Government and democracy

Published: January 17, 2013
The writer is a Karachi-based journalist who has previously worked at The Express Tribune and Newsline

The writer is a Karachi-based journalist who has previously worked at The Express Tribune and Newsline

As Oscar Wilde undoubtedly would have said, had he been around in Pakistan today, “To lose one prime minister may be regarded as a misfortune; to lose both looks like carelessness.” One doesn’t need to be too conspiracy theory-minded to say that the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) has got exactly what it wanted, even if the timing didn’t quite suit the party. Raja Pervaiz Ashraf has been a dead man walking since the day he was appointed as prime minister. He was under investigation at the time of his selection and it was only a matter of time before his shady past caught up to him.

The Supreme Court announced his arrest while Tahirul Qadri was mid-speech, which undoubtedly caused suspicion due to the timing, however, it does not mean that the Court’s decision was incorrect. There is certainly enough evidence of wrongdoing in the rental power plant projects to place the prime minister under trial. And, those saying the Supreme Court has undermined democracy need to realise that Ashraf doesn’t need to leave his office if he doesn’t want to. Simply being accused of a crime is not enough to disqualify him from office and by the time his trial ends, new elections will already have been held. Of course, if one speaks in terms of moral duty, Ashraf probably should resign but then morality has never held much sway in our politics.

Now would also be a good time to consider the last five years of the PPP rule and wonder exactly what it has done to deserve anyone’s vote. Defenders of the party say, with much justification that, any civilian government has to contend with playing second fiddle to the military. As true as it is, one of the PPP’s chief goals should have been to try and shift this balance of power, no matter how slightly. Instead, the PPP government ended up ceding even more ground to the military. A couple of times in 2008, it tried to bring the military to heel, once when it issued a notification bringing the ISI under the interior ministry and then when it told India after the 26/11 attacks that it would send the ISI chief to India. In both cases, the PPP’s backbone collapsed in under a day. At other moments, like after Osama bin Laden was found to have been living safely and comfortably within our borders, the PPP could have seized the opportunity to publicly claw back some power from a discredited military. Needless to say, it did not even attempt to do that.

On the question of militancy and growing religious intolerance in the country, the PPP has been no better. When faced with protests over the anti-Islam video, it announced the Ishq-e-Rasool Day, guaranteeing only that the protests would become larger and more violent. On Shia killings, it has been mostly silent, as it was on the blasphemy issue, even when its own senior leader Salmaan Taseer was assassinated. This is a party that is in power only so that it can continue staying in power. There is no larger agenda there.

There are some who absurdly claim that any criticism of the PPP is the same as undermining democracy. So, let me say that this PPP government has been the best thing that could ever have happened to our fledgling democracy. Any democracy which can survive such a complete lack of governance for five years is a lot stronger than we give it credit for. We criticise the PPP not because we want the army in power. There is nothing we would enjoy more than the right to vote them out of office.

Published in The Express Tribune, January 18th, 2013.

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Reader Comments (13)

  • Shaami Lahori
    Jan 17, 2013 - 10:56PM

    Sir with due respect I am pretty much familiar with your family. You belong from the same family which are known as Elites of Pakistan and you have no idea what is going on in poor and middle class families. The ordinary people on the streets dont think like you and for them Musharraf was better than this democracy and for them the Piece of bread and a Peace of mind have more importance than any democracy. So it is my advise that to stick with your favorite past time that is Tennis and what Andy Murray is doing in Australian Open as you are unfamiliar with the sentiment of General Public of Pakistan.


  • Parvez
    Jan 17, 2013 - 11:02PM

    Sir we neither have a government nor a democracy. What we have is a system cobbled together by a few to loot and plunder the many which has been labelled as democracy because it pleases some sitting far away.


  • Mirza
    Jan 17, 2013 - 11:24PM

    I liked the Op Ed and agree that we need the power and chance to throw the non-performing members of the provincial and federal govt out. This is the right we have earned and we are not going to give it up. If the current govt disappointed us that does not mean we throw the baby with bathwater!


  • John B
    Jan 17, 2013 - 11:28PM

    Regardless of poor governance by PPP, at this time in PAK history any other political party would also have given the same mess due to various reasons -flood, bankrupt economy, low tax collection, drones, terrorists, sectarian and target killing, Raymond Davis, OBL, downfall in world economy, establishment attack ,among others.

    We all know that this government survived because of consensus among opposition coalition partners and Uncle Sam and not because of desire to stay in power(not that they did not want to).

    Next government will also be a shaky one but good news is PAK finally learns how to transfer power peacefully through vote (hope so).

    Pak political parties have too much baggage and they are not in touch with the ordinary folks. They had a good chance to revive the economy but all politicians combined made sure that it never happens. So, even if new government comes to power, the baggage of yesteryear are still with them to carry.

    The achievement of this government: constitutional amendments that are appealing to all and long due change in laws. That in itself is a big thing. Everything else is a bonus, if there is any.


  • sabi
    Jan 18, 2013 - 1:41AM

    Although PPP has done nothing good for public yet it has exposed hidden hands sabotaging every effort to strengthen civilion rule.Author has mentioned some of the resistance faced by ppp.


  • Jan 18, 2013 - 2:35AM

    You have spoken the what’s on the minds of majority of Pakistanis in a clear and succint manner. As always, those who cannot find anything wrong with what you’ve written, will find plenty wrong with YOU. As @Shaami Lahori is aptly demonstrating.


  • Jan 18, 2013 - 9:02AM

    PPP also gave extension to the Army chief. They made air Cheif MD PIA.

    Drone attacks of Zulfiqar Mirza, Faisal reza Abdi, and Malik riaz all were dropped with the support of establishment.


  • Suheil Siddiqi
    Jan 18, 2013 - 9:41AM

    It’s the banksters’ fictitious loans that governments/dictators et all grovel for and always get them contracted to your account.


  • sry
    Jan 18, 2013 - 12:07PM

    To say democracy is strong just because an incompetent and corrupt government has lasted five years is just plain wrong. True, part of the reason democracy has survived is because people have realised there is no other real option, so they are just putting up with it.
    But, really, the reason this terrible government has survived is because the “demo” in our democracy is weak and ignorant.
    What we are really doing is: we are tolerating outright kleptocracy; and thereby, following some clauses in the constitution and allowing certain institutions to (dys)function.
    This, however, has nothing to do with “the rule of the people.”
    The spirit of democracy is the will of the people being implemented; but I see nothing even close to that in Pakistan.
    So, in reality, democracy is extremely weak; because citizenry is ignorant, alienated and voiceless, and things that matter to them are not on the government’s agenda.


  • Parvez
    Jan 18, 2013 - 1:57PM

    @Suheil Siddiqi: Agree.


  • Salman
    Jan 18, 2013 - 2:16PM

    What a stupid article, makes no sense. What are the achievements of this govt other than corruption, inflation and violence? You call that a govt worth running?


  • Sajida
    Jan 19, 2013 - 12:05AM

    It is hard to deliver at national and state level when you have little/no experience at local level. That is where nitty gritty skills are learned. That is why President Lula and Prime Ministers Erdogan were so superior in power. They and their political parties succeeded at the local level first.

    PPP’s successor will fail as well. Why? No locally realized skills.The fact Punjab has an ancient form of local governance means its Politicians have made it more difficult to deliver results. So if PPP’s successor comes from the Punjab, no one should expect a better record.

    Same goes for KP and Balochistan (of course neither has the population to deliver a national government. In KP and Balochistan the failure will be contained with the respective provinces.


  • x
    Jan 19, 2013 - 7:15PM

    There is nothing we would enjoy more than the right to vote them out of office
    Agree 100 %


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