Is this democracy? | Dr Abdul Qadeer Khan


There is a saying that if the rulers ignore the problems, pains and needs of their people, they are doomed sooner rather than later. The situation in Pakistan seems to have almost reached this point. The rulers and those in authority seem least bothered about the welfare of the poor people. Even those who are very vocal about their demands for the rights and facilities for the poor often only indulge in hypocrisy: a lot of words but no practical help or support.

Thousands of people are challenging the decisions made by parliament – a body which is responsible to the people because it has been elected by them. Mischief mongers incite people to block roads, prevent transport from plying and even to attack the law-enforcers. We have seen more than enough of this by various political leaders through their dharnas and protests.

The Supreme Court has started working according to the constitution and democratic principles. Unfortunately, when one remembers the role of the judiciary in the cases against Musharraf, Hussain Haqqani, Ayaan Ali, Zardari ($60 million in Swiss accounts), one realises it has been far from satisfactory. During the tenure of the former chief justice, suo motu notices were issued in large numbers. But that does not mean that, where there was an urgent need to react, it was right for the judiciary to just sit as an onlooker and not bring cases to their natural conclusion.

Law-breakers and some other mischief-makers create real law and order situations that create a lot of inconvenience for the public. However, we see the government succumbing to appease these trouble-makers. Is that democracy? Blocking roads, causing public damage, breaking the windows of offices and shops is not democratic and should not be rewarded. Giving in to such hooliganism is more like defeatism. The majority suffers at the hands of a few: such rowdiness continues for days with the government remaining inactive and then giving in to many, if not all, of their demands. In some protests by medical personnel, ambulance services are blocked and emergency services closed, increasing the suffering of patients.

Parliament is rendered inactive by a few mischief-makers. Even if their demands are genuine, the possibilities provided by the law should be followed and exploited. Our rulers should learn from the administration of Hazrat Umar (RA) and Hazrat Umar bin Abdul Aziz to see how they ruled and kept the public under control. This was done with simplicity, honesty and following the law in letter and in spirit. They did not let a small minority take the majority hostage and did not sit back doing nothing when action was needed.

Parliament is the representative organisation of the country (public) and is supposed to provide safety, security and comfort to people. The problem arises when, due to the failure of the government, a powerful and ambitious general usurps power and casts democracy of the country aside. We have seen this happen in our country too often in the past. Since the army has been engaged in fighting a proxy war with outsiders, it has left our country at the mercy of our enemies.

We have not stopped infiltrators from entering the country; and they have freely indulged in acts of sabotage and the use of explosives, resulting in not just many casualties and deaths in the country but also in giving the state a bad reputation. If the PML-N fails to block undemocratic actions by mischief-makers, parliament must exert itself to fill the gap. It should make laws and bring in appropriate action to block the possibilities of taking the country and its people hostage.

Why do people say democracy is in danger if you block the anti-state activities of a few thousand people? Is democracy for the majority or for a few thousand people? By not acting, great harm is done to the country and great inconvenience and loss caused to the public. Compromise doesn’t pay. On the contrary, it encourages troublemakers to indulge in even more mischief, jeopardising the law and order situation.

When the constitution was framed, Pakistan’s situation was totally different: the atrocities being committed today did not occur back then and so laws appropriate for dealing with these situations were not framed. This makes it possible for any political party to gather a few thousand people, agitate and bring main cities to a standstill, causing major financial loss and inconvenience to the public.

In our country, one political party will oppose everything another party will do or say simply for the sake of opposition. There is no such thing as positive criticism in our system. Any problems that the parties feel exist should be taken to the courts and dealt with according to the law, not by agitation. We recently witnessed how strikes in Karachi failed miserably simply because the Rangers took strict action. The MQM sat like a lame duck and lost face.

To put an end to this vicious circle, the government must act against all anti-state activities and elements in the manner in which the Supreme Court has advised it. It is fortunate that the Rangers and defence intelligence agencies have been active in trying to control the situation and lately, a large number of terrorists have been captured or killed in encounters. They are bringing the situation under control. Without their involvement, the situation would have been much worse and our ‘preachers of democracy’ would still have been comfortable and safe in their palaces.

A country does not obtain democracy on a platter. It requires diligence, struggle and stringent actions.