Had the military adventurers heeded Quaid’s words about democracy and allegiance to the constitution quoted by General Ashfaq Parvaiz Kayani while addressing the 128th passing out parade at the Pakistan Military Academy, the country would not have been where it stands now.
Casting a glance on the past mistakes, he urged the military leadership to support and strengthen democracy in the country and also impliedly advised them to owe allegiance to the elected leadership and follow their decisions. His backing of the proposed dialogue with the Taliban has removed apprehensions in certain quarters regarding any rift between the civil and military leadership will regards to dealing with the menace of terrorism in the country. Brushing aside the notion that recourse to dialogue with TTP was a sequel to failure of the military operation, by quoting successes of military operation in Swat and other tribal areas, he made it abundantly clear that the army was ready to meet any challenge and be at the beck and call of the elected leadership in case the dialogue option failed to materialize. He made it clear that future of the country was linked to democracy and constitutional rule and there could be no compromise on that. That is exactly the position taken by the Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif regarding how to deal with TTP related terrorism. He wants to give dialogue a chance as first priority and remains committed to using force as a last resort.
Referring to the transition of power through ballot for the first time in the country’s history--- of course made possible by a responsible conduct of the political leaders and the support of military leadership, General Kayani emphasized the need for continuation of the process of confidence-building between the state institutions which had been set into motion by this development. These words coming from the COAS are testimony to the fact that the military is all set to retreat from the civilian territory that it had encroached upon as well as to abandon its disdainful posture towards the elected representatives. This radical change in the mind-set of the military commanders and consequent harmony of thought between the civil and military leadership on challenges confronting the country, is a propitious omen for the future of democracy and constitutional rule in the country.
Now that the field has been left open for the political leadership to prove their democratic credentials and being worthy of the legacy bequeathed to them by the founding father of the nation, they must atone for their past follies and lead the nation to a truly democratic destination. There are no two opinions about the fact that our salvation lies in following the vision of the Quaid and any further deviation from this chartered course will be a recipe for disaster.
Pakistan is at the cross-roads because of the bad governance inbuilt in the colonial system that we have followed during the past more than six decades. The feudal character of our political system which breeds a culture of graft and entitlement needs to be replaced by a truly democratic and representative system. Democracy is not merely about holding elections. The prevalent system is inherently anti-people and protects the interests of the elite. This injudicious system is responsible for the unrest that we see in different parts of the country and the fissiparous tendencies that pose an existentialist threat to it. Our present system of elections on single constituency basis is injudicious and non-representative and guarantees concentration of political power in the hands of feudal lords and affluent classes. In this numbers game the parties get the secondary position and its leadership is blackmailed by the vested interests on the basis of their group strength within the party and their ability to destabilize the non-conforming governments. This culture also gives birth to detestable practices like horse trading and changing loyalties for material favours, forcing the leadership of the ruling parties to care more for saving their government than changing the political system and making the people real masters of their destiny. We have witnessed this kind of crass politics in the nineties.
People who have voted Nawaz Sharif into power and the civil society are well within their right to expect game changing measures from him, especially making a departure from the way we elect our leaders and make the system truly representative. In the May 2013 elections fought on single constituency basis, with unprecedented turnout of 55.02% the winning and ruling party obtained 32.77 % of the vote cast and only 17.41% of the total registered votes. If we look at constituency wise turnout the figure fluctuates between 84% to 11.50% and the winning candidates in certain constituencies have obtained even less than 10% of the vote cast. How can such a system be called democratic and truly representative?.
The remedy lies in switching over to the proportional representation wherein people vote for parties and not individuals, to have a really representative parliament and government. The voting should also be made compulsory. This changeover will help bring regional and nationalist parties into the political mainstream.
The writer is a freelance columnist.