March 23, 2008: Let Democracy Reign

Posted on March 23, 2008
Filed Under >Adil Najam, Politics, Society
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Adil Najam

Pakistan Flag DemocracyAddressing the Pakistan military parade today, Gen. Pervez Musharraf proclaimed that “you are seeing that a real democratic era has begun in Pakistan.” I say “Amen” to that. I remain confident as ever that Pakistan remains a democratic society trapped inside of an undemocratic state. I repeat and stand by what I had written a year ago today:

On this March 23rd, I am more confident than ever that not only can democracy work in Pakistan, it is the only thing that can. Whether our elites recognize it or not, the democratic spirit of the people can neither be tamed nor contained. Not any more.

If one were to go into details, my quibble would be that Pakistani society has always been democratic. It is the state that has been captured, again and again, by undemocratic forces – with or without elections. Elections, as so many have argued, are a necessary but not a sufficient condition for democracy. Elections, in themselves, do not give you democracy; but it is impossible to have democracy without them. Democracy, ultimately, is the simple proposition that people have a right to and the ability to impact the decisions that will impact them. All else is the mechanics of how a society chooses to make this happen. The best way to safeguard democracy is to make democracy work.

The new government – under Syed Yousuf Raza Gillani, at least in the short term – have (yet another) historic opportunity to make get the mechanics right. After years and years of undemocratic interferences and spurts and starts, we need – more than anything – to demonstrate not only that democracy will work in Pakistan, but that it will work for all Pakistanis. Once people truly see democracy working for them, they will themselves stand in the way of anyone trying to circumvent the process. Here, if anywhere, it is indeed true – as the Kevin Costner character said in the move Field of Dreams: “If you build it, they will come.” Indeed, they will!

As those in politics are wont to, Gen. Musharraf also takes far too much credit for himself – indeed, he takes credit even for that which has happened despite him. For example, when he says “during the past eight years, not only we laid the foundation of a real democracy, but we also put Pakistan on the path of progress and prosperity.” But the least one can do is to give him the benefit to believe so, if so he wishes to believe. As long as he actually believes – and will make believable – his next claim: i.e., “whichever new government is formed, it will have my full support.”

The test of his mettle will be whether he can, will or really wants to give his “full support” to the next government. The test of the mettle of the next government will be whether they will want, need or accept his “full support.”

23 responses to “March 23, 2008: Let Democracy Reign”

  1. Ahmed says:

    ab to sirf bhutto bhotto hi ho gi, democracy naihin. yeh sab log murduon pay siysat karnay walay hain. yeh be who hi kar rahin hai jo yeh pahlay kartay ain hai.

  2. Aamir says:

    Thank you Mr Musharraf, it is you who brought this democracy to Pakistan. Unfortunately the dumb public of Pakistan voted the same old thieves, slackers and frauds back to office. However since it is their choice, I congratulate the people of Pakistan.

  3. Jaffar says:

    Indeed Great Day for Pakistam.
    What PM Gilani do beside restoring the Judiciary and UN investigation of Benezer Bhutto.
    United Nations Investigation of alleged charges of corruption against Zulfiqar Bhutto, Benezer Bhutto, Asif Zardari, Sharif Brothers and other high ranking politicans including Gilani himself.
    This is the only way to get a clean slate for every alleged charges of corruption and restore full faith in democracy and come clean.
    In Urdu its called Doodh Ka Doodh, Pani ka Pani.

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