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International Democracy Day – Points for Pakistanis to Ponder

 In 2007,  the United Nations General Assembly decided to observe September 15th annually as the “International Day of Democracy” and invited all member states and organizations to commemorate the day in an appropriate manner that contributes to raising public awareness.

The preamble of the resolution affirmed that:

“while democracies share common features, there is no single model of democracy and that democracy does not belong to any country or region…democracy is a universal value based on the freely-expressed will of people to determine their own political, economic, social and cultural systems, and their full participation in all aspects of life.”


Pakistan has aptly tinkered with a number of forms of democracies over its history. Be it a democracy without elections between 1947 to 1954, to democracy run by establishment between 1954 to 1958 wherein heads of government changed faster than bed linen, to the basic democracy structure of Ayub Khan to the parliamentary democracy that came out as result of the dismemberment of Pakistan to the referendum based democracy of Zia ul Haq. Whichever the form of democracy, one pattern has been for sure: a decade for civilians followed by a decade for military and its “holier than thou” democrats. Another sad aspect of democracy of Pakistan is that when military runs the government, we remember Faiz and Jalib with calls for the military to go back to their barracks and when civilians are in power, some of us demand for the military to step in and “save the country”. There is another pattern: our patience runs dry with the military after half a decade while with civilian democracies, it is just months into their allowed half a decade. There is a class of people in Pakistan who just do not want continuation of a system and are devoid of consistency of thought.


As a preamble, let me very honestly say: democracy is the best system and a worst form of democracy is better than the most ideal dictatorship. I am one of those who do not reject one system because who heads it. Personally, I have been a beneficiary of the growth Pakistan saw during General Musharraf’s period but as all good things come to an end, a lack of consistency by the General led to his demise.

Coming to the current democratic period, I see a major difference in the approach of its participants: first and foremost is the tolerance of the government. With the favorite punching bag of Pakistan as its head, you can say whatever you want and however you want, but you are never hit back. Every now and then there are reports that indicate towards the intolerance of the government with stories like “Get CJ operation” and “Plan to assassinate CJ LHC”, but what we see is that there is no truth in such reports and they are made to cause confusion and sensation amongst a certain class of people. Secondly, if one sees, there is a general level of accepting each other. Old foes like PPP and MQM are allied; PPP and ANP are working together; PPP and PML-N who couldn’t stand each other’s presence are somehow living together. Result is that despite of skirmishes every now and then, we see them sticking together and not leaving each other in the lurch. One can call it a marriage of convenience or one can call it political maturity, it’s up to you. Thirdly, we see freedom of speech and freedom of media. This freedom has not been curtailed at any cost, despite the biggest inconveniences and nuisances caused by our nadan friends in the media. The biggest curb on the freedom of media are the terrorists who have killed many journalists in the FATA and Swat area. They have killed photojournalists covering rallies by suicide bombs. But then, their sacrifice is not remembered by many and what people choose to remind public is the “humiliation” of a certain journalist belonging to a certain group!

The best thing about democracy is accountability. Not the accountability of Saif ur Rehman and the generals but that by the public. You don’t work, you are voted out.

Let this principle rule us. Give democracy time to function. Let democracy deliver. Be patient. Don’t let our nadan friends trouble the path of consistency.

About the author

Ahmed Iqbalabadi


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  • It is not a question to give time to democracy, the problem is that the strenthening of democracy will eventually eliminate the adventerures who want to do experiments on this land to benfit their own interests.
    Situation is getting polarised day by day.

  • Democracy has been interrupted too many times and was not allowed to
    flourish. The relatively protracted political process of cleansing the
    system of corrupt elements, evolving best practices and grooming new
    leadership has never been allowed to play itself out. Hence
    institutionalisation of the process has proved very difficult and even
    the separation of powers between various institutions of the state has
    often come under strain. Institutionalisation of democracy and
    strengthening of a democratic culture within and without the political
    parties is of critical importance( PPP can be termed as pure
    democratic party in this regard as the prime minister is not part of
    the political dynasty of the Pakistan People’s Party, which
    illustrates its internal democratic culture). We have a history of
    military dictatorships and autocratic governments. That can only be
    rolled back if democracy demonstrates its superiority over
    dictatorship, both in terms of its process as well as its benefits and
    fruits. It is the time we can stand unite to protect democracy and can
    leave behind a rich legacy that will go a long way in consolidating
    democracy and therefore a brighter future for the country.

  • PFUJ asked the democratic set up to ensure its writ on media owners!

    Islamabad, Sept 15: The Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists (PFUJ) has regretted that although after a long dictatorial rule democracy finally prevailed, the democratically elected government “could not succeed in steering out media persons from the clutches of the despotic rule of the media owners, and they are still deprived of all legitimate rights awarded by the people chosen parliament under the Newspaper Employees (Conditions of Service) Act, 1973.

    In a statement issued here on Wednesday on the eve of the “International Day of Democracy” the PFUJ pointed out that as adopted by the United Nations General Assembly on November 8, 2007, this day provides an opportunity to review the state of democracy in the world. “Since Democracy is both a process and a goal, only with the full participation of and support by the international community, national governing bodies, civil society and individuals, the ideal of democracy can be made into reality, to be enjoyed by everyone, everywhere,”.

    Continuing, the PFUJ said that “the will of the people is the basis of the authority of government”, which is also supposed to protect and get implement its decisions as envisaged under the Acts of the Parliament.

    The PFUJ said no doubt that present democratic setup is the product of free will of the people of the Pakistan. Democracy is the mother of the organs of the state including Parliament, Judiciary, and Executive. All these organs of the state which are product of the democracy are under obligation to get implement the decision of the Parliament in letter and spirit and parliament itself is also required to take notice where the writ of the parliament is not being implemented.

    “The ultimate goal of democracy is to preserve and promote the dignity and fundamental rights of the individual, to achieve social justice, foster the economic and social development of the community, strengthen the cohesion of society and build a propitious environment for international peace. Democracy, development and human rights are therefore interdependent”, the PFUJ observed.

    The PFUJ said although it is matter of satisfaction that at present we have democratic order prevailing in the country, yet the disturbing question is that in the whole ten years of the Mushriff dictatorial role not an iota of laws of the parliament in the shape of the Labour Laws and NECOSCA were implemented including the 7th Wage Board Award, which was supposed to be implemented with effect from Ist July 2000, but why in the democratic era too the media persons are not allowed to reap from fruits of “democracy”.

    The PFUJ reminded that all the provincial assemblies, national assembly, and senate passed resolutions a number of times calling upon the Media Houses to Implement the 7th Wage Board Award, but none of them cared, and the judiciary too has not fulfilled its obligation to protect and persevere the constitution, rather it provided a one sided restraint order for non-implementation of the wage board award.

    The media persons are an instrument of a flourishing democracy and its institutions, including judiciary, executive, while media houses always got concessions from dictators. This tendency is now required to be checked and it is the prime duty of democracy and its all organs, PFUJ asserted.

    Shamsul Islam Naz
    Secretary General