What May 11 stands for

Published: May 10, 2014
The writer is an Islamabad-based TV journalist and tweets @FarrukhKPitafi

The writer is an Islamabad-based TV journalist and tweets @FarrukhKPitafi

No matter what happens on May 11 this year, let it be clear as to why this date is important. On this day last year, we formally became a democracy as the first civilian-to-civilian peaceful transition materialised through the ballot box. Honestly, it is a surreal experience to be the citizen of a democracy. For a change, one can now look in the eyes of foreign friends who, only a few years ago, used to lecture us on the virtues of democracy and say with great pleasure that they were citizens of one.

Of course, in this imperfect world, nothing is as it should be. The electoral process this time had its flaws. But the parties that were wronged were not Messrs Tahirul Qadri and Imran Khan’s, but the Awami National Party (ANP) and the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP). The non-state actors that we have fought for over a decade had declared these two parties their clear targets. It was owing to this threat that the ANP lost many of its workers during the election campaign and the PPP simply did not really reach out and campaign. Granted, there was a strong anti-incumbency wave and this threat might even have unwittingly offered these parties a welcome face-saving break from the exigencies of politics. But make no mistake, these are the two parties that were wronged and not the biggest beneficiaries who are planning to come out and protest. Curious as it seems, the parties that actually had everything to lose on this day are not agitating and want to ensure that the democratic tradition is strengthened.

Of course, even before this date, our polity had accomplished some key characteristics of a democracy — a vibrant media, a thriving civil society and a judiciary that guarded its independence jealously. What we achieved on this day, however, formalised our democratic status for the first time in history. We were given a chance to unseat lawmakers upon the completion of their term and elect new governments; it was a watershed moment.

You have mostly seen our destructive side — it’s time for you to see how constructive we can be when we apply our minds to it. We have repeatedly witnessed an abysmal lack of ownership on the part of our masses for their voice was never actually heard. This too, however, is changing as citizens realise their voice now matters.

One tragic flaw during the last five-year term was the communication gap between our institutions — old, new and revitalised. The media and the judiciary, with the latter led by former chief justice Iftikhar Chaudhry, were seriously failing to identify the limits of their activism and ended up offending the sensibilities of many in power and the institutions that had just disentangled themselves from the direct rule. This communication gap was exploited by those who lost as a direct consequence of the strengthening of democracy especially the coterie that once surrounded Musharraf. As a result, a lot of heat and anger was generated that still poses a clear and present danger to the democratisation process.

If there was another serious miracle, it was Imran Khan’s Tehreek-e-Insaf. Unlike other politicians who had spent time in the company of the beleaguered General (retd) Pervez Musharraf, Mr Khan stepped out of the generalissimo’s shadow and found his own voice. He was duly rewarded by the voters and his party, with a single assembly member earlier on, has emerged as a force to reckon with in the federal parliament and has managed to form government in a province. Sadly, by then, Mr Khan had inhaled enough of his own party members’ propaganda and thought that his becoming a PM was a foregone conclusion. This misperception has seriously impacted his political judgment which in any case was not commendable and left him prone to exploitation by other groups.

The readymade exploiter of this weakness has arrived in the shape of Tahirul Qadri. Repeatedly rejected by the voters, Mr Qadri has now practically no stake in the system and keeps acting as agent provocateur. Interestingly, what he doesn’t realise is that despite occasional misunderstandings all stakeholders recognise the true value of democracy. Rejection again, sir!

Published in The Express Tribune, May 10th, 2014.

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Reader Comments (6)

  • M Imtiaz
    May 10, 2014 - 12:39AM

    Writers like these have unfortunately no idea what people on the street are thinking.
    That makes all this a waste of space. Sorry to say that.


  • Kahna Kacha
    May 10, 2014 - 2:29AM


    So your point is that for the SAKE of democracy IK shoudl not ask for justice??? He is only asking for voter confirmation at 4 seats. He has a right to ask under prevalent laws of this country. Please do entire nation a favour, and do the verification. Shut him up for good, if you think elections in those 4 constituencies were fair. On the other hand even if he wins them, he can not be a PM. Looks like it is about justice and making a point and not for the post of PM..


  • AliG
    May 10, 2014 - 3:23AM

    In addition to the above, I think that Gen. (R) Kiyani deserves a huge credit for his role in strengthening of the system. The legacy he leaves behind is more of a patriotic citizen than just a patriotic general. Of course there are many flaws in the system but like everything, nature’s self-balancing act will spring into action, this system will correct itself given due time.
    Now, it the test of the nation, whether we learnt anything from our past mistakes and correct ourselves for future. I personally believe that we are aligned in the right direction, we just need to be more mature, by getting out of this state of denial, and work for the betterment of our society.


  • Mirza
    May 10, 2014 - 8:14AM

    A balanced and scholarly Op Ed by ET, thanks for that. For once our paid govt servants have not directly stole the govt and refrained from trampling the constitution and their own oath of office. If we continue on this path then the generals would also enjoy the love and respect that we all have for our air force and navy. We are not a perfect country or perfect society rather far from it. How can democracy or any govt become pure and perfect in one election after a civilian rule?


  • Beck
    May 10, 2014 - 5:35PM

    Entertainment by super entertainers for entertainment starved public!


  • Anonymous
    May 10, 2014 - 6:32PM

    Sir democracy cycle is yet for away. Another peaceful civilian transfer and completion of other term. It means 15 years of uninterrupted gunman rule!


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