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Degradation: If democracy is disrupted

09 January, 2013

By Muhammad Ahsan Yatu


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Yesterday, before the elections of 1970, the most popular thought prevailing in the West Pakistan linked the turbulence in the East Pakistan to the influence of the Hindu academicians on the minds of the Bengali politicians. Its proponents were the civil-military bureaucracy, West Pakistani rich, Punjabi and Urdu speaking intelligentsia, Jamaat-e-Islami and Muslim League. This thought used to present a picture of East Pakistan wherein majority of Bengalis loved West Pakistan due to the Islamic bond; and for ending the turbulence it would suggest strengthening of the Islamic bond and using muscles against the defiant Bengali politicians. A different thought also existed, but it was considered as unpatriotic. The nationalists, pro-USSR leftists and democrats were its proponents. This thought was rational for it was based on the reality that the common people of all provinces were being exploited by the civil-military bureaucracy and the rich Pakistanis. It suggested that strengthening of democratic institutions by giving financial and political autonomy to the provinces would help solve political problems of entire Pakistan.

The turbulence, after the elections, turned into a rebellion because the military government did not transfer power to the Bengalis, who were demanding an agreement on the financial autonomy first. Muscles were used to quell the rebellion but the Bengalis ultimately won more than the financial autonomy—freedom from West Pakistan. Subsequently the Pakistani army came under severe public criticism due to its surrender before the Indian army at Dhaka. Realising that laying blame on India would not work, because the elections had clearly showed that the Bengalis had voted for their political and economic rights and not for the Islamic bond, the state funded propagandists came up with the reason that it was the class struggle of Bengalis, and not the military defeat and ethnicity based exploitation, which divided Pakistan. An imaginary Bengali middle class was created and it was propagated that this class was formed due to General Ayub's green and industrial revolutions, and it became so rich, powerful and ambitious that it needed a country of its own to enhance its interests. The truth is that Ayub's revolutions had turned 80% Bengalis and 40% west Pakistanis into paupers; and whatever he had done had helped evolve a state funded unorganised economy only. Such economies do not create classes, they create mafias and paupers. It is a natural outcome of military rules. Since the generals do not have support of the masses, they strengthen the rich individuals and create mafias to protect their rule. The Generals, Zia and Musharraf did the same.

Pakistan is in constant turbulence due to the four 'revolutions' brought by the generals and the bureaucrats with the blessings of the outsiders. These revolutions aggravated ethnic conflicts and economic crisis, and brought in the religious militancy. These problems are big but they are being managed, though slowly, by the democratic government. Today turbulence is also related to two other subjects, the continuing disliking that some sections of civil-military bureaucratic establishments and Pakistani society have for democracy, and the new approach of the Anglo-Saxons regarding political systems of Muslim majority countries.

Today when elections are only four months away and when a majority of the American led forces is about to start leaving Afghanistan, the 'revolutionaries' are again in action. They are denouncing

democracy. They are advocating for a moral revolution. Some of them want it the way the Taliban did it in Afghanistan. The others, the so-called moderates, are not clear even on what to bring about; revolution or reforms. However, all 'revolutionaries' believe that the disruption of present democracy is necessary to move towards revolution.

The question is: are the pro-establishment elements again paving the way apparently for a moral revolution and actually for generals' fifth revolution; or the outsiders are this time up to introducing something different? Some of the answers lie with the rightist and religious sections of the establishment, who are not aware of the futility of their own perceptions and actions; and neither do they try to understand the wisdom behind the intentions of the outsiders. Some answers also lie with the strategists of the Anglo-Saxon countries, whose nationals are among the leaders who are advocating for 'revolution'.

The answer the concerned Pakistanis know is that democracy has delivered; and it will continue to deliver. The 70% budgetary allocation to provinces is a revolution in itself. Saving Pakistan from a certain default, hoisting Pakistani flag again in Swat, tackling the after-effects of two terrible floods, participating in the war against terrorism courageously and strengthening the democratic procedures are some more feats of the democratic governments. These successes are not being digested by our democracy haters and the Anglo-Saxons.

Agreed that today the influential Baloch leaders are up in arms against the state, but they are not unwise, they will be satisfied with an enhanced autonomous status for Baluchistan. The democratic government has given autonomy to the provinces, but in the case of Baluchistan the kind of measures taken in the past that are bound to turn the Baloch into a minority in their own land must be undone.

As far the militancy is concerned, there is no solution to it other than the one that ties the hands of those state and non-state actors who support the militants. The thought of a section of our security establishments and rightists that the presence of Taliban in Afghanistan is the only way to have and maintain influence in Afghanistan is fatal. This thought, this mindset, may momentarily disturb a post-NATO Afghanistan, but it will permanently destroy Pakistan's existing geopolitical configuration. The good that has so far happened to Pakistan in this regard is that its democratic government and a section of security establishment are committed to eliminating the militancy in Pakistan; and they are also committed to stopping militancy from re-entering Afghanistan.

As for the economic miseries are concerned they are due to the expansion of unorganised economies, Pakistan's extremist religious image, abnormal growth of population, shortage of resources, knowledge and skills, greed, absence of commitment, and culture of ensuring self and institutional aggrandisement through corruption and other criminal means. For this all those who matter —be they bureaucrats, generals, politicians or undisciplined rich — are responsible. Again, is there any way other than democracy to set the things right?

What our democracy haters want is to regain the absolute control that they had over the economy of Pakistan. What the Anglo Saxons want is a Pakistani Spring; Islamic democracy, Egypt and Turkey style. Let no one remain under the illusion that the control of the so-called moral revolution brought by the moderates will remain in the hands of the moderates. The generals too will be sidelined. The chemistry of revolution this time will be different. Its command will be, in the end, taken over by the

religious extremists, who are present in large numbers in our establishments as well as in our society. Today it is Qadari; tomorrow it will be someone like Osama or Mullah Omar. Even otherwise Islamic democracy, wherever it is and where it will be, will not last for long because it is a mixture of two antagonistic systems.

The storm of slogans that would advance towards Islamabad will not turn into a revolution on 14th of January. Pakistan of today is different from Pakistan of yesterday. Today political forces of Punjab are also among the proponents of the rational thought that it is democracy only, which can deliver. However, the storm should not be taken lightly. It is without doubts a rehearsal. The democratic forces must remain awake and work day and night to make Pakistan a militancy free, discrimination free, corruption free and turbulence free country.

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