VIEW: Setting the record straight —Gulmina Bilal Ahmad - Friday, February 04, 2011

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Extremism being the priority issue, needs the backing of all quarters. We have seen different political and religious parties getting together on the issue of the blasphemy laws in Pakistan. The issue of extremism needs the same backing

Nowadays, Tunisia and Egypt are making headlines in every newspaper and on every television channel. The images of street protests and clashes with armed security personnel have been projected everywhere. The talk on the street is about a revolution of the same kind in Pakistan. This thought is not only limited to tea stalls or drawing rooms, but it has been spreading throughout the media as well. In fact, the media (electronic and print) has been the basic medium promoting this type of mindset. The mainstream newspapers and electronic media have been continuously provoking this idea of revolution in their editorials, discussions and articles. Pakistan is being depicted as teetering on the brink of an uprising by the aggrieved in the nation. The government and political parties are being provoked on various talk shows to comment on this issue and words are being put into their mouths by the anchorpersons.

It seems that a general perception is being developed of a failed state, which can only be addressed through a violent uprising. These are not the facts and whatever facts are being presented have been distorted. This clearly is a view that is being lobbied by people with vested interests. It has to be understood by the people that Pakistan is not being ruled by a dictator or an authoritarian regime, but now has a democratically elected government. Unlike Egypt and Tunisia, where the constitution and the laws have been forged and bent according to the wishes of a certain group or individual, Pakistan has a constitution with the 18th Amendment, where the elected representatives of the people have the power. They cannot introduce laws or take actions that will generate a negative outcome for their constituents. The democratic system holds everyone accountable and does not allow immunity to any person, no matter what rank he or she holds.

As Pakistan’s democratic process has always been interrupted and institutions have never been allowed to flourish, therefore it is taking time for these institutions and the democratic process to establish a foothold in the country. The procedure is there, it only requires a little time and effort to be implemented and run smoothly. The frustration of a common person is understandable, but the public should realise that, in the end, democracy is the only solution to their problems. An interruption in the democratic process will only lead to turmoil and chaos. Perhaps the elements that want such chaos and are plotting to snatch the reins of power from the Pakistani people are promoting such ideas. Instead of talking about revolution and complaining about corruption or bad governance, we should all work together to promote our democratic institutions.

It has to be realised that the people in Tunisia and Egypt are fighting for a concept, which we already have attained through a long and tiring struggle ourselves. It is the concept of democracy and democratic values. We have successfully achieved our objective, through a silent and peaceful revolution, and we do not need another one. It is now time to stabilise the process that we have acquired for Pakistan and promote the nascent democracy that is still under threat from various quarters.

Democracy has a self-regulating mechanism. As time progresses, the institutions that came into being as a result of democratic efforts start to flourish and people get to know the benefits of a democratic process. There are also some quarters that talk about democracy not being an indigenous idea. It is true that this region, like many other regions of the world, had remained under authoritative rule, but almost every region of the world has experienced this. Perhaps this is a part of human transition from the primitive to modern civilisation. We might have lagged behind in attaining the status that other democratic countries have but we never got the chance. Dictatorships have always hindered the growth and development of democracy in Pakistan.

However, now it is the responsibility of every Pakistani to start thinking in the right direction. Instead of focusing on inciting a revolution, or being a part of the process, we should start focusing on the problems that exist in our society that need to be tackled immediately. Extremism being the priority issue, needs the backing of all quarters. We have seen different political and religious parties getting together on the issue of the blasphemy laws in Pakistan. This might not be a priority issue for me, but the issue of extremism needs the same backing. Once we are out of this mess, we will be in a position to focus on improving other illnesses that exist.

Our economy can only take a forward leap when the law and order and security situation of the country will improve. The general sentiments of the population about the government will improve once they observe that the administration is taking the right steps in the right direction. A revolution will only make things worse. A possible clash between the political parties will incite violence and innocent lives will be lost. We should act responsibly as every responsible nation does in difficult times. No, we do not need a revolution .We need reformation.

The writer is an Islamabad-based development consultant. She can be reached at

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