hope that eventualy Democracy should be the solution. Whereas, RHR is proposing in his article the call on military to curb the violence!

    Rex Minor

  11. Maggu India Safari iPad says:

    Transgender: where is the data for your rant coming from? Or is it just general ranting which we should ignore? What tells you marwaris own 90 percent of businesses ?

  12. Kamath. Canada Safari iPad says:

    Saad Hafiz:

    You are a hopeless optimist! Hope it will come true! While you are at it , enjoy your holidays when you are away from N.American cold and don’t mix up fun and writing to meet dead- lines.

  13. jamai United States Internet Explorer Windows says:

    Saad Sb,

    “in fact, Muslim culture with its ingrained authoritarianism discouraged the creation and nurturing of a democracy.”

    I could have goated, but then realized that it takes intellect, honesty and can only come from a true muslim who has gained enlightenment.

    To use a hindu phrase, Gurudev, pranam!!!


  14. saad Canada Internet Explorer Windows says:

    Salaam Jamai sb:

    Thank you for your kind remarks. As you know, gaining enlightment is a never ending journey!

    Brother Kamath:

    I expect to remain a hopelessly stupid optimist! Regretfully, I still have a day job so no more holidays for a while. Take care,

  15. Mohan United Arab Emirates Internet Explorer Windows says:


    ” gaining enlightment is a never ending journey!”

  16. Kamath Canada Mozilla Firefox Windows says:

    Saad: They say in in Spanish,” la esperanza es lo último que se pierde” which means hope is the last thing to die! One can not carry the entire burden of a society all by oneself.

    In the meantime, Cayman Island offers good food, warm weather and a place to dream. Forget dear old Pakistan if you can and enjoy while you are at it. Perhaps next time change the subject of Pakistan and tell all of us how many banks there are per capita in Georgetown and private accounts of the Rich and the Famous ie. Mitt Romney et al !!!


  17. saad Canada Internet Explorer Windows says:

    Thanks Mohan. As per Kaal, I keep coming up with inane comments and half-sentences!

    Kamath: you are on to me! Very expressive Spanish saying which I absolutely do not subscribe to!

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