• Friday, October 31, 2014

Throwing bouncer balls -- Democracy Pakistan style

Ziauddin Choudhury

The drama unfolding currently in Pakistan is better than some Bollywood movies where politicians heckle government and rouse mobs with promises of Eden. It is better because the end in Bollywood movies is predictable, the end to the drama in Pakistan is not so.  It is because often what you see in Pakistan is not what you get in the end.  There are too many players in the drama.

Democracy is supposed to be the expression of free will and exercise of choice by people in electing their representatives. This is in theory at least. In mature democracies there are rules that guide such choice which people exercise at given intervals in electing a parliament.  In such countries the guidance is also framed by people through their chosen representatives. These are countries where democracy arises from grassroots, freedom of expression is a human right, and everyone is guaranteed rule of law. Absent these conditions, democracy is a foil used by the ruling elites and their cohorts to disrupt any attempt at having people to exercise their choice.  In a democracy in this paradigm only elites gets to rule the country, and they fight among themselves when one group goes to power and the others do not. Normally even in this pseudo democratic setting where masses are mere observers the deprived group could wait for its turn. But in Pakistan (much like our own country) a five-year wait is too long.  The group not in power would like to short circuit its ascendency to power by whipping up causes that may or may not be there.

The striking irony in the current movement launched by Tahrik-e-Insaf Party (PTI) of Imran Khan, more known for his cricketing career than politics, is that he is accusing an election of fraud and forgery that he had accepted nearly one and a half year ago, and in which his party had won 34 seats. He now demands that this election be declared null and void, the elected government resign, the election commission be disbanded and new elections be held under a newly formed election commission.  A greater irony is that his PTI got majority seats in Khan's own province in the Frontier region in elections held by the same commission and it formed government there.  Will anyone in Pakistan ask why is this double standard?

There may not, however, be a double standard in this paradoxical movement in Pakistan. The movement like those in the past is targeted to bring changes to power because the current leadership has been unable to seek accommodation with the king makers of the country. And as in the past the king makers of the country are giving a helping hand to the noise makers.

Democracy as the world knows has had a troubled history in Pakistan, a country that has been governed by Army dictators for two thirds of its history.  Even the interim periods when democracy of some sort surfaced in the country, its longevity was cut short by crises created by the vested interests with aid and abetment from the real power base of the country—the Army.  On four separate occasions the Army in active collaboration with ruling elites axed popularly elected governments (twice the governments headed by Benazir Bhutto, and twice governments headed by current Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif) and either ushered leaders of its choice through new elections, or by its own man.

On every occasion in the past there has been no dearth of political leaders and parties who would not fall prey to the lure of wielding power should they be able to stir up enough trouble for the person in power. Please note the emphasis is on the person in power, and not the party in power. The party is created by the person for the sole objective of getting him or her to power. In Nawaz Sharif's case it is he who is the target, and the person who wants to succeed him is Imran Khan.  Does either of them believe that people's choice will lead them to retain or attain them the coveted position? No, because they as well as others like them believe that in Pakistan people are not king makers.  The real power brokers are watching both of them; the winner will be the one who gets their nod.

Regrettably this movement is whipped up in the name of people and resources on both sides are being wasted at people's cost for a battle that is not theirs. Transition from one government to another, from one political power to another, should be people's choice at given intervals. The leader of  PTI who had been a Cricketer of world class at one time should know that when two teams play, each team plays the role in each inning, a team that bats and the other that bowls.  The game has its rules and punishment for foul play. A bowler may take resort to bouncers to intimidate the batsman, but in the end the game finishes within its own rules.  The PTI leader may think that in this current game he has the umpire on his side, but what he may not know that this umpire has a history and the ability to upstage any game that is not played to his satisfaction.  For Pakistan's sake we hope that this madness comes to a stop soon.


The writer is a US based political commentator and analyst.

Published: 12:01 am Sunday, August 24, 2014

Last modified: 12:43 am Sunday, August 24, 2014

TAGS: politicians bouncer balls Pakistan style Bollywood movies

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