Yuppies of the Urban Middleclass, Unwashed and Illiterate Masses and their right to vote

This article of mine was originally published in Express Tribune with a different title. However in the light of some comments on tribune and face book, I think this is a better title. I am amazed how condescending these yuppies are towards common man’s right to vote. Frankly I am no Zardari Lover, but I will defend to death his right to stay as President as long as he has the votes.

By Raza Habib Raja

Right now the news of possible regime change are dominating the mainstream media and active enthusiasm for that by some quarters shows that euphoria after the elections of18th February 2008 has fully subsided and has been replaced by plain disgust. If the demographics of the wary public are to be taken into consideration, it is again some sections (yuppies to be precise) of the affluent middleclass which are pressing for the regime change and are ready to support even unconstitutional means. However, this time the buck does not seem to stop at regime change as a sizeable number either wants democracy to be completely purged or at least temporarily suspended, to give way to an interim government composed of technocrats who would “cleanse” the system and pave the way to eventual and “real “democracy”.

Now honestly speaking  the government has been incompetent. Despite having an ideological leaning towards PPP, there is no way I can defend it with respect to governance and competence though I would also add that media has selectively lynched PPP.  Moreover media has not given PPP government the due credit with respect of an improved NFC award and 18th amendment also.

However, incompetence does not mean that public mandate should be thrown out of the window and an elected government should be sent home. These kinds of interventions seriously undermine the democratic system and do not allow the voting pattern to mature and become rational. Moreover, it does not actually punish incompetence as the voters develop sympathies due to unfair and before time ouster of the government.

But then a substantial chunk of the media watching urban middleclass (yuppies to be precise) is deeply sceptical of the democracy itself. Right now what really worries me that it is just not the government alone but the entire democratic system which is under attack. Since the word  democracy has politically correct connotations attached to it, therefore sometimes the opposition is subtle but you can still sense that it is there.

Generally the case against democracy is that Pakistan due to illiteracy is not ready for the democracy. They claim that illiterate people cannot make a rational and informed choice. Moreover, politicians are “corrupt” and use the public mandate as a justification for their excesses. According to the skeptics politicians are obliging and consequently good governance is compromised.

How legitimate are these concerns?

To begin with it is true that Politicians are obliging but this phenomenon is culturally deep rooted. Pakistan is after all still an agricultural society with a social structure which thrives on contact building and obliging those contacts. This culture is apparently more prominent during democratic rule as People who have voted expect to be obliged in return. These expectations which are chiefly cultural do adversely affect the governance quality and have given rise to merit violations in job allocations and awarding of contracts etc.

Since politicians are actually under pressure from voters to oblige, the army and even an unelected on the contrary appears to be well insulated from such pressures. This apparent ‘non political” disciplined look creates the impression of more honesty and impartiality.

However a deeper look would blatantly expose this fallacy. Yes political class may have been obliging but so have been the military governments. They may have had shown some impartiality in the beginning but soon they were indulging in even more blatant nepotism and compared to civil governments that was not even coming to light due to media censorship.

What people simply overlook is that political government always has some stake in maintaining a politically appealing image and in the medium to longer term this stake ensures that it is responsive to allegations of corruption. However provided we give it a chance to last more than two years!

Military governments do not feel the political heat and their excesses are simply not reported and even when these are reported by media, the reporters face the wrath. Even a quasi political government which has a powerful army chief often oversteps its authority to indulge in excesses. The extraordinary control over coercive power of the state ensures that media is not able to freely disclose those excesses and thus creates this impression that perhaps such governments are not corrupt. Even if the media is allowed to report, as some say that during Musharraf’s regime it was, it does not have the same sort of access which it has during political governments.

Eventually a political government feels the heat and tries to rectify the issues. Right now I am aware that a lot of fuss is being made by some anchors about political government not “honouring” Supreme Court’s decisions. Yes the government is showing reluctance but gradually is ceding and trying to at least partially oblige. Let me remind them that Musharraf regime by contrast simply dismissed the courts and put the judges under house arrest! And during Zia’s time, courts under pressure convicted Bhutto on flimsy evidence. Political governments no matter how “corrupt” they are cannot just overrule courts the way military governments do.

A standard objection on democracy is that voters in Pakistan are not informed and mature to keep a check on the government.  Wide spread low literacy is a fact in Pakistan and this fact is often used as a justification for claims that masses cannot be trusted with something as “sacred” and important as vote. More importantly it is argued by some  that “sophisticated” issues like foreign policy, fiscal policy etc need high degree of education on the part of the voter.

Here I have several objections, in addition to the fact that this opinion smacks of condescending attitude towards the marginalized.

Firstly in no system in the world voters alone keep a check on the government. Voters mainly appraise a government’s overall performance. The check is kept by media, civil society and other institutions. Fortunately these institutions have developed considerably in recent times in Pakistan.

The poor and illiterate have to be given the right to vote to make them a stakeholder in the political system. Without their stake and participation, they will be marginalized. It is their enormous stake, which only democracy through universal suffrage ensures, that forces the government to be responsive to them. Yes you can argue that they are not in a position to vote on complicated policy issues, but votes are seldom cast by anyone on policies. Votes are eventually on the actual performance of the Government in terms of improving the overall standard of living. Poor and illiterate are as qualified as anyone else to judge that.

Punishing them by taking away their voting right will simply discourage the governments in giving due attention on their livelihoods. It is democracy which through participation ensures that their problems are brought into notice. No technocratic government can be a responsive government without democratic process.

I will supplement it with a historic example. Ayub regime emphasized on high growth rates but completely ignored the poor. The decade of development ended up as a decade of marginalization. Development and Industrial growth took place but without substantial improvement in the livelihoods of the poor. Since Ayub regime was not democratic it was never concerned whether the fruits of that high growth were equitably distributed. Ultimately the Ayub regime left a polarized Pakistan and poor responded by participating in a popular movement against him. Democracy has this distribution effect which ensures that development is widespread. However it needs time which unfortunately we are not ready to give. I am surprised that often 2 years of democracy are compared to 10 years of Ayub or Musharraf’s tenors and then statistics which in any case are not comparable are thrown in.

And yes those “sophisticated” issues which are so dear to middleclass mindset and which may not “interest” masses are heavily dominant in the media. Those concerns are aired and even at times addressed. Blaming voting rights of masses for some failure to resolve those issues is frankly unfair. You cannot take away the right of voting from people on these premises.

But lastly and perhaps most important defense of democracy and continuation of normal democratic process is the ethnic fabric of our country. A modern ethnically diverse state needs democracy. Democracy is not merely a system of governance, it is a proper forum where dialogue can take place between various ethnicities and terms can be negotiated and renegotiated. No dictatorship or for that matter unelected technocratic government can tap those voices for a national level discourse. Ethnic diversity would need uninterrupted democracy. Sabotaging the process would merely increase the ethnic rift when President of the country hails from a small province. Let’s not forget that Ayun Khan’s tenor instilled hatred in Bengalis while Muharraf’s tenor angered the Baluchs.

Let’s not be carried away due to the rhetoric of the anchor persons here. What media is forgetting is that by undermining democracy they are actually paving the way for the curtailment of their own freedom of expression as well. A modern state needs democracy. Yes, media should criticize government but should not indulge in destabilizing it. Let the democratic process continue. For God sake show some maturity.



Filed under Pakistan

59 responses to “Yuppies of the Urban Middleclass, Unwashed and Illiterate Masses and their right to vote

  1. Amjad Cheema

    I can not agree more
    I am myself no zardari lover but I will also defend to death his right to stay as president as long as he has got the mandate of the electoral college.

  2. D Asghar

    Raza Bhai, You know my views about law, and the constitution. I said it on Bilal Bhai’s post as well.

    There is a twist here call NRO. If NRO is void, then the President’s election is questionable, to say the least. In that case, the PPP has to pick another candidate and get him/her elected by the legislators, should the President is bound to resign by the law. The immunity argument is weak, because if you are not eligible in the first place to stand for an election, then immunity argument becomes a moot point. Of course SC has the final word on this. Regards.

  3. Raza Raja


    I know that. Anyways this article is less about Zardari but more about common man’s right to vote. There are talks of a takeover of the system by either armed forces or some unelected technocratic government. One of the arguments presented is that common man is a fool and would always vote for PPP. This article tries to defend universal suffarge

  4. And how he is not an eligible candidate????

  5. moniems

    Public memory is known to be short, but ours seems to be nonexistent. We do not remember that it was after much waiting and struggle we saw the back of Musharraf. Thereafter we welcomed democracy enthusiastically. Surprisingly we now want a change again!

    Democracy, like wine, matures with age. And, whenever democracy seems to be floundering, it means we need more democracy, not less.

    Another most important factor which is hardly ever talked about is the negative aspects of Army rule. Whenever army of any nation takes over all the political responsibilities, its readiness for defense of the nation, its primary responsibility, suffers. We cannot see it, but it happens for sure.

    Solders should have no responsibility other than soldering! Only then a nation is secure.

  6. AA Khalid

    Though I agree with Raza on the notion that the poor and illiterate must be included in the democratic process, I feel the reasons he gives for their participation are weak.

    It may not be politically correct, but the poor and illiterate out of not fault of their own but rather due to the institutional decay within Pakistan cannot hope to have a meaningful role within the democratic process and more importantly than that in the realm of public policy debate.

    Robert Dahl one of the great democratic theorists of our time said that one of the conditions for modern democracy to emerge was ”enlightened understanding”. This means that citizens must have equal and ample opportunity to freely access sources of information and knowledge to come to their own conclusions and political views without coercion.

    The problem is that such a process requires education and fluent literacy. Formulating political views should entail reading about political ideology, party manifestos, speeches, pieces from media outlets etc.etc.

    Hence to assert that the poor and illiterate can make these decisions sensibly by going through a rational process is to defy reality.

    What instead we must propose is that democracy, a vibrant working democracy with a decent party structure (Pakistan’s internal party structure has the cancer of political dynasties, indeed read the paper, ”The Paradox of Our Political Parties” just google and free to read), can provide decent economic solutions and can be oriented to not only guarantee liberty, but providing opportunity and initiatives to enjoy this liberty more fruitfully in terms of delivering basic welfare for example education, clean water etc. It is the division of positive and negative liberty Isaiah Berlin proposed and other social liberal theorists John Rawls proposed.

    The economic arguments for democracy are incredibly strong, and scholarly and academic research and papers do suggest countries with democratic structures are more likely to be economically successful. Indeed the work of Amartya Sen is an excellent example of this, where democracy is defended on practical and empirical grounds in terms of economic performance and poverty alleviation.

    I do agree you should not take away the rights of citizens to vote, but at the same time we should realise that our democracy is not steeped in deep intellectual discourse or mature discussion. What instead our argument for universal suffrage must be moral. To uplift people from poverty due to institutional failures.

  7. Raza Raja

    @ AA khalid

    where have I asserted that illiterate are better voters? I have merely pointed out that there is a reason for universal suffarge which is to ensure that governments are responsive to their plight. In fact if you read article line by line, you will find that I have admitted that illiteracy would constrain the ability to formulate views on complex issues.
    You are also requested to read another article of mine titled as “why is middleclass skeptical of democracy” where I have admitted that democracy actually presupposes informed electorate. In fact you have already read it because you also commented on it.

  8. Feroz Khan

    @ AA Khalid (October 2, 2010 at 1:26 pm)

    The poor and the illiterate must be allowed to vote in elections and their “meaningful role” will automatically come once they realize the value of the electoral power, which they wield. Illiteracy is never the same as common sense and what the poor may lack in formal education, does not mean they are also lacking in common sense, which comes more from practical experience than formal education or even abstract theories.

    Public debate, by its very nature, includes the poor and the illiterate and all of the public and to suggsest that public debate is limited, or should be confined, to a few educated and politically aware people, who are only fit to rule is called aristocracy (from the Greek word meaning “the rule of the best”) and smacks of elitism.

    Information can be equally accessed in Pakistan and the development of a media, as a pillar of the state, has for the first made the people of Pakistan aware of the issues, with enough information to reach their own conclusions. As to the fluency of literacy and knowledge of public debates, issues, platforms et al, that will invaribly come from pubic discussions of the isssues.

    People may not be well versed in politics, but they do have access to electronic media and listen to the TV show debates and can form their own independent judgements.

    Rationality is subjective and will differ from individual to individual and cannot be the same; to suggest otherwise, is to claim an argument for a dogma, whereby certain things are deemed beyond the scope of critism.

    Party manifestos do not mean much unless there is an electoral freedom given to the people to make the parties accountable for the their promises, actions and conduct and the only guarantee of this is universial sufferage and the inclusion; not the exclusion, of people from the electoral process.

    As to the development of a democracy being dependent on a deep, mature intellectual discourse or discussion, this is a weak agrument. Anyone, who has studied the nature of Greek politics, or the early history of parliament in England, will know political discussions are never mature and never dispassionate. Democracy is a market place of ideas, where the best idea wins and is made supreme by convincing people of its value and to suggest that democracy should be based on intellectualism, is to encourage a political tradition of “drawing room banter” in which the so-called politically aware classes of Pakistan excel and which basically amounts to convincing each other, like minded individuas, as to how right they are and how wrong are the others; it is a mutual admiration society and has nothing to do with democracy, but to fuel the personal bonfires of vanities.

    Controlled democracy is like bombing half a bridge; it cannot be done!


  9. AA Khalid

    ”where have I asserted that illiterate are better voters?”

    I did not say that either. I merely said that the criticism that the illiterate and poor cannot make rational electoral decisions does have some validity but it should be countered using another approach.

    Furthermore, I cited the inherently corrupt state of Pakistan’s political parties as a great block towards the type of responsive politics you are talking about.

    A democracy’s foundations inevitably are to be found in terms of how a nation’s party structure is organized. This is the crux of the matter, can political parties be democratic internally and can they move towards transparency and accountability?

  10. Feroz Khan

    @ D Asghar (October 2, 2010 at 6:25 am)

    The whole of 2008 elections and establishment of the present parliament, was based on the understanding of the NRO. It was the NRO-enabled parliament, which elected Asif Ali Zardari as the president of Pakistan and it cannot elect another president and remove Zardari, because its own legitimacy is questionable. As the NRO has been mooted, this parliament has lost the legal foundations, which brought it to power and therefore, the election of 2008, itself, stands as questionable.

    One option would be for the parliament to disband itself and ask for new elections and re-constitute itself and elect another president.

    The other option is to admit that NRO was wrong, which has been admitted, but to continue with the present parliament.

    In either case, strict adherence to constitutional and legal procedures must be followed and any reasons, which support extra-constitutional methods regardless of the nobility of their rationales, must be rejected.

    NRO was a bad law and even bad laws must be changed in the right manner and for the sake of democracy and learning from experience, this government must be allowed to finish its term in office.

    Otherwise, we have only wasted more time and will have learned nothing from our past.


  11. AA Khalid

    ” Illiteracy is never the same as common sense and what the poor may lack in formal education, does not mean they are also lacking in common sense, which comes more from practical experience than formal education or even abstract theories.”

    Although I would love to romanticise, empirically speaking there is a link between formal education of some degree and democracy itself.

    In a paper ”Do Education and Income Affect Support for Democracy in Muslim Countries? Evidence from the Pew Global Attitudes Project’’, concluded that, “Holding all else constant and compared to not finishing primary education, this study finds that secondary education and higher education encourage support for democracy”. So yes there is a necessary link between education and democracy.

    John Dewey the great philosopher of education, said once, ”“Education is a social process;education is growth; education is not a preparation for life but is life itself”. Indeed the Turkish Republic in its early years adopted Dewey’s approach to this form of civic education.

    I am not going to apologise for the fact that a debate with people who are well informed and well educated will naturally be more productive than a debate with those people (out of no fault of their own but rather due to the institutional decay in Pakistan) who lack education and literacy. Notice I am not talking about morality, I am talking about the ability to engage fruitfully in democratic discourse.

    I do agree with you, that ”Information can be equally accessed in Pakistan and the development of a media”. This is a slow process but there are encouraging signs.

    Literacy cannot be addressed by the media alone. How on earth can a state like Pakistan with its literacy rate justify spending 2-3 percent of GDP on education? That is the crux of the problem, its institutional.

    ”Anyone, who has studied the nature of Greek politics, or the early history of parliament in England, will know political discussions are never mature and never dispassionate”

    This is fallacious reasoning. Let’s take a solid example. Let’s take bioethics, we now have the findings of scientists to help make ethical and moral decisions. We now have some basis of fact to derive our values from. Political discussions can be mature, though I have not talked about passion. The improvements in disciplnes of human knowledge such as in medical science inevitably help the process of public policy construction. It is quiet clear that a population with a basic level of scientific literacy, numeracy and decent language skills will have a greater impact on public policy debate. That is the point, the point is that a more education electorate will make for a more vibrant democracy, and the market place will improve not only in the quality but in the quantity of ideas.

    I am not going to say intellectualism is a bad thing. Anti-intellectualism is really the problem, Hofstader’s, ”Anti-intellectualism in American Life ” is a great reminder of the dangers of demagoguery.

    I agree democracy is a market place of ideas. But the market in Pakistan is bare, and this has to be pointed out. The market is bare selling cheap and sub-standard products, there is faulty craftsmanship.

    To point out the flaws of political discourse in Pakistan is not to say democracy doesn’t work, on the contrary it is to say that there needs to be improvement and a realisation.

    The foundations of democracy, in having a decent education system, and an accountable and transparent party structure (which I agree with you on totally). Democracy flourishes in societies which are not too hierachrical and where there are opportunities for social mobility.

  12. AA Khalid

    In developed societies where the general population has some basic level of scientific literacy, numeracy skills and there is a strong and vibrant civil society and media there will inevitably be a greater chance for having mature discussions.

    This is not aristocracy this is fact. I do not know why we must be apologetic about the virtues of a good education.

    Indeed in developed societies we still have partisan and superifical political discussions, but the crucial point is that there is a space and more importantly a large enough constituency for mature discussion aswell.

    The discussion for instance on religion generally speaking in Pakistan is abysmal. If I can cite Eqbal Ahmad:

    ”Any historian of Islam would shudder at what passes in Pakistan for instruction in Islamic history. Some Years ago, I queried an M.A class in this subject at a major Pakistani university. None of the 25 odd students there had an inkling of the issues which defined the first major schism in Islamic history – the khawarij movement.

    None gave a satisfactory explanation of the Ash’arite doctrine and its place in Muslim theological development. Only one had an inkling about the Mu’tazila – woh acchay log naheen thay. Unki fikr men dahriyat ke anaasir thay (They were not good people, There were elements of atheism in their thought.) l had then thought that we are witnessing ‘the end of history in Pakistan.’ (Francis Fukuyama had not yet come out with his arcane thesis about history’s end.) I was wrong of course ideologically loaded ignorance does, after all, produce a history”.

    From ”An Islamic Predicament” (just google). The situation Eqbal Ahmad describes is shocking. We are talking about basic historical literacy here, not rocket science but still there are deep rooted problems…..

  13. Feroz Khan

    @ AA Khalid (October 2, 2010 at 6:55 pm0

    First of all, quoting people is not necessarily making an argument in support of eduction or anything else. Theories are fine, but have very little application in real life and though the quotes and the western experience of democracy and all theorist you have been quoting may have a bearing on the development of education and democracy in Pakistan, but they do not address the Pakistani experience in democracy. Pakistan will have to develop it own form of democracy, as crippled and as misquided it maybe, on the understandings of its imperfections and not hoping for reaching a classical case of perfection before starting the process.

    I agree that the education system in Pakistan needs to be geared up and the basic issues of social justice need to be delivered to the people, but this is the fault of the elites and not the poor, illiterate people of Pakistan. This was the responsibility of the governors; the educated, mature, intellectual, well-aware, knowledgeable people, who argued and claimed their previliged backgrounds as the reason for their abilities to rule, but failed miserably.

    The failure of the democractic process in Pakistan has been the failure of its educated classes, who have always used this aristocratic argument to exclude the majority of the people from the political and public discourse.

    The poor and illiterate people of Pakistan were never given a chance to decide their futures and all the choices were made for them, by those who claimed they knew what they were doing, but ended up only making a mess out of everything.

    The fact of the matter is education and the educated have proven to be a failure in solving the problems of the country and are more interested in their personal interests than in the welfare of their fellow compatriots. To whom much is given, much is expected and this failure of the educated classes, since 1947, denies them the right to make an argument that the education is the gateway to a democracy and the right to rule.

    The poor and the illiterate of Pakistan never had the power or were in the government to make a mistake and to blame them for the failure of the elities is simply a reflection of the moral hypocrisy of the so-called educated classes of Pakistan itself.

    I am not blaming education; I am blaming the people who claim that education makes them better to govern Pakistan. On the other hand, one should be really shamed if they are educated but could do nothing with that education!

    Education has not helped the educated in Pakistan. The feudals send their children to the best universities and colleges in the world and return, as educated people, only to perpetuate the customs of feudalism itself and to deny the people their rights. Education has changed nothing in Pakistan, because those who are educated, do not wish to change and practice what they may have learned. Therefore, to pin one’s hopes on education and the educated as a solution to Pakistan’s problems would be naive.

    Please list all the educated people, both civilian and military, who have governed Pakistan since 1947 and have not been a disappointment?


  14. Raza Raja

    @ AA khalid

    I have already given my reasons and these are that masses have to be given right because they have to be integrated into the system and plus without making them a stakeholder governments may not be responsive to them. Whether they are poor in making rational choices or some liberals are romantisizing that illiterates can make rational choices is a seperate matter. I quoted you an earlier article of mine in which I had admitted that western model of universal sufferage would perfrom better in case of informed electorate.
    Kindly reread the articles..both of them.

  15. AZW

    AA Khalid:

    The foundations of democracy, in having a decent education system, and an accountable and transparent party structure (which I agree with you on totally). Democracy flourishes in societies which are not too hierachrical and where there are opportunities for social mobility.

    Another of your comments:

    Hence to assert that the poor and illiterate can make these decisions sensibly by going through a rational process is to defy reality.

    Three questions:

    1) I am trying to understand if you do believe in universal suffrage. If not, then what is the course of action. Who will decide who will vote. How will an enlightened democracy come into being. And who will decide if it is an enlightened democracy. I believe the same argument was posed by a dictator some fifty years ago to introduce his version of basic democracy. Now that was a monumental failure. Who will ensure that someone will not hijack democracy by making it more sensible?

    2) Democracy is doing just fine in India that has had endemic poverty, illiteracy and social hierarchies. Why?

    3) Despite all the scorn poured on the poor illiterate masses in Pakistan, they have consistently shown quite a remarkable judgement. They have elected leaders that have been more center of the political and religious spectrum. In 1970, they elected one of the most secular parties and roundly trounced the establishment lackies and the religious parties. History has shown Pakistan has suffered when it unconstitutionally trounced the parties that were elected by the people, not the other way around.

    The same electorate has begun weeding out feudals from the legislature, as their proportion has been steadily decreasing over the past three decadess.

    How about letting these illiterate masses continue to vote again and again every five years rather than devising yet another structure, just as what the so-called educated class has been trying to do over and over again for the past six decades.

  16. Raza Raja


    Educated have virtually ruled pakistan through establishment institutions and yes screwed Pakistan

  17. AA Khalid

    ”First of all, quoting people is not necessarily making an argument in support of eduction or anything else. ”

    I did quote an empirically based research paper aswell.

    I have agreed with you that it is not the fault of the illiterate but that of the political class. But as we saw with the fake degrees scandal education and knowledge has no value in political circles aswell.

    I totally agree with the rest of your post, but I still think my point about an informed electorate stands. I have not said to ”control democracy”, but merely have said that as empirical research shows education is one of the components of a mature democracy. This is a stastical and empirical point which has to be taken on board.

    What you are describing are issues separate from the point of universal education which I stress as a requirement for a mature democracy. You can have democracy with an illiterate electorate of course, the problem is that it will not be a very mature democracy. Can you name me a country with a successful democratic discourse with literacy rates as low as Pakistan?

    I have said that education is only ONE of the factors of a mature and developed democracy. That was my point, and I have said that Pakistan (and I completely agree with you that is the ruling class and elites fault for not building our institutions and not the fault of the poor), lacks this one crucial component.

    Pakistan’s stastics and education profile as documented by the UN and other bodies is abysmal. This needs to be corrected in order to boost the chances of having a better performing democracy.

    There are educated people everywhere in the world, the question is how widespread and accessible is education in a particular country. If I can cite another empirical based paper (based on stastical research) ”Why Does Democracy Need Education?”, the conclusion is revealing:

    ”The correlation between education and democracy is clear. The reason for this
    correlation is not. In this paper, we offer an explanation for the correlation.

    Our explanation hinges on the connection between education and the costs and benefits
    of political engagement. Schools socialize young people and political involvement is one
    form of socialization; a vast body of evidence shows a positive connection between

    education and civic engagement. We formally model education as raising the benefits of
    political action when individuals choose to support a more or less democratic regime. In
    this model, democratic regimes offer weak incentives to a wide base of potential
    supporters, while dictatorships offer strong incentives to a much narrower base.

    Education increases the society-wide support for democracy because democracy relies on
    people with high participation benefits for its support. We show that better educated
    nations are more likely both to preserve democracy and to protect it from coups.

    These core predictions of the model appear to fit well with the historical evidence.Democratic revolutions against dictators became more common as populations becamemore educated. Democracies were better able to stave off dictatorial coups as human capital rose.

    The history of coups and counter-coups shows clearly that educated, civically engaged masses have been critical in stopping military takeovers.

    Our initial empirical results offer scant hope for the success of democracies transplanted in highly uneducated countries.”

    This was a research paper based on empirical findings, so I do not think you can sweep this under the carpet like you did with my last referenced paper. Its not an ”opinion based” paper its conclusions are based on verifiable data. There is a link between democracy and education. Education not restricted in a political elite as you say, but education made widespread and accessible. Education is what allows for a civil society and articulate media to emerge.

  18. AA Khalid


    ”1) I am trying to understand if you do believe in universal suffrage?”

    Oh I do, its a crucial part of democracy, I am just describing the political discourse as it is. I am pointing out that democracy is indeed a free market place of ideas. All I am saying is that the market place of ideas in Pakistan is bare, empty and corrupted.

    2) Democracy is doing just fine in India that has had endemic poverty, illiteracy and social hierarchies. Why?

    India and Pakistan are not the same type of cases. And indeed here the historical evolution of both countries since Independence is remarkably different. I have only said education is just ONE of the components of a mature democracy. I have not said its the only factor.

    As to your third question, elections are not the only determining factor of a mature democracy. My criticisms in this respect focus on the party structure in Pakistan which is hopelessly inept in its current state to participate meaningfully in the democratic process and as a result is letting the citizens of Pakistan down. But your point is well taken.

    I am not talking about changing the democratic structure or process in place in Pakistan. I am merely saying that party system in Pakistan is corrupt, not transparent and does not have systems of accountability in place. Political parties are like family businesses really. Secondly, I took the point of education. I have addressed these two points not because I think democracy is bad. On the contrary as those who have read my articles know I argue strongly for it in all my contributions, but I am merely pointing out two glaring problems.

  19. AA Khalid


    I have read the other articles you mention and now taking all your contributions on the matter in context find that our positions in general are one and the same.

    Our quarrel is not concerning democracy or universal suffrage, but I think on the separate issue of public/political choice theory and the nature of making electoral decisions, i.e. what are the conditions for making a rational political decision.

    My apologies for misunderstanding your work .

  20. Raza Raja

    @AA khalid

    No one disagrees that educated voter can be potentially a better and rational voter. Kindly the article does not even try to make such a case.

    The issue is that whether illiterate should be allowed to vote?
    I repeat and please read the article again that I am not saying that illiteracy does not have any effect.
    Even within educated voters significant differences would exist between level of education, IQ etc. where do you draw the line. If this logic that education will make a difference is followed in true letter and spirit then may be PHDs in economics should have double voting power!!!whereas metric pass people should have less weight attached to their votes!!!!

  21. AA Khalid

    Stastical and empirical modelling and data show that countries with higher average levels of education will naturally have a more robust and mature democracies. Countries with higher levels of education are more likely to protect, preserve and deepen democracy in their societies in an institutional and social dimension.

    We can either accept these empirical findings or reject or ignore them, and keep proposing romanticised notions of ”common sense” etc..

  22. AA Khalid

    ”The issue is that whether illiterate should be allowed to vote?”

    Yes, and I made it clear in my previous reply:

    ”Our quarrel is not concerning democracy or universal suffrage, but I think on the separate issue of public/political choice theory and the nature of making electoral decisions, i.e. what are the conditions for making a rational political decision.”

  23. Feroz Khan

    @ AA Khalid

    A quote from your post:

    “any historian of Islam would shudder at what passes in Pakistan for instruction in Islamic history. Some Years ago, I queried an M.A class in this subject at a major Pakistani university. None of the 25 odd students there had an inkling of the issues which defined the first major schism in Islamic history – the khawarij movement” – Eqbal Ahmad

    Please inform how the khawarij movement’s history will solve the problems facing Pakistan? Will an analyis of khawarij movement guide the government into making better provisions for health care or solving the problems of people, when it comes to access to clean drinking water, law and order, gaining jobs and economic security?

    Will studying the khawarij movement in all Pakistani schools prevent another military rule in Pakistan?

    Thank you for making my point!!!!!!!!!!

    Pakistan needs eduction that will allow people to have jobs and have a livihood. Pakistani people need an education and they need to know if that education will give them a future.

    How many companies are looking for candidates in the IT field or business, telecommunication for candidates who are well versed in the khawarij movement? Will the khawarij movement explain how to operate the computer and write the software for it? An education that does not prepare one for the future is worse than no education at all!

    Education should be tailored to teach the people and prepare them for the future. Knowledge about khawarij movement, though interesting, will not prepare them to enter the job markets of tomorrow.

    If this is your idea of educating the people of Pakistan, then it is a wasted education, because its interest is limited to a very small group of people – elites and here, thanks for making my point again!

    By the way, just out of interest, what does the khawarij movement have to say about how to control the traffic during rush hour?


  24. AA Khalid

    The illiterate should be allowed to vote, but I have said already, that our quarrel is not with the democratic process or the valuable concept of universal suffrage.

    Rather its the process of how to go about making rational political decisions. What improves the chances of maintaing a democracy? What improves the nature of democratic discourse? In this respect discussions on education are important. This discussion is not concerned with who should be allowed to vote, because its already a given that all citizens should have the right to vote.

  25. AA Khalid

    ”Please inform how the khawarij movement’s history will solve the problems facing Pakistan?”

    I see literalism has extended its horrific arms to a wider base than I previously thought. It was merely an example.

    You completely ignored my other point about bioethics and scientific literacy, but chose an interesting observation from another thinker I quoted, to prove the terrible state of historical education in Pakistan.

  26. @AA Khalid [October 2, 2010 at 6:55 pm]

    I was first astonished at your post, after that amused – at myself at having put you (unfairly, without your consent or knowledge) on a pedestal, at you for rather basic errors.

    Before considering your note in its particulars, it may be useful to draw attention to an unusual experiment tried out in India, an experiment called the ‘hole-in-the-wall’ experiment. In this, an aperture was made (the description that follows is necessarily summary, and removes much rich detail) in a wall, which marked a boundary dividing a corporate open space from an abandoned space where *very poor slum children and the children of the absolutely destitute played* (Bowdlerised). On the other side of the wall from where the children played, a computer was placed, accessible through the hole in the wall, to the extent that they could use the mouse and the keyboard. No other input was available; the computer ‘spoke’ English, not Hindi, not any vernacular remotely known to the kids.

    The results, reported briefly at www dot greenstar dot org backslash butterflies backslash Hole-in-the-wall dot htm, say to me that restricting the electoral franchise to those who are ‘educated’ is a fallacy of gigantic, of cosmic proportions. It bears out the actual experience of working democracy in India by providing a framework of reference for the learning ability of supposedly ‘uneducated’ people, even children, confronted by an unfamiliar way of doing things.

    In fact, having started this post with the express purpose of considering your own post in some detail, I find at this point that any discussion which distracts us from the vital findings of this very unusual experiment will be irrelevant; we should stick to this finding alone.

    I invite you, and other readers, to read more about this strong suggestion that formal education and learning are not linked in any way, and that the ability of the supposedly uneducated to learn new systems is orthogonal to formal education.

  27. Raza Raja

    @ AA khalid

    I agree that with education level, keeping other things constant ( as I am an economist ) the voting precision should improve.

    But as I think you have understood my basic premise that illiteracy should not be the justification of purging democracy or for that matter even doctor it.

    Yes like you I am a realist and would not argue that education and voting pattern does not have any causal relationship. However illiterate have right to vote and they have to be integrated into the system by making them a stakeholder.

  28. AA Khalid

    @ Feroz Khan

    The point I was making that even the educational institutions in Pakistan are badly funded and as a result the teaching in various fields (I just chose religious history because I thought Eqbal Ahmed’s experience was interesting) is shallow and superficial.

    Another interesting point is the culture of education in Pakistan. In Pakistan the teacher is an overbearing vulture who is the sole authority in the class room allowed to have an opinion and talk. If a child talks back at the teacher (not in a disrespectful way) about a certain point out of curiousity the child is told to shut up and stop asking so many questions. Questions in Pakistani education is seen as a bad and rebellious thing.

    Guess what? In a mature democracy, asking questions is crucial, but the Pakistan education system and the type of educational culture produced is totally antithetical to the democratic process. So the ”type” of education is also important and the style of teaching also crucial. This was John Dewey’s point, but you pleaded a form of cultural relativism as a means to ignore the point (saying Pakistan needs its own ”democracy” etc. etc.). I am afraid scrutiny and critical analysis are universal attributes of the democratic process not just restricted to Europe.

  29. AA Khalid

    ”But as I think you have understood my basic premise that illiteracy should not be the justification of purging democracy or for that matter even doctor it.”

    I totally agree.

  30. AA Khalid

    @ Vajra

    You cite an interesting experiment and I will investigate the matter further. However, I should point out there is a vast amount of stastical, economic and social research which seems to confirm a correlation between education and democracy. Hence I argued throughout these posts that one of the ways you can strengthen democracy is to improve education and make it more widespread and accessible to all.

    I think this is a sensible point and given the vast amount of literature backing up the relationship between education and democracy aswell as the convincing theoretical and philosophical arguments (by John Dewey for instace) seems to confirm my argument. I have yet to see an empirical study which argues that there is no relationship whatsoever between education and democracy.

  31. AA Khalid

    When I speak of education I am not talking about being educated in a high ranking university. I am talking about basic education at the primary and secondary level, which I think must be a social priority for Pakistan and is crucial for the development of the democratic process.

  32. Perspective

    AA Khalid,
    The University of Pennsylvania has a center for advanced study of India. There may be useful findings there about what works and what does not with regard to Indian democracy.


  33. Feroz Khan

    @ AA Khalid (October 2, 2010 at 8:14 pm)

    A quote from your post dated:

    “Stastical and empirical modelling and data show that countries with higher average levels of education will naturally have a more robust and mature democracies. Countries with higher levels of education are more likely to protect, preserve and deepen democracy in their societies in an institutional and social dimension.”

    How does this explain the election of Bush junior’s reelection in 2004 by the Americans? How does this explain the Germans electing Hitler to power in 1933?

    You write and I quote “Education not restricted in a political elite as you say, but education made widespread and accessible”

    Who is denying this education to the people of Pakistan? The educated elites who are in power!

    I simply do not agree with you that in the case of Pakistan, education will make a difference, because empherically and historically, educated people have created more problems for Pakistan than they have solved, while they were in power and were ruling Pakistan.


  34. Raza Raja

    Well it is a very rich debate going on here between some of the best brains like AA khalid, AZW, Feroz Khan and Vajra.

    This is what makes PTH such a unique forum…

  35. AA Khalid

    If I can cite some more papers arguing that there is a link between education and the sustainability, success and implementation of the democratic process:

    ”On the distribution of education and democracy”
    Amparo Castelló-Climent”

    ”Linking Mathematics Education and Democracy: Citizenship,Mathematical Archaeology, Mathemacy and Deliberative Interaction”
    Ole Skovsmose

    ”Democracy and Education” John Dewey (Although a work of philosophy, it contains a series of logical arguments concerning the relationship between education and democracy, and Dewey is one of the most important educationalists in the 20th century)

    John J. Patrick

  36. AA Khalid

    @ Feroz Khan

    ”How does this explain the election of Bush junior’s reelection in 2004 by the Americans? How does this explain the Germans electing Hitler to power in 1933”

    These are critical questions, and one which I do not have the historical expertise to answer particularly the latter question which is very serious. All I can say is that education can improve the overall chances of having a sustainable democracy. I have insisted throughout that education is just ONE of the factors for the implementation of a successful and robust democracy. Read Robert Dahl’s set of criteria in this respect.

    ”Who is denying this education to the people of Pakistan? The educated elites who are in power! ”

    I agree with you but I do not cite education as a problem. I cite the structure of political parties which is a separate issue than the institutional dispensation of education at a mass scale. The problem here is with the party structure of Pakistan not education. It is this terrible combination of a bad educational system and a terrible party structure which has produced the current state.

  37. AA Khalid

    Thank you Perspective for that invalubale resource, I will investigate the matter further.

  38. AZW

    I disagree with AA Khalid’s emphasis on education as causality of successful democracy everywhere. South America has had relatively higher literacy rates but kept on failing democracy for a long time. United States was almost half illiterate in the 19th century but kept on going with democracy, even without granting universal suffrage. As Vajra pointed out, Indian experience with democracy is quite enlightening; emphasis on literacy takes away from fundamental human ability to understand correct from incorrect, and beneficial from destructive. Pakistan’s own sordid history is a reminder that the educated classes have been far more destructive for their own country and the democracy due to their benign controlled versions of democracy.

    I do not disagree with the advantages of literacy and that an aware population aids democracy. However, it is incorrect to assume that literacy always precedes democracy. It is possibly a function of democracy itself as it aids literacy. This is an argument similar to what Amartya Sen said that a democracy looks for its own self interest and that is to keep its electorate satisfied. This is why democracies seldom experience massive famines. This is why democracies educate themselves.

  39. AA Khalid

    ”How does this explain the election of Bush junior’s reelection in 2004 by the Americans? How does this explain the Germans electing Hitler to power in 1933? ”

    The issue with Hitler reaching power in Germany is more complex, its a multi-causal event, and the simplistic urban myth that democracy allowed Hitler to power is dangerous.

    There was a lot of foul play involved,with other factors and subversion of the democratic process in Germany at that time from my own basic reading of German history. Though I would add before we get into the depths of German history I want to stress this is a discussion for another time and another thread.

  40. Shahnazk

    My only comment is about the role of cultural and traditional forces on democratic process. In a country where there is no democratic tradition in any institution i.e. Family, education, religion etc. How can one expect democracy to take roots in the country as a whole? For example, our family and cultural traditions encourage obedience to the ‘elders’ and give them absolute right to make family decisions, our educational institutions in general discourage questioning and encourage unconditional following of whatever the teachers say and of course independent thinking and inquiry in the realm of religion has been completely and absolutely abandoned. As a result children are brainwashed into becoming compliant and obedient to whatever authority they come across later on in their life. Unless we systematically address this issue, it is unrealistic to expect that we will truly become a democratic society.

  41. AA Khalid

    ”I disagree with AA Khalid’s emphasis on education as causality of successful democracy everywhere”

    I have not said its a rule set in stone, I have said that on average, there is a greater stastical chance, and there is a greater chance of democracies being successful with good levels of education.

    I stress once again education is ONLY ONE factor for the emergence of a successful democratic process. There are other factors, some of which can be so great in influence that it can over-shadow other factors.

    Education is crucial because it has such a big influence in the way we think. Education if done well can teach us about tolerance and diversity and be a forum for open and free discussion. In Pakistan however, because its a society which overall seems to accept authority without question, teachers make sure children are warned from asking questions and participating in discussion.

    It is the culture of education which is also crucial. Rote learning, impoverished and one dimensional educational systems are not good for democracy in the long run.

  42. AA Khalid

    @ Shahnazk

    The points you raised are critical and important. One of the ways you can alleviate these problems is to address the culture of education in Pakistan. Pakistan as a country needs to spend more than a measly 2% of GDP on education.

    We need to improve the quality, quantity and culture of education. Educational institutions can be tailored for democracy or brainwashing. Currently, in Pakistan educational institutions are not suited to democracy at all. Add to this the hopeless party structure system and you have a very dangerous combination….

  43. AA Khalid

    @ AZW

    I do believe in continuing with the democratic process. I am just pointing out the flaws which keep the democratic process from evolving, progressing and maturing.

  44. AA Khalid

    The issue of education in Pakistan probably assumes more importance that it does for other countries, because Pakistan has a massive youth bulge.

    41 per cent of the whole population are under 15. (See Pakistan’s population to double by 2050: UN from DAWN).

    That should make us think more deeply about the importance of education…..

  45. Raza Raja

    @ AZW and AA Khalid

    I think it is important to understand AA khalid’s basic premise. He is saying that keeping other things constant an improvement in education will bring an improvement in voting pattern. However at the same time, he is not suggesting that it is a sole factor and that lack of education should be a criteria to revoke voting rights from the masses.
    Yes at the same time, it is important to realize that education is just one factor and educated can make terrible mistakes. Under particular circumstances educated have made grave mistakes in voting with terrible consequences.

  46. @AA Khalid [October 2, 2010 at 8:30 pm]

    Dear Sir,

    That won’t do, you know; given a choice between a living, breathing example, and a vast amount of statistical, economic and social research, I would have no hesitation in, erm, voting for the former.

    Given my current difficulties, let me remind you of another, very anecdotal clarification of this issue:

    The ancient Greeks defined an idiot as a person who did not take an interest in politics. As you know, Athenian democracy was direct, not indirect democracy. And it was not an educated electorate. Recall, before you reach for your tomes of misleading research, the old peasant who accosted Themistokles on the occasion of an ostracism. He wanted the obviously educated Themistokles to write down on his potsherd the name of his candidate for being ostracised. “Certainly, Sir, and whose name do you wish to put down?” “It’s that Themistokles fellow. Never met him, but every day, it’s Themistokles this and Themistokles that! Can’t be good for us to have him getting into everything like that, can it?”

    It is recorded that the great man meekly wrote down his own name without a murmur.

    Potsherds with his name have in fact been found; whether these relate to the date of his actual expulsion or some other occasion (he was a ‘candidate’ more than once) is not obviously apparent.

    Just to say that you didn’t need even letters to make up your mind in an intelligent, reasoned way.

  47. @Raza Raja

    Oh, that is clear enough. Unfortunately, it is dead wrong to allow anything to get in the way of democracy, even education. Education can wait; democracy can’t.

    I shall with my customary delicacy and tact refrain from the obvious and inviting homily.

  48. AA Khalid

    @ Vajra

    Opinions can be misleading but stastical analysis which can be verified, checked and scrutinised cannot be misleading. Individual cases cause us to make decisions on feeling and emotion, but the overall picture allows us to make a sober and thoughtful decision. If every leader decided to pass policies based on one particular experience they have had, ignoring research I would be very concerned indeed.

    The democratic process needs to run, that’s a given. But what can improve the process? What can cause it to evolve, mature, progress and cement itself in the public conscience? That is the question. The empirical research papers I cited continually say that having greater education improves democracy, prevents the chances of coups etc.etc.

    You have your democracy now what do you intend to do to make sure it stays and it’s strengthened? Education seems to be one among many sensible strategies…

  49. Ahsan

    I consider democracy as an ‘attitude’ and as far votes and numbers are concern so in that way Adolf Hitler was also a democratic ruler. He too had the mandate.

    Democracy to me is ‘ a tolerant and un-bigoted behavior’. It would be to undermine its scope if anybody define it in a majority-minority sense.

    Mr. Zardari should immediately conduct elections in his party. It will show his democratic commitments otherwise all the sloganeering like ‘Democracy is the best revenge’ , ‘Democracy is our system’ will drain away.

    They are my views and you have an inalienable right to disagree with them.

  50. AZW

    AA Ahmed:

    I do believe in continuing with the democratic process. I am just pointing out the flaws which keep the democratic process from evolving, progressing and maturing.

    I completely agree with you here. Following you for the past few months, it has been a pleasure to read you, and I never suspected otherwise until I came across the earlier comments on this thread like:

    Hence to assert that the poor and illiterate can make these decisions sensibly by going through a rational process is to defy reality

    I submit that granted poor and illiterate ought to be better off and educated (for theirs as well as everyone’s own good), these poor and illiterates do make sensible decisions when freely allowed to do. I also submit that they have done a fine job in electing the present government, the best among all options right now. For the smug self serving politicians, army generals and the yuppie middle class individuals who dot our streets and internet forums (for whom Raza has aptly named this article), this government is an anathema as all of its failures are magnified a million times. This is conveniently done without ever realizing that the same errors are even better executed by the ones who wait in the wings to replace the present democratic government (and likely democracy along with it).

    I just suspected that your argument sounded a lot like those of yuppies and educated class that has derided democracy for its shortcomings. These groups never realize that the same mentality has played havoc with the nation for the past sixty years. I think your subsequent comments made it clearer that you are talking about sustaining the democracy and not emphasising literacy as democracy’s prerequisites.

  51. Feroz Khan

    @AA Khalid

    If you think that structure of education, and not education in Pakistan, is at fault, then the question becomes, who structured the structure of education in Pakistan?

    Again, the pointing finger moves towards the educated elite, who were in power and created an educational structure to support their political world views and their politics. Who had power to sculpt the present educational structure in its present form and intent? Who still controls it? Who writes the texts that are taught in Pakistan? The illiterate or the educated?

    Empherical research will never fully reflect the democratic experience, because democracy defies logic. It defies logic, because the people who participate in it as voters, always act in their own self-interests and this self-interest is very subjective to the situation under which democratic decisions are made or even considered.

    When the Second World War ended in May 1945, Churchill as the wartime prime minister was highly popular and to capitalize on his popularity, Churchill called for general elections and elections were held in July 1945 and the British elected Atlee as the the prime minister and ousted Churchill and his Conservative Party in favor of the Labor Party.


    Churchill may have been a great kreigsherr, but he would not be a good peace time leader and what the British public was looking for was a leader to committed to social welfare reforms; so in their self-interest, they kicked Winston out and elected Clement just like they cried for Churchill to be in the government in 1939, because they knew he would fight Nazi Germany better than Neville Chamberlain, who was seen as too appeasing to Adolf Hitler.

    Self-interest, within established rules and procedures with allowances for self-expression, but never for self-indulgences, is what sustains democracy. Not because it is the best or the most enlightened form of goverance, but because it is the most equitable form of goverance for judging the principle of self-interest in politics.

    There is a sea of difference, between what is preached in text books and what really is practiced in the real world. Politics is, and can, never be empherical because it is based on the idea of what is plausible and like water, it will always find its own path of least resistence.

    Politics and democracy are unpredictable twins and unless there is an empherical data that predicts unpredictability, empherical research predicting a political behavior is more of an informed opinion, on past experiemnces, rather than an explanation of the future.


  52. Prasad

    Feroz : excellent note., your logic makes good sense. Thanks

  53. @A A Khalid

    Khalid Sahib, somehow I seem to be heading into the anti-education corner, and this is frustrating.

    The original point I sought to make was that democracy can flourish without the presence of education to illuminate its choices and make them easier to comprehend and to decide. That does not mean that education actually impedes the process; far from it. Let me explain that actually, as a next step to democracy, there are things to be done which intimately involve education.

    The next step after ensuring that democracy is sustainable is to make it accountable. I put it to you that part of your trouble now in Pakistan is because there is a confusion in the minds of people regarding the desirable relative priority of these two. I put it to you that for you, sustainable democracy comes before accountable democracy, contrary to the packs that are on the trail of your oh-so-fragrant politicians. As a democratic subject of many decades, let me assure you that as voters get smarter, so do pols; they continue to make money by being one jump ahead of the voter’s analysis and methodology.

    Back to your issue: when we seek accountability, it is always possible to be empirical. If houses, clothing and food are not available; if roads and communications systems do not exist; if schools and health-care centres are decrepit or non-existent; if law-and-order and the justice system don’t deliver, it is clear that something is wrong, and no expert studies are needed. On the other hand, if many of these features are present, albeit defective or partially functional, we have a more difficult job. We then have to work out how to examine performance.

    It is here that we experimented with a Right to Information Act. This gave people the right to ask for information on public matters, and the right to get such information within a specific period of time. Massive sabotage of the scheme ensued; no government bureaucrat wished to be accountable, no government or quasi-government bribe-taker wanted to render accounts. In spite of all the sabotage, the act has had a chilling effect on corruption, and people are heartened about being able to leash corruption even as a political term continues, between elections, and without the need to actually throw out an elected candidate at the elections.

    This needs education. So now we know. Once we are sustainable, we had better learn to read and write. Otherwise the fence will eat the crops.

    At this point, and emphatically not where Pakistan is today, our views converge, and even merge. Not before that, I rather fear.

  54. It seems that many in Pakistan have yet to grasp the real meaning of democracy. It is assumed that holding elections every few years is akin to Pakistan being a democractic country. While this may mean that there is elctoral democracy in the country, it does not translate into Pakistan having a democractic culture. We have the example of Afghanistan as well. They have elections and a working parliment too but it does not mean that the Afghan society itself is a democratic society. It will take time for the democratic ideals to take hold there. Similarly, in Pakistan democracy, including electoral democracy, has to be given time to become a part of the national psyche. Dismissing governments, saying that the Pakistani society is incompatible with democracy, or that only one segment of the soicety should be allowed to vote does nothing to promote democracy in the country; it only serves to undermine it.

  55. Sadia Hussain

    It is ironic how such narratives are accepted in Pakistan and even propagated. The right to vote is for all it is not a privilege for the educated or the urban elites. The notion that illiterates cannot decide what is good for them is typical colonial bakwas. The masses have right to choose their leadership and their voice is of harmony and social diversity. If this system is compromised upon then extremism will prevail.

  56. AA Khalid

    @Feroz Khan and Vajra

    My case for education can be summed up as the desire for a meritocratic democracy. Where our civic institutions are built from the work of people who have the merit, education and knowledge to run these institutions. Corruption and neptoism from the political elite has destroyed any notion of a meritocratic society in Pakistan.

    I see education as intimately linked with meritocratic societies, and indeed meritocratic societies have much more deeper, sophisticated and mature democracies.

    Note that democracy is the best means to distribute, limit and check power. But we must adopt meritocratic means in constructing our institutions. Education is one such institution, in Pakistan exam cheating and corruption is rampant in the system. Bribe the examiner enough and you will get the results you need.

    From the very start our democracy is never given a chance to flourish because the two building blocks of democratic discourse, a particaptory, egalitarian and meritocratic educational system, and an accountable, transparent and sustainable party structure are both non-existent.

    I am simply saying that we must think deeply about the type of democracy we would like to emerge. And we should aim for a democracy, where people gain be socially mobile through hard work and merit, there is freedom of opportunity and as a result all citizens have an opportunity to access knowledge and information freely to make informed decisions. What’s more all citizens can have confidence in the party structure itself.

  57. Having gone through the LONG comment thread, I feel that most of the people have gotten the argument wrong from the get-go.
    Let me reiterate what I have told many people time & again; there is no positive correlation or causality between literacy and democracy, at least not in the order mentioned. Democracy does tend to bring about literacy, but not the other way around. I would cite 3 examples, all from different corners of the world, to support my assertion. Historically there is no evidence of the correlation between democracy and education that you are suggesting. post-Colonial America had literacy rates as low as 45% circa 1860-70 (US Census Bureau), a good 100 years after adopting democracy as their mode of governance; literacy in this case amounts to the ability of writing one’s own name (signature). England had a literacy rate of about 65% circa 1840 (NRDC figures) using the same yardstick for literacy. Furthermore we have the example of democracy in Senegal, a country with a lower literacy rate and a higher poverty rate than Pakistan; yet democracy is highly successful in Senegal. Tolerance is also higher in Senegal compared to its neighbours, due to the secular nature of government. There is however a causal relationship between democracy and literacy (in that order), democracy being the cause and literacy being the effect. The urban, educated middle and upper class of Pakistan have this problem of claiming to be champions of democracy, even though they don’t understand the underpinnings of democracy themselves. This superiority complex that a school/college/university education merits you more rights in a democratic set-up is comical. In conclusion, the argument that democracy should be run by the educated class is a self-defeating argument, as it compromises the basic premise of democracy.

  58. AA Khalid

    @ Anwar

    I would urge you to go through all the statistical and empirical study based papers I cited. Those papers do suggest a relationship of some sorts..

    I never said literacy was the only requirement (and certainly an absolute requisite) for democracy, what I did say was that education, literacy do sustain democracy and improve and deepen it. Which is why as literacy and education rates in Britain and the US have improved democracy has deepened its roots.

    Policy debates in the 21st century to do with economics, science, technology and so on require that our citizens have a basic level of scientific, language and numerical literacy.

    One of the signs of a robust democracy is the sophistication, depth and maturity of discourse and discussion. Pakistani discourse and discussion on many topics is quiet bare and paltry…

    If you totally ignore education and literacy, then you cannot hope to deepen the roots of democracy in a country.

    We must accept there is a link between democracy and education, and work towards a particaptory, egalitarian and civic conception of education rather than the pathetic culture of rote learning, teacher-authoratarianism (where teachers rather than encouraging curiousity clampdown on questions and discussions within the classroom) which permeates Pakistani society….

  59. @Anwar

    I tend to agree with you; literacy does not cause the growth of a democratic feeling among citizens, although a democratic state will tend to ensure that its citizens are literate. Your example of Senegal was what I would have expected to see happening.