WHEN Marcellus says “Something is rotten in the state of Denmark”, he is only being an honourable, responsible and concerned citizen. Not to many in Pakistan; there is a hue and cry from strange quarters that democracy is at stake and, heaven forbid, that Pakistan’s very survival is linked with Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s fate as the trial approaches its rightful culmination.
The alarm being raised by some very seasoned men is part bunkum — it is out of severe insecurity and more determinedly a pre-emptive offensive in preserving the status quo of a Trojan horse called democracy in Pakistan. When people like Maulana Fazl of many fames, the veteran leftist Afrasiyab Khattak and intellectuals like Harris Khalique decide to get in the same bed then most certainly the gods of Mount Etna are having a very unusual huddle that cannot be ignored any further.
The leftist politician sensationalised it as the last round between the two sides —reminiscent of the game of thrones. Not to miss the excitement, our all-season maulana starts prophesying doomsday scenarios. Naturally, the erudite man of pen had to come to the rescue of the nubile and feeble damsel of democracy and ink an op-ed in The New York Times. Why such a brouhaha over a lawsuit concerning corruption, embezzlement and money laundering against our prime minister? If clean, he walks free; if not then better serve the sentence.
What is wrong in throwing out a so-called democratic system which is based on deception?
Why is it that for once when we feel and see that things are on track and heading in the right direction, it raises such a storm from the custodians of liberty and morality that leaves you astounded and hurt, as one expects they will not be erecting hurdles in Pakistan’s path to corrections and recovery. The insatiable quest for power and its concentration has caused us to drift from governance and made political mafias stakeholders who command the fate of Pakistan’s 200 million in a perpetual state of uncertainty. Ironically enough, the fear of losing electoral hold on the masses and disenfranchisement from power has brought the ensemble of a maulana, a leftist and an intellectual in alignment with a corrupt politician, darkly rooting for his survival.
The seditious charges of conspiring against democracy have been supplemented with the more complex allegations of a ravenous desire for the presidential form of government as if it’s a decree against democracy.
Suffice to say, Mr Jinnah never had much regard for the Westminster type of parliamentary democracy and one should consult history before passing verdict on the form of government that best serves Pakistan. Seven decades of elected autocrats, plutocrats and criminals in the garb of democracy, combined with the damage done by repeated military interventions, have not helped much in the indigenous evolution of a political system suited to our needs and aspirations as a nation. Indeed, much solace and guidance comes from our history with respect to the parliamentary form of democracy.
The founding father Mr Jinnah was clear about his dislike for the very British Westminster style of democracy and openly declared he was “irrevocably opposed to a majority rule under the guise of democracy and a parliamentary form of government”.
It’s a fact that the Pakistani version of parliamentary system with extreme centralisation of power is even worse than the deceptively attractive British system which was rightly denunciated by Jinnah and his blunt refusal to work within it (Muslim League resolution, 1939). What is wrong in throwing out a so-called democratic system which is based on deception and where every one of its constitutional principles is different on the inside to its outer appearance? It was by no account a system controlled by the legislature as purported, and in Pakistan we replaced the hegemony of the king with that of the cabinet and the government’s control of the legislature. Our lack of familiarity with other systems led us to the simplistic solution of settling with Westminster parliamentary democracy, which has only consolidated the stranglehold of mafias, crooks and their cronies over Pakistan and its resources.
It’s an immutable fact that the Westminster type of parliamentary system, other than establishing political and feudal monopolies that have by and large retained the power equation in their own favour, has miserably failed to deliver to the people and the country. No wonder things have boiled down to ‘who rules Pakistan’ or rather the more pertinent ‘how to rule Pakistan’. A presidential form of government will disrupt many an established political mafia and open the closed sanctum of Pakistani politics to the people and bring fresh new faces from all strata of society as a reflection of our pluralist culture.
This won’t be well received by established political mafias, hierarchies and clans. What the people really care about is good governance, law and order and an economy that gives them opportunities and utilises their talent and merit in a transparent system, and with dignity.
The naysayers are painting a doomsday scenario, for they stand to lose their electoral monopolies and gerrymandering ways of 70 years. It’s the trail of corruption, misdeeds and abuse of power that is on trial and not democracy as we are so painstakingly being made to believe. For if Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif goes, the next case in line is not far and won’t take long — thus the deep insecurities that are propelling the pens, voices and rallies to save this stinking yet diverse armada of purulent virtues and malignant values.
We have to rescue democracy from the clutches of political mafias that have kept it in a warped, disrupted form to serve nefarious agendas and personal interests. It’s time to give well-entrenched political mafias a parting kick out of the corridors of democracy, lock, stock and barrel. Let us bid farewell to the Trojan horses of democracy.
The writer, a proponent of the presidential form of democracy, writes on current affairs.
Published in Dawn, July 27th, 2017