PENSIEVE: Democracy, good, bad and ugly! —Farrukh Khan Pitafi - Thursday, August 05, 2010

Source :

Is it our misfortune or that whatever we commission as our strategic weapon, may it be our nukes or our non-state actor pals, it turns against us and proves to be our weakness, not strength?

I am speechless and I am disillusioned. Somewhere someone is trying to prove how democracy can go wrong and here am I who has spent countless light years perpetuating the view that democracy is the cure for all our ills. What is there left to prove? We have an entire country sinking under water and a prime minister (PM) who does not even show his face on this sad occasion.

But perhaps the actual problem is the lack of democracy and not its presence. Remember last week I told you how disappointed I was that when we appealed to the government for relief in Barkhan in one of my shows, the same night the prime minister came on television, announced General Kayani’s extension and left without even mentioning floods or relief. The PM and his cabinet along with uncountable members of parliament (MPs) were troubled by the degrees issue and the widespread criticism of the political class. So the PM did what was most logical. He brought one of the ultimate powerbrokers on board. And now since the General Headquarters (GHQ) is with him, he can afford to be as arrogant as he likes.

I have said a million times that democracy does not mean that we only elect our leaders but also that we have the final say in sacking them. Unfortunately since, sparing the last assembly, none in the recent decades has completed its term, the MPs and the government have grown accustomed to the idea that in order to ensure completion of their tenure they have to look anywhere but towards their voters. True accountability can come when we tolerate the system to continue till the end, wait for the time when these leaders come back to ask for our votes and remind them of their flaws and sack them. The media too then will have to stop issuing deadlines for a government’s imminent fall.

And here is the real problem. I have said it once and I have said a million times that we media people have been taken way too seriously. Had it not been the case no politician would have complained in the Punjab Assembly that the media was violating their rights. In reality we are only but one of the many outlets of public opinion. Had we not bombarded the current set-up with our bile, I am sure it would have been more sensitive to our concerns. But neither are we going to change our attitude, nor is the government.

A clear example is our reaction to the president’s British tour. I have repeatedly heard people demanding that the tour be cancelled. While apparently this appeal is made in the name of compassion and concern for the flood victims, the actual reason is the statement of the British prime minister. It is said that with the exception of a few conscientious ones who must have asked the president not to go for better reasons, most are so emotionally attached to our intelligence community’s strings that they forget that the president is after all the president.

The president of the Islamic Republic after the passage of the 18th Amendment is nothing but a figurehead. So his presence can hardly mean anything substantial for relief operations. It is our empowered PM who is answerable in this case. And as for our ghairat on Prime Minister Cameron’s statement, we can put it where it goes when we beg the countries of the world for more money. Do you want to hear something from one of your own fellow citizens? Okay I think you do.

Friends, the truth is that we have never forgotten the Taliban and other such terror groups as our ‘strategic assets’. And there are people — powerful people at that — who we meet every day who refuse to accept that any such group actually poses any threat to us. As someone who loves this country and, trust me, can give his life for this nation, I believe that the only way forward is to put an end to our doublespeak on such crucial issues. The only way to win Afghanistan over is to win the hearts and minds there. If there is any part of Afghanistan we want to colonise, it should be the hearts of our Afghan brethren. Similarly, Pakistan needs to stop its regional pipedreams and think of reforms at home. And there goes your strategic asset with a poof. Is it our misfortune or that whatever we commission as our strategic weapon, may it be our nukes or our non-state actor pals, it turns against us and proves to be our weakness, not strength?

So our actual problem is the lack of democracy and not its presence. The PM however needs to act more cautiously because while he may think that he has played his cards well by extending the tenure of the army chief and there is no demand for better performance from him, you never know about any bolt from the blue. While at present he might be stronger than any prime minister in the last two decades, his actual strength comes from his democratic credentials, not the support of Rawalpindi or Takht-e-Lahore. Remember even when his own post is getting stronger by the day, his democratic credentials and of course the image of democracy in the minds of the people is getting weaker every single moment. A more aggressive desire to resolve the problems of the people can hardly kill anyone. And it is not about the seat of power alone. Many think that the PM is acting boorishly because he knows he is never to be the PM again. Be that it as it may, the fact is that he belongs to this country and even after retirement he will stay here. And even if he takes the usual course of leaving the country after retirement, he will still be approachable by the citizens of this country. Apart from power, the desire for leaving behind a legacy also plays a crucial role in politics. I am banking on the hope that the PM will not forget this positive element either.

The writer is an independent columnist and a talk show host. He can be reached at

No comments:

Post a Comment