Newspaper Articles

Cheers To democracy – by Laila Sohail

With the election over, a clear mandate being given, and the parliament in place, Pakistan finally gets its much awaited taste of democracy.

“The people of Pakistan have given their mandate…..” this s the most used line by those representing the government. The People of Pakistan did not give a mandate to any political party, they gave a mandate to change…to empowerment. The voting was of just one kind: and that was anti government. Vote for whoever is opposing the Q league candidate….a simple enough strategy triggered by the blunders of the last government and its failure to bring some aspect of peace in the common man’s life. It is difficult to celebrate the growing investment rate when there is no gas, electricity or wheat, and one is in danger of being blown up every time one steps out of the house. The strong feeling of helplessness and hostility towards those in power could not have come at a better time for those who had been seeking this opportunity for the past eight years. “The mandate of the people …” resulted to the historical coalition between the biggest opponents. Old grievances lay forgotten in this new claim for control. It is easy to love your enemies as long as the love for power is strong enough.

But alas! Once again the people of Pakistan are in for a disappointment…no surprise there. The two people making the most important decisions and running this country are sitting outside the parliament; this is indeed a democracy of its kind! Economic conditions are receding, institutions are collapsing; with the lawyer movement going ballistic. Our enlightened politicians are creating havoc in the assembles, not just using verbal abuse but going all out to actually beat each other up {reminds us of our Kindergarten days!}. With the media now giving everything remotely significant live coverage, all that the People of Pakistan can do is sit back at home and enjoy this comedy over a cup of tea. Still every time we crack a joke at their idiocacies or jeer at their disgraceful behavior, we get that sick disgusting feeling inside that we try to overcome with our
humor, because deep inside we realize the underlying tragedy, that this comedy circus is the reality of our politics, and those very people in whose hands we entrust our futures.

The energy crisis is now out of control. Wheat, and now even rice, has become a rare commodity. The investment continues to decline, the lawyer movement has taken a life of its own and its leaders are oblivious to any other institution in the country. Before passing these issues off as inherited, the government should consider the fact that the very reason that it got a mandate was because these issues existed and the people wanted relief. But instead of working on them, the government has more important things to do. The masterminds are busy trying to come up with revenge policies, taping Ch, Pervaiz Ilahi’s phones is of utmost national interest, demeaning the president is so much more important than the upcoming budget. Mud slinging policies take precedence over economic ones. When the government has so much on its hands, how can we expect it to do any better? The solution to any problem under the sun is to formulate a committee. That takes care of it. So many committees have now been made its hard to keep track.

The few steps that have been taken have only raised further questions. Graduation is no more a condition for contesting elections {otherwise half the seats would be empty}.The prime minister wanted student unions to be given legitimacy again…and so it was done. Without research, without discussion, and without any consideration. As if the educational sector was doing so great that the polity should be merged with it! Have we not seen enough blood and violence in student politics to have learnt our lessons? Apparently not. Even if the ban lift has its supporters, the topic should have at least been open to debate. General Zia reversed the policy years back and was criticized for taking a dictatorial step. Now if an elected prime minister does the exact same thing, does it not remain non democratic? The cancellation of the Kalabagh dam project is another controversial issue. The only explanation that is given is that it was a matter of dispute between the provinces and is thus best abandoned. The research carried out by Chinese experts is multiplied by zero. Some spokesmen go as far as saying that other countries around the world have long ago stopped investing in dams and we need to do the same. The suggested solution is using coal instead, as if that’s environment friendly! Then other spokesmen promise bigger dams as alternatives. So do we want dams, or do we not want dams? And if we do not want dams, then what do we want as a solution to the energy crisis? Where do the nonsensical explanations stop? Perhaps this is an over reaction, but isn’t this a major energy policy change at an extremely crucial time? And if it is that, then why was it not taken into the parliament? If the parliament s not going to be consulted on these important issues, why bother paying its bills? There are funds being transferred into the agriculture sector from the industrial sector, where is the theory of following the other countries now, since they have moved to the tertiary sector while we take a step back? The parliament is occupied discussing other crucial issues, such as re naming provinces. Are these debates not further increasing our distances rather than bringing us closer? The people of the provinces are united; those politicians who play dirty provincial politics should be condemned, instead this is seen perhaps as good pass time since there is no
involvement in major decision making anyway.

How can the president be forgotten? He is supposedly the only ‘hindrance’ in the way of democracy isn’t he? He is called pro US, where as the new government is even more pro US than the one before it. Musharraf might be Uncle Sam’s leading horse currently, but do these politicians imply that they would not all be willing to run the race incase America wants to bet on another horse, especially considering the fact that the very reason they are inside the country is because of American alliance? If American influence is here to stay, and its something we need to deal with rather than retaliate to, why fool the people with all the pro US propaganda? Still there is a solution to everything and the constitutional package solves the presidential crisis. Give all power to the prime minister. How convenient! That surely promises us a stable government, only issue is, even a dictatorship promises the same. Dictators don’t only come in uniforms.

During all this time, the media has been considerably quiet. Initially there was a wave of optimism, but the government gave little to talk about. Then there was the judiciary issue, which gained the entire focus of attention, with some channels gong as far as to giving countdowns. But sad for the media this also fizzled out, and the media was easily kept out of the matter. Even when major channels are not given licenses, there is hardly any uproar [remember the banned channels fight for freedom of expression?] The new government has learnt from its predecessor, it just doesn’t take chances! Before the media was seen as the gallant savior, playing its role as watch dog, ready to pounce on anything, now it has taken a back seat. Perhaps ‘third party’ involvement is there, or maybe that’s jumping to over dramatic conclusions. Maybe, along with the rest of the nation, it’s in a state of denial {considering its role in the demise of the last government}, or shock or maybe just confusion. Its romance with democracy was surely a brief one.

Wherever this road of self proclaimed democracy is taking us, it does not seem to be a happy place. We may have counted on this being an escape route, but the political charade has already more than answered that question. With mandate comes responsibility. What the People of Pakistan want are not more promises in the future, or power tools in the form of bills and legislative packages, what the People want is CHANGE, this will only come if there is any WORK, instead of all talk. This is a democracy for non democrats. Eventually the curtain has to
fall, and when it does, we will be right where we were forty years ago, before the first martial law. Once again a blame game will start. Or…to find a solution….we could always formulate a committee…..