Democracy, no doubt, is the best system of governance. It can help under-developed countries progress and make developed ones stronger. A dictionary definition of the word democracy states: “A system of government in which power is vested in the people, who rule either directly or through freely elected representatives.” Unfortunately, in Pakistan we have totally misunderstood the concept of democracy and have confused it with our make-shift version, which possesses all the qualities of a dictatorship.
People argue that Pakistan needs democracy and that even the worst form of it is better than the best autocracy. The sad fact is that the democratic system employed in our country follows the tactics of the worst dictatorial regimes. Whenever a democratic government has been formed, it has failed miserably to deliver the benefits a true democracy would, to ordinary citizens. On the other hand, during dictatorial regimes we have actually seen the delegation of power to lower levels and arguably more transparency, ensuring development in society.
Despite claiming to have the mandate of millions of people, politicians forget their promises too easily after coming to power and only work for their own interests. Some say the kind of democracy Pakistan has adopted is a ‘fake’ one because we essentially lack a true democratic culture, which advocates tolerance, transparency and accountability.
The first step towards establishing a true democratic government is to have a fair and transparent electoral system, but elections in Pakistan have always been controversial, with all political parties levelling allegations of rigging against each other. Further, our politics is rife with families and clans leading political parties and one can hardly see any democratic practices within parties.
Lack of awareness and illiteracy are also major causes which deter the formation of a true democratic culture, as a large number of people either do not cast their vote or even if they do, it is sometimes not out of their own will. Our society’s educated class does not take an interest in politics, as it views the overall exercise as useless in bringing true change in the lives of people. Since the educated class does not take an interest in politics, this provides an opportunity for the uneducated and mostly corrupt feudals and mafias to use it to gain influence in society. The chanting of mere slogans will do no good; instead, we need to do a lot to improve our system based on the ideals of a true democracy.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 1st, 2015.