EDITORIAL: Support for democracy Tuesday, September 21, 2010


EDITORIAL: Support for democracy
PML-N chief Nawaz Sharif has vowed to support democracy though he would not support the government blindly. The opposition’s role is to keep a check on the transgressions of the incumbents. Mian sahib therefore has taken a stance well within the constitutional ambit. For an opposition to criticise the government for bad management and incompetence is within the ambit of a democratic system. Meanwhile, Prime Minister Gilani has said that there is no harm in a democratic intervention to make things better but that a change through undemocratic means would be dangerous. Mr Gilani also offered to make way for any parliamentarian who wanted to lead the country.

Right now, the premier’s slot is a crown of thorns and not a bed of roses. No one in his right mind is willing to destabilise the system and take charge. The arithmetic of parliament is such that no political party has a clear majority and would need the support of other parties to form a government. The PPP settled for a coalition government because of these reasons, though even before the elections it had taken a reconciliatory approach. If any party wants to get rid of the PPP-led government and take charge instead, to get the support of such disparate allies would be a tough task. Keeping this reality in mind, Prime Minister Gilani has made an open offer to the parliamentarians. As for the rumours about mid-term elections, it would not be wrong to say that even if they do take place, the results would not be very different from that of the 2008 general elections. Thus, it does not make sense to waste time and money on such a useless exercise.

Mian Nawaz Sharif’s support for the democratic system is quite reassuring. An active and critical opposition is part of a democracy. If a government cannot take healthy criticism, then it has no right to be in power. Rumours of threats to the PPP-led government have been in the air for quite some time now but recent events suggest that these may just be some people’s pipe dreams. In Pakistan it is said that no change can occur outside the democratic process without the army and the US agreeing to such change. The army and the US at the present conjuncture appear to be on the same page as far as the democratically elected government is concerned. In his recent visit, US special envoy for Pakistan and Afghanistan Richard Holbrooke said that the government is not ‘drowning’ and that it is doing a good job under the circumstances. The army too is aware of the ground realities and has its hands full with fighting the terrorists on Pakistani soil and carrying out the flood relief efforts. No other government, including a dictator’s regime, took ownership of the war on terror like the PPP-led government has done. We can see that the normal concatenation of forces, i.e. the US and the army, are not inclined towards any change in the near future.

Our brush with military interventions in the past has resulted in major disasters. Despite a considerable opinion tilting towards a military or autocratic intervention, the majority still supports democracy. There is no doubt that even the worst democracy is better than the best military rule. As a society struggling to establish a democracy with deep roots, we have to be patient instead of getting the usual two-and-a-half-year itch that we witnessed in the 90s. We might have to muddle through for some period of time until we get a better government or leadership. All democratically elected governments must be held accountable and this government is no exception. Prime Minister Gilani should ensure that his government pulls up its socks before things get worse. *

More terror in India

Two weeks before the much-awaited Commonwealth Games in New Delhi are slated to begin, the ominous shadow of militant terrorism has struck the Indian capital. A tourist bus was targeted on Sunday by two masked gunmen outside the Jamia Masjid, the city’s largest mosque. Two Taiwanese tourists were injured and one is in critical condition. This is a decidedly bad omen for an India that has aspirations to be recognised as one of the world’s rising powers. The games were intended as a showcase for India’s new status.

The Indian Mujahideen, a homegrown militant group that allegedly has links to the Pakistani banned outfit Lashkar-e-Tayyaba, claimed responsibility. The Indian Mujahideen were responsible for a series of synchronised attacks in New Delhi in September 2008, when markets and commercial areas were targeted, killing some 30 people. In an e-mail sent to the Press Trust of India, the group has said that if the Commonwealth Games are not cancelled, they will do all they can to wreak havoc on the occasion. Thousands of international sporting stars and officials are to attend; any attempt at terrorism could spell a nightmare for Pakistan-India relations. Still reeling from the aftermath of Mumbai, if any terrorist organisation, whether indigenous or not, commits an act of terrorism, India might not wait for the burden of proof before retaliating against Pakistan, especially if its image is sullied as the host country for a major international sporting event.

If the militant group is completely autonomous and abides by a self-created agenda — one that aims at pitting the two countries against each other — there is plenty to be worried about. India and Pakistan share a contentious and chequered history, still rife with suspicion and mistrust. After the carnage in Mumbai where Pakistan’s intelligence establishment stands accused of supporting terror acts, it will not be difficult for any rogue outfit to start a war between the two neighbours by sabotaging these games.

The leaders of both countries must exercise extreme diplomacy, wisdom and patience before, during and after these games. The militants aim to hold both countries hostage to their agenda — an all out Armageddon in the region. It is hoped that the security arrangements for the games are adequate and that Pakistan and India can come through this test without being waylaid by the militants. *

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