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Choosing Hope over Experience: Pakistan's 2007 General Elections

15 June, 2006

By Noman Baig


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The people in Pakistan are well aware of the terms deception and betrayal which are commonly associated with disappointing experiences with the country's political leaders. These words have become familiar terms in Pakistan's political discourse perpetuated by the democratic dilemmas that our country has been experiencing since 1950s when the dominant Urdu-speaking political leadership delayed holding general elections and dawdled in the constitution formation.

Scholars such as Theodore P Wright and Mohammad Waseem argue that the Urdu-speaking rulers were afraid that the election results would challenge their hegemonic position in the state administrative structure. This was the confusing political situation that Pakistan's leaders in the 50s faced. These leaders failed to provide the building blocks for the future democratic infrastructure of Pakistan giving birth to the strife which defines our stark reality. However, after long political doldrums and control by martial law, the country finally managed to hold its first free general elections in 1970.

Sadly, power grabbing among political leaders initiated a brutal civil war in East Pakistan and finally lead into a separate homeland for Bengalis. On the other hand, masses left out during the Ayub's "impressive" economic success showed their popular support to Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto hoped that the new leader would lessen their suffering and would sow the seed of democracy. Ironically, the popularly elected Prime Minister Bhutto did not pave the way for democratic institution.  Instead, Bhutto's populist appeal of roti, kapra aur makan deceived poor classes and his administration relied on coercive state apparatus such as Federal Security Force (FSF) to root out dissent, a basic democratic tenant. Bhutto's deception left a deep mark on the people's psyche. Later, the four so-called democratic governments between 1988 and 1997 propagated the reign of corruption in country's institution and intimidation of political opponents. Like their predecessors, Nawaz Sharif and Benazir Bhutto's successive governments betrayed people.

The continuous betrayal and deception by our political leaders, not to mention the military dictators, created a paradigm of political inefficacy among masses who felt despair and less inclined in changing current status-quo of corrosive political structure. In Pakistani masses especially among youths, political apathy has fabricated as sacrosanct or divine object which cannot and should not be altered. We have accepted the dark political reality as given or primordial and resorted to leaving things the way they are. It is a widespread perception among the Pakistani public that it is not our responsibility or duty to change our society's political order of intimidation. This attitude of political apathy gradually corrodes nations, degrading them to a pathetic example of human civilization. The government's failure in providing the building blocks for a democracy and politicians' involvement in massive corruption and harassment of dissents raise a question for the upcoming 2007 general elections.

Should the Pakistani people be optimistic that this election's resultant political leadership will be sincere in their efforts to establish a democratic institution? Why we should believe that the 2007 election will alleviate our conditions when the people of Pakistan have been suffering under every "democratic" government since the country's inception? The only answer to these questions is that we must give another chance to the political parties. Regardless of our bad experience with every subsequent government, we should stand up for democratic ideals of consensus rather than indulging ourselves in short term solutions proposed by military dictators. We should choose hope over experience. Hope that our patience for long awaited leadership that will uphold democratic principles will arise from the mire of corruption. That our democracy will materialize from the continuous practice of elections and debates.  This is the only way to eliminate the excuse for the military dictators in intervening country's politics.

Unrelenting practice of democratic principles is a difficult, but no impossible endeavor. What this will require is patience by people. The world is full of examples of people who choose hope over experience in establishing a democratic polity. The developed world, which we now admire for its freedom and liberty, has gone through numerous elections and political upheavals in a difficult journey of establishing democracy. People's bad experience with politicians or governments did not encourage them to look for military sponsored solution for their political problems. Instead, their confidence and spirit fueled their determination to live in a free society where people's lives are defined by their own will rather than by military authority or dogmas.

End.

Reader Comments:

Performing a feat!

In 2007 will the COAS change his attire from uniform to civies, while straddled on the saddle of the President's
horse or would he change his
attire before the end of 2006
unless the emperor's new clothes not been stitched.

Khalid Rahim, Canada - 16 June, 2006

Don't thinks so

i don't really think and agree that President Musharraf will leave the office of COAS in 2007 or by the end of this year the only way to democracy is that all this Musharraf made "democratic" setup should be throwing out of power and that can only happen if all the opposition resigns from assemblies and come out on streets against dictatorship although i have been musharraf supporter but after 2002 election i had to change my view and now i think that no military ruler can truly benefit the society or the over all situation infact military rulers ahve only one task and that is to confirm their position and rule the country as long as they can no matter what the country's needs are they just have nothing to do with it so i think Jumat-e-islamy and Imran Khan plan of september is the need of the day

bilal, Pakistan - 18 June, 2006

Totally Pathetic

When I first began to read the article I thought it was going to be a article talking about how we have failed and how the 2007 elections show some hope. The author of the article seems to believe that this maybe a chance to restart democracy. Now I want to know who actually made it possible for these elections to take place? Musharraf could have gone on even further than 2007 if he would have liked. Perhaps, it is the people of Pakistan must grow up and learn to ignore the corrupt and the feudals. Musharraf has brought Pakistan out of a deep hole yet all of our journalists who only have the right to speak because of the government allowing free media are now bashing Musharraf with no end? Watch the next ruler of Pakistan shut down every single media station in Pakitan and then you guys will appreciate the freedoms and the sucess Musharraf has brough to us!

Zain Abbass, Pakistan - 18 June, 2006

DO NOT TRUST NONE OF THEM

Military leaders or all these so called Democratic leaders wanna bring us democracy are Bunch of liars & Thieves they all have been robbing this country, Bhutto thinks she owns pakistan I have watching for 30 plus years them robbing the people of pakistan It is Sad that pakistanese have been bringing them back for more

javed malik, Pakistan - 14 November, 2007

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