Challenges to Democracy in Pakistan:
An intensive debate is raging in the country about revival of democracy. What is missing in this debate is an in-depth analysis to identify the real reasons because of which democracy did not work in Pakistan but in India it did.
The first and foremost condition for growth of democracy is acceptance by all the sovereignty of the people. Obviously, democracy is about such a concept of sovereignty and its realisation. The sovereign people elect representatives, from amongst themselves to rule the country with power the sovereign delegates to them for a limited period. It is conditional that those representatives were ruled to the fullest satisfaction of the sovereign people.
Clearly, the people reserve the undisputed right to remove those who didn’t come up to their expectations, in the next general elections- no more, no less. No one else has the right to dismiss elected delegates. Obviously, the sovereign could delegate power towards a well-defined and in this case it is a good governance, solution of the problems of the people face and above all improvement of quality of their rights discreetly, positively and effectively only when they, themselves have political awareness, social awakening and consciousness. Hence the higher the literacy rate the more powerful the electorate is.
What makes the democracy effective is the democratic political process whereby every political party strictly abides by in the party democracy and party election. The first requirement is democracy at grassroots level – neighbourhood and village where party cadres work among the people, learn about the problems the people face and share the problems with the people being from among them. Many of these are full-time workers, those young persons who opt to become full-time politicians. With experience these workers rise to become national leaders.
The other aspect is the people’s participation and empowerment to directly handle things in their day-to-day affairs. One of the biggest means is democracy working at lowest administrative level with cities and rural areas both being administered by elected representatives, not by bureaucracy, the equivalent of Deputy Commissioner and Supt of Police. A city is administered by an elected mayor with the help of an elected Corporation and the rural area by elected county chairman with the elected council not a DC or and SP.
Democracy did not take roots in Pakistan due to a number of reasons. The foremost being that no effort was ever made to politically educate the people. For one thing the very foundation of democracy – the political education of the people – remains weak due to mass illiteracy and extremely low standard of education. Secondly, hardly anyone of the national political leaders is, or ever was among the people. They were, and still are, elites – top barristers, titleholders, bureaucrats, waderas and now also crony capitalists.
Another reason for democracy not taking roots in Pakistan is the absence of democratic political process. Basically, it is the result of non-existence of democracy within the political parties that have been in power. Except for a couple of parties, no other political party in Pakistan is known to have a held transparent inner party elections. Nor any party is known to have enrolled their supporters as fee paying party members. And to top it all, leadership is a family affair inherited by Next Generation and all from a elite class.
This is unfortunate but more unfortunate is failure of party leadership to acquire political education themselves, let alone educating masses politically. The problems Pakistani society faces are many but some of them the most daunting ones are mass illiteracy, divisions on provincial, linguistic and ethnic basis and further subdivision into castes, biradaris and tribes, religious sectarianism and violence, suffocating grip of feudal culture with disdain for those doing a manual work, respect for parasites, worried business class cabin is lacking enterprise. There are many more such problems our society faces. But none has been known to political leadership and therefore, never highlighted in political literature and this is all inherited. The apathy of political leaders toward genuine problems of masses created a gulf between the rulers and ruled and thus created an opportunity for non-democratic forces to grab power through undemocratic means.