‘Democracy not in ideal shape, but people should not lose hope’

Published November 17, 2023
PPP leader Shazia Marri speaks at a panel discussion at the IBA on Thursday.
—Fahim Siddiqi / White Star
PPP leader Shazia Marri speaks at a panel discussion at the IBA on Thursday. —Fahim Siddiqi / White Star

KARACHI: The reason why democracy in Pakistan is not in an ideal shape is because people of this country have been depoliticised, and if we want a genuine change, we need to politicise them again.

This was stated by Pakistan Peoples Party leader Shazia Marri at a panel discussion titled ‘Elections, Democracy and Development’ held on the main campus of the Institute of Business Administration (IBA) on Thursday.

The discussion was one of the many sessions held in connection with the third Annual International Conference titled “Challenging Linearity” organised by the IBA’s School of Economics and Social Sciences.

The panel also included Haqooq-i-Khalq Party general secretary Dr Ammar Ali Jan. IBA Executive Director Dr S. Akbar Zaidi introduced the panellists at the session.

Panel discussion held on ‘Elections, Democracy and Development’ at IBA

Speaking to the audience, Ms Marri said that Pakistan does have democracy, but it was just not in an ideal shape, but the hope for it must not end.

She said that Zulfikar Ali Bhutto had laid foundation of the Pakistan Peoples Party because there was no democracy and freedom in the country.

“We can’t stop fighting for it,” Ms Marri said. She shared how politicians were seen as the ones on the wrong side of history.

“We have witnessed that the politicians themselves accuse other politicians of being wrong and exclude themselves from the list to prove themselves credible,” she said, adding that the problem was not in politics and democracy, but the way it was practised.

“Everything has its ethics,” she said.

She urged that people must not end hope for democracy.

“The important part of democracy is elections, which is why we ask for them. The core responsibility of the caretaker government is to assist the Election Commission of Pakistan to conduct polls, but I heard a caretaker minister saying that they were there to serve people of Pakistan. That’s not your job!”

She asked for a level-playing field in the elections.

“We must have all the right to vote. The voters must be given protection and freedom to vote whoever they want to and ballot boxes must also be secured.”

Democracy is always better than authoritarianism, she concluded.

Dr Ammar Ali Jan highlighted that Pakistan couldn’t produce Noam Chomsky-like figures because they go missing within a year or two.

He said it was ridiculous that universities that were supposed to encourage students to ask questions were told to obey those in powers.

He said that he was asked to leave in the middle of semester from the Punjab University when he hosted an event for Manzoor Pashteen.

He said that when he was rusticated from two universities, he had two options: To go back, or stay here and speak up against the enemy who were power and privilege.“

Replying to a question why the politics of left had not sustained in Pakistan, he said that people were so disillusioned, their hopes had been destroyed so many times that even if they were being told the truth, they were sceptical of it.

He said that it took 100 years of mobilisation for the BJP in India to reach where it was standing today.

He said that criminal activities like raiding homes at night and picking up women from their houses or taking their trials to military courts was not okay.

“Nobody in Pakistan does anything. It’s just their turns they wait for. Benazir Bhutto, Nawaz Sharif and Imran Khan, none of them did anything to be in the jail other than hurting egos of certain individuals.”

He said that it was necessary to check why generals, bureaucrats and landlords had all the powers and common people were so powerless.

Published in Dawn, November 17th, 2023

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