Side-effect - Harris - Khalique Friday, April 22, 2011

In our country, autocracy is the order and elected governments are seen as experiments in democracy. We are strange people. Not only that an influential section of our elite and affluent middle class refuses to learn from our own history, let alone world history. It continuously aspires to have a technocratic rule, which always gets led by or supported by the military and executed by bureaucracy and flamboyant advisors. Legitimacy for such rules is acquired from the part of judiciary that condones such arrangements after framing a narrative of crisis.

It is the inalienable right of the people of Pakistan, like any other people living in any other part of the world, to elect their political government and have a direct say in decisions that affect their lives. However tough it may be and whatever weaknesses it entails, democracy cannot be negotiated.

One fully understands that Pakistan is at a stage of plutocracy in its political evolution due to its primordial social and economic relations. But the only way to bring about progressive changes in our economy and polity on a sustainable basis is to tread the electoral path.

Representative interest and pressure groups are formed that demand, bargain and compel the political parties to agree to their rights and privileges. If the electorate dislikes the government, they vote it out. This may not be the perfect system but the most workable humanity at large has learnt. You don’t have to like the president, prime minister or a party to support democracy. You don’t like them, don’t vote for them. Or if you liked them earlier but find yourself utterly dissatisfied now with their performance, vote for someone else in the next elections. You want elections in political parties which in my view remains a thoroughly legitimate demand you pressurise the parties to hold elections in their ranks and ask the election commission to enforce such regulations. You want a fair chance for people belonging to all classes to be able to participate in elections, persuade the election commission to create and enforce the required procedures through public actions of speaking, writing, petitioning and campaigning.

While we know well that the common people of this country have waged political struggles always to restore democracy whenever they are denied their right to choose their governments, what is so unique about Pakistan is that it cannot be run like other countries in a democratic way? It seems a part of our elite and intelligentsia despises Pakistani citizens who are less educated in modern terms and of course not well to do.

There is an inherent contempt for the common folk. They are considered incapable of making the right choices for their own well being and elect the right representatives and the right kind of governments. Even if they are incapable, they would remain so if the course of democratic elections does not continue.

Yes, the struggle for free, fair, impartial and accessible electoral process for all must be carried on with enormous rigour. And here I reiterate my demand for immediate local body elections. But what the civil society (and my definition of it is not limited to NGO activists, retired bureaucrats, generals and judges) needs to struggle for is a just and egalitarian economic order, a progressive society where people are considered equal without any consideration of their caste, colour, religion or ethnicity. We have all the right to criticise the government, highlight its failings and suggest better options for setting things right. But for God sake, no more derailment of the political process.

The writer is an Islamabad-based poet, author and public policy advisor. Email: harris.

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