Why democracy in Pakistan

September 14, 2016

Let’s All Be Kings…
Pakistan emerged as a result of long and arduous freedom movement. After independence, there had been lack of agreement on what system of government the country should adopt. As a result Pakistan has undergone different political and constitutional experiments. The system of government kept on switching between dictatorship and democracy. This irresolution contributed a lot to various crises like military coups, strife among ethnic groups, human rights violation and underdevelopment. In context of Pakistan, democracy seems to be more appropriate form of government. Although, some say that Pakistan’s literacy level might not support democracy,however it serves as a better governance system because it safeguards human rights, facilitates economic growth and equality, and respects cultural and ethnic diversity.
Almost always violations of the basic human rights are connected with poor governance. Particularly in Pakistan, people always have had doubts about incompetent rulers. Persecution of minorities, denying women’s rights, andsuppression of media’s voices constitute the structural injustices of the government, which have caused severe unrest in the country. However, in recent times the civil society in Pakistan has been quite active as compared to the past, andthere is a growing awareness among themassesabout equal civil rights. Not surprisingly, it has led to an ever more vocal demand for a democratic form of government. Since in a democracy, the power lies in the hands of the people and the country is governed by their elected representatives,the government is most likely to reflect the will and the preferences of the people. A democratic government elected by adult franchise can be trusted to promote basic human rights like individual freedom and equality because these rights are aligned directly with the spirit of democracy. History of Pakistan shows that military dictators ruled the country for most part. There have been numerous instances of human rights violations during the era. Zia-ul-Haq’sautocratic regime is entirelycharacterized bycensorship of media, banning of student
and labor unions, exiling political figures, and public lashings of women. In contrast to dictatorial era, the subsequent elected governments show a large improvement in protection of human rights. That is why it can be safely asserted that a democratic setup is pertinentfor ensuring the basic human rights in the country.
While considering the slow pace of human development in Pakistan, the progressive needs put emphasis on a democratic set up in the country. Sincedemocracy works on theprinciple
that everyone gets equal participation in the decision making process. Hence, the economic policies have to be oriented towards consequences that will be promisingfor masses. Currently, there is an immense economic disparity in Pakistan. The solution for this problem requiresactive involvement of the people in the legislations, because people from a certain economic class can present and think about solutions to their own problems with greater efficiency.Thus, democracy appears to be the most suitable system because in this system,people can raise their voices to create economic and social opportunities for themselves.
In ademocracy people, especially the lowereconomic class can spread public awareness of their problems to develop a consensus for suitable polices. Intellectualelite andcivil society, as a result, start to speak on behalf of theirinterests. One example ofsuch a political movement of
lower classis Anjuman Mazarain Punjab (AMP), a peasant organization in Okara Punjab. The peasants of this movement had been working in military farms since last century with minimum rights. In 2001, they began to organize themselvesto raise their voice for rights. Consequently AMP started to get attention of various human rights organizations. The pressure and condemnation of the organizations forced the army to retreat from their position on the issue (Ali
3). Only by attending to the needs of poor classes, the country can dream of real progress in living conditions of people. The reduction of poverty level will boost the development rate of the
country. Hence, democracy is vital for human development.
Cultural, ethnic, and linguisticdiversity in Pakistan strengthens the case for democracy. Pakistan is one of the most complex states in the world when it comes to ethnic division. The ethnic diversity can pose a substantial threat to the unity of Pakistan, if it is dealt in an undemocratic manner. The continuous dictatorial rule in Pakistan produced grievances and resentment among Bengalis.In result, they waged a secessionist movement on ethno-national bases and got separated in 1971(Majeed 54).Balochis have protested frequently along similarlines. In such astate of affairs, democracy offersthe best possible solution as it gives equal incentives to every ethnic and regional group for participation in decision makings. In addition,in
a parliamentary democratic setup, as practiced in Pakistan, there is a national assembly, provincial assemblies and senate. The presence of provincial assemblies ensures autonomy at provincial level. Furthermore, in the National Assembly provinces get representation based on their populations. Senate has equal representation of all provinces regardless of their population, thus prevents domination of majority group. The presence of National, Assembly and Senate at the center promotes national cohesion and harmony in the country. Moreover, the allocation of funds between federation and provinces and among provinces is done after census of
representatives of all provinces, which removes sense of deprivation of smaller provinces. Therefore, it can be easily inferred that national unity is most likely to be preserved in a democracy.
The most used argument against the democratic system in Pakistan is the low literacy rate
of the society. The illiterate, it is argued, are most subjected to false practices in the election process and they are unable to select the right person. It is proposed that first, a standard of education be reached, then naturally democracy will follow. While the education system of Pakistan certainly does need attention, the argument creates an unclear relationship between democracy and illiteracy. A simple example of Saudi Arabia would explain this. An absolute monarchy, Saudi Arabia’s literacy rate was 96.51% in 2009 (Index mundi), significantly higher than that of Pakistan. Similarly, the literacy rate of Syria was 84.19% in 2010 which is ruled by a
dictator (Trading economics).In contrast, India which is considered to be largest democracy has comparatively low literacy rate of 74.09% in 2011 (census 2011).Considering the examples of European states, it is clear that a country does not have to be literate for the implementation of democracy. The economist and philosopher Amartya Sen Notes, “A country does not have to be deemed fit for democracy; rather, it has to become fit through democracy’’(“democracy as universal value” 1). So, it can be realized that low literacy rate has not any substantial obstacle for implementation of democracy; instead the problem of illiteracy in Pakistan can be better overcome by a democratic rule in the country.
Another proposition against democracy in Pakistan is the Asian Value thesis, which claims that democracy was a western system unsuited to Asian countries due to cultural and historical differences. No doubt, the cultural difference does exist, but democracy appears to be more of a universal value.  The desire for freedom and equality has always been a prime value
for mankind. In fact, the middle Ages in Europe are mainly characterized by injustice and cruelty
where the democracy experienced in these countries was mainly evolved as a result of Renaissance. In the course of time, Asians, particularly that of subcontinent, are more inclined towards democracy. Carl Gresham, president of The National Endowment for Democracy, Washington DC, quotes in his article, a researchdone by a New Delhi based Center for the study of the developing societies (1) in India that Indian people defend democracy more vigorously, particularly the poor. Since India and Pakistan inherited almost similar values, therefore it is illogical to assert that democracy cannot work due to historic and cultural backgrounds.
Democracy champions the basic human rights. It provides equal opportunity for all to participate in decision making. It is the best suited system in a pluralistic society. In this form of governance, there is a higher degree of transparency because of judiciary, opposition, and free media. It is more accountable system since people get to ask questions and vote accordingly. There can be few arguments against democracy, but the pros outweigh the cons by far. In conclusion, it can be said that democracy is the best form of government, or at least the best available one.

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