Let’s hate democracy

Published: March 9, 2015
The writer is an Islamabad-based TV journalist and tweets @FarrukhKPitafi

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

With his face contorting with rage — for once I thought the man was about to have a stroke — a priggish analyst yelled at me, “You call this… this circus, this monstrosity, democracy? No sir, it is kleptocracy. These self-serving politicians are nothing but petty thieves, rogues and thugs of the worst order.” This happened recently in a show that I had to host on the Senate elections. The man in question, a senior analyst, was claiming that politicians were being bought and sold like cattle. In the interest of democracy and the objective truth, I reminded the gentleman that it was critical that we produce some evidence while levelling such accusations. Ergo this tirade.

When you move among our elite, you marvel how a concept as beautiful and simple as democracy is demonised and thoroughly ridiculed. The story goes like this. Pakistani politicians are scions of the country’s landed aristocracy and the corrupt mafia. They are disloyal, greedy, self-righteous, manipulative, benighted, opportunistic and immoral. Since political parties are personality cults, family fiefdoms or worse still criminal gangs, which lack internal democracy and transparency, the political order they participate in cannot be termed a democracy.

If these accusations were not enough, we were given a refresher course by the four-month-long theatre of the absurd in Islamabad, as well as on some national news networks, where pontificating continues day in, day out. Let us take a look at the symbolism of Tahirul Qadri and Imran Khan’s sit-ins on the Constitution Avenue. For four months, they brought hordes to Shahrah-e-Jamhooriat. Upon this road, the nerve centre of the country, its democracy and constitutionalism, they installed their containers, tents, tandoors and latrines. As a matter of routine, dirty and washed clothes were left hanging to dry on the apex Court’s signboard. The peripheral fence around the parliament building was taken down. Symbolism of such hate can hardly be forgotten. But in the fast ever-changing realities of Islamabad, this is old news.

Now let’s take a look at the new symbols, shall we? For weeks before the Senate elections, friends from my community have been found shouting hoarse about the injustices of the allegedly planned horse-trading with their spittle flying in the air. When it was enough, an outraged Chaudhry Shujaat called it ‘dunkey’ trading. A journalist close to the Maulana of the JUI-F even wrote a column in Urdu titled “Gadha trading” (donkey trading). When the day of the election arrived, we witnessed the television coverage of the process repeatedly being interrupted by the ongoing sideshow in Lahore, the Horse and Cattle Show, an event which has been held periodically throughout my life. The holding of the event is not in question here. The question is of the timing of the event. All this talk of horse-trading gels well with the title of this event. I know such events are planned much ahead of their time, but so is the Senate election. Mind you, the Senate is the territorial house of the country, an affirmative action to ensure all provinces regardless of their population size get equal representation, hence it is a true symbol of the federation. Insulting it is tantamount to undermining the federation. But our hatred of all things political knows no bounds and hence we don’t care who comes in the way.

The way election after election is made controversial, it doesn’t seem like a coincidence. But this is akin to a Catch-22 situation: what alternative do we have? Our state, at times through the bureaucracy, at times with the help of the military, and almost always vetted by the judiciary, froze democracy in its tracks and took control of its destiny. But this doesn’t work. It never does. And these ‘loathsome’ politicians were all groomed by the very state during other similar episodes of democratic breakdown. After this process of grooming, there is another process that we usually miss out on. That of alienation. Our state needs to ask itself why it fails to sustain its little triumphs. If you realise, this question is deeper than you might think it is. Want a reminder? Take a look at the state’s other old allies. Religious militants for instance and what are they doing today. Narrow-minded myopia can only take you so far.

Published in The Express Tribune, March  9th,  2015.

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Reader Comments (6)

  • fair
    Mar 9, 2015 - 9:49AM

    First separate yourself from a Govt entity; it is conflict of interest for a writer aiming at to writing for general publicRecommend

  • Ali S
    Mar 9, 2015 - 11:38AM

    Couldn’t agree more with the author. Making mistakes, suffering from them and learning from them is an essential part of any self-improvement process – and our democratic leaders are subjected to that process, but for some reason our establishment (whose ability to call shots is on par) isn’t.

    Despite their incompetence and corruption, if they’re allowed to work on their agenda without intermittent interference from the ‘other’ big player (the one that eats up 40% of our budget), they’d be set on the right course – and it’s a long, gradual journey from there. It’s worked for the rest of the world – in our neighbourhood alone, India and Bangladesh are good examples.

    Sure, Nawaz doesn’t have anyone by his side who will curse on his mother and sister for his blunders, but even at the worst his army of diplomatic advisors are semi-competent enough to kindly point out to him a number of different options. And honestly, I trust them far more than the twisted Cold War-era sleuths making decisions in Rawalpindi.Recommend

  • Sexton Blake
    Mar 10, 2015 - 2:59AM

    Sir Winston Churchill once said, in so many words, that although democracy was not a good form of government it was the best we have come up with so far, and I think he was correct. However, if we look around the world from a hundred years ago, or even further, it would appear that democracy is not serving us well. I will not go into detail, but even a casual look would indicate that greed, corruption, incompetence, callous governments, and seemingly unsolvable problems abound wherever democratic governments exist. The situation has been getting even worse in recent times with modern, centralized technology becoming available to governments, which allows them to control us more and more whilst ignoring population aspirations and vital needs. This of course is accompanied with constant propaganda which incessantly reminds us that the government is working night and day to serve our needs. Recommend

  • Mohammad
    Mar 10, 2015 - 3:54PM

    @Sexton Blake, if so, then plz suggest an alternative…Recommend

  • Mar 10, 2015 - 9:22PM

    THE democracy has failed now people of pakistan wants military governmentRecommend

  • jagmohan
    Mar 14, 2015 - 12:55PM

    The author has made a sincere attempt to point out that let all sections of society help
    the functioning of Democratic Setup in the country,despite present pitfalls.The reason is
    simple and straight that there is no better alternative to Democracy in the present times.
    The establishment of a theocracy or dictatorship hardly will meet the growing aspirations
    of modern times,as the march of science and technology has magnified the needs and
    urgency of their satisfaction.People have become more conscious of their well being and
    development and want their voices to be heard and attended too.No doubt political opposition
    is core of democracy, but opportunistic rivalry and leg pulling and unnecessary accusations
    will not bring in stability and desirable gains.The weaknesses of the present govt.by way
    of corruption and nepotism etc. are curable, as there are next elections and opportunity to
    public to choose honest,capable and efficient representatives to form next government.
    Actually success of democracy does demand active and
    honest participation of public in voting for those parties and candidates,who can perform.
    in keeping with the constitution and laws of the country and also good majority given
    to upcoming ruling party for the sake of a stable government.Any laws in force if found
    inefficient must be changed and better laws passed.If the blasphemy law is creating,for
    an instance,social problems,it must be reformed, on public demand or on the suggestion
    of judiciary.Likewise corruption and inefficiency in govt.is curable if public raises its voice.
    In a word public gets the government as it elects.Recommend

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