Democracy to build peace, bring prosperity
October 28, 2011
Though painful, it is the job of political scientists to put on record the path a state follows while in state of decline. Pakistan, unfortunately, is a state on the course of decline. Whether it is governance or economic stability, every indicator points towards this grim reality. If the course of politics and the fate of the country is determined by the nature of man, we surely have got very ambitious, and ultimately, corrupt souls. Judges have validated the misconduct of the rulers and generals have stepped out of their professional confines.
Few families favored by times in the past would like, for sure, to see the rest reduced to the position of servitude. Feudal, who control the majority of land resources, are bound to keep their dependent families to the subsistence level. Industrialists have a known tendency to keep wages low but to maximize their gains. Traders, though having calculating minds, show least interest in the purchasing power of the consumers while planning their businesses.
Political theory being taught in Pakistan, of course in universities and colleges, banks heavily on human nature while accounting for the existence of modern state. The liberal discourse, which essentially makes part of its subject matter, recognizes human nature as universal: security of life and property are the major goals which the people seek to achieve through state.
The rights which citizens enjoy as citizens entitle them to choose leadership to represent them in legislative bodies. They have inalienable right to be informed for what they are detained; they have the right to fair trial as well. It is wrong, according to liberal theory, to discriminate citizens on the basis of their caste, creed and color.
The commentators of politic reading in realism take state’s inhuman face, as is the case in Pakistan, as given. The social structure, dominated by feudal and their industrial cousins, does not permit people to exercise liberties; it leaves little room for judicial system to ensure the rule of law. Political parties are fiefdoms of the privileged social groups; democracy or dictatorship, the weak are marginalized in each case. While explaining political events, analysts fail to treat politics not more than a power game.
It does not need many brains to understand that the type of the state we have does not entertain people-centric approach in its policy and planning enterprise. It extracts heavily from the poor and low income groups but delivers insignificantly less in terms of the amenities of life.
Mention any indicator of good governance it is missing in the case of Pakistan. The country spends only 3% of GDP on social sector development, education and health being the most important ones. At least one third of the country’s population is sinking under poverty line. Inflation stands in double digits; rupee is losing worth with every passing day. Corruption is the menace that has eaten up railways, steel and airways. Injustice, of course, has alienated a significant part of the scountry’s population and is fuelling crime and rebellion.
The people are bound to be poor because they can’t influence the course of socio-economic development that state undertakes in their name. A pro-people government would have improved standards of life in the course of time simultaneously managing the country’s porous and disputed borders as well. Its ability to deliver has not gone beyond protecting the interest of the landed aristocracy, industrialists and the traders. Poor governance is causing injustice; the corrupt, black-marketers, smugglers and the money-lenders are free to suck the blood of masses. Democracy suits the interest of the weak for it acts as a catalyst for change but also guarantees a safe passage to the mighty and strong as well. Given the circumstances Pakistan finds itself in, the alternative to democracy is civil strife which none can afford, no matter what his social standing is.
Democracy has the known worth of building peace, for it has the required capacity to hold diversity together. So far, the solution to this problem has been sought in religion but it has introduced new divisions in the society. Once ethnicity has poled the state apart, sectarianism has surfaced a new menace to complicate the situation arising out of underdevelopment and bad governance.
Fortunately, the foreign powers that have upheld dictatorship are showing commitment to the protection of human rights and are bent on intervention in case the regimes fail to such international norm. Afghanistan and Iraq have been transformed into democracy while many Arab countries, where dictators have ruled the roost, are in the throes of change with the support of the US and European Union.
Would the nature of state change in Pakistan to the benefit of the common people? The answer largely depends on the degree to which the legitimacy of the government, acting on behalf of the state, is put to test by intelligentsia as well as the civil society. When tyranny becomes a norm, people do exercise their right to rebel.
The transformation of a state, from an exploitative entity to a welfare one, should be steered under the guiding influence of democracy if bloodshed, which Arab dictatorships have passed through, has to be avoided. Good governance, through reforming institutions and undertaking decentralization, will serve as indicators that the government is serious in transforming the image of the state as a pro-people entity.