A Utopian concept

Wary of the present-day lawlessness and political mis-governance, a certain section of our public has started thinking that the real panacea for our present ills is benevolent dictatorship. Politically it is a form of government in which an authoritarian leader exercises political power for the benefit of the whole population rather than for his own person or for the benefit of his party. In fact this term is not a part of any political system regulated by definite rules, but is essentially a dictatorship in which the dictator is motivated by the supreme interests of the entire population of the country rather than any party or group. The dictators actions are subordinate to the interests of the popular will. Any ruler who assumes absolute powers unrestrained by a legislative assembly is termed a dictator, but since power corrupts and the absolute power corrupts absolutely, therefore the common tendency among all dictators is that they usurp civil liberties, suspend elections and become tyrants by developing a cult of personality. Thus a benevolent dictator appears to be a contradiction in terms, and hence an anomaly. It often happens that a dictator on assumption of powers makes vastly popular decisions in the beginning and executes his programme of reformation with great zeal and dedication for some years, and then gets derailed either due to his own miscalculations or because of an instinct for self-aggrandizement. Since a person cannot be all-knowledgeable nor austerely uniform in his attitudes and behaviour, therefore the possibility of his remaining infallible for all times and under all circumstances becomes extremely remote. Lee Kuan Yew, the former Prime Minister of Singapore is the only longest serving benevolent dictator in history. Besides Lees own merits, there was a small population and a tiny city-state at his disposal. Other leaders like Fidel Castro and Ho Chi Minh are also widely acknowledged as benevolent dictators within their own communities, though less so considered in the outside world. Since there being no mode of selection/election or even succession of a benevolent dictator, therefore this concept at best is only Utopian, and cant be adopted as a permanent mode or instrument of governance. Pakistan in its chequered history has experimented with all forms of government known to the world (except constitutional monarchy). Pakistan has seen parliamentary, Presidential, and semi-presidential forms of governments, in addition to three martial laws under military dictators and one under a civilian ruler. Lastly we had a quasi-military regime under a military dictator. There are multiple reasons for the consistent failure of our electoral politics but chiefly it is because of lack of democratic discipline of our politicians. The trouble is that democracy requires a lot of patience and sacrifice for which we are not prepared. Within less than half of the electoral tenure, the cup of our patience becomes full to the brim. How sad it is to find ourselves again yearning for some kind of benevolent autocratic rule which in our case is bound to be disastrous. It is said that the cure for the evils of democracy is more democracy. Unless we prepare ourselves for more education, cultivate a more democratic outlook, elect our representative more wisely and exhibit a conscientious awareness of our rights and duties, no system of governance would salvage us from our present difficulties. ZAFAR AZIZ CHOUDHRY, Lahore, August 20.

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