How To End Skepticism For Democracy In Pakistan

By D. Asghar

The burning question that most TV pseudo expert anchors ask their panel is, “Is democracy viable for Pakistan?” The answer to this question often gets obfuscated into the usual blame game and shouting matches among the participants.

It is a foregone conclusion that a true democracy and lack thereof for almost
four decades of our country’s existence can be attributed towards its poor understanding of this novel concept. Most people tend to have high expectations from the word, “democracy.” Democracy is a market place of ideas, and the means to an end, which is a system of governance by the people, for the people.

Ultimately in a true representative democracy the power resides with the people. Regretfully, in our case and in many other countries as well, the politicians tend to think otherwise. This is where the disconnect occurs and there is a lost love syndrome demonstrated by the electorate. The voters feel disenfranchised
from the system and consider it a non viable option.

The legislators are chosen by the voters, to represent them and their best interests in the assemblies. The legislators are often swayed by special and vested interests in the direction, which is entirely opposite of their constituents. Hence the gap between the public and publicly chosen officials widens.

If democracy is a participatory process, then it seems like the participation of the electorate ends at the ballot box. Subsequent to that, it seems like the public is helpless and more or less dependent on the whims of the politicians, who are indifferent to the pleas of the public. Until the next cycle of election, they absolve themselves from any public scrutiny.

It should be based on the participation of the electorate on a daily basis. First and foremost, any bill which is placed on the floor, must be based on the voters approval. In other words, there should be an electronic mechanism to record, National ID card# and voter survey. Those having no access must dial in and record their consent as well via touch tone. Once the deadline elapses, only then with public opinion well measured, the bill should be introduced on the floor and debated.

Secondly, all assembly sessions should be held with an open camera and telecasted live on a channel, which shows the representatives in action to their voters. This way the legislating aspect can be as transparent as possible and people can see and hear their voices in its truest essence.

It will make the legislators accountable to their voters on a daily basis. This will further solidify the often alienated and fragile relationship that both parties currently have. This is not the remedy to the myriad of problems that our nation faces, but a step towards attaining a true participatory system, where all voices are heard and accounted for. A step towards building trust and a process which truly returns power back to where it actually belongs in a truly representative democracy.


Filed under Pakistan

7 responses to “How To End Skepticism For Democracy In Pakistan

  1. shanil soomro

    why aren’t there more PTH fans on their facebook page??

  2. Rashid Aurakzai

    Yes there are countless weaknesses in our democratic sibling but we have to first protect it against the bullies. Public Office can only in the interest of nation when the office bearer feels it’s free to exercise its designated powers and that the higher-ups and lower-downs wont lay unnecessary hurdle to his vision.

    No matter how much a politician tries, he is only praised, for his honesty after death or retirement. The above suggestions are pragmatically feasible and will have effect but the question is of who to bell the cat.

    At the moment when no progressive movement is in binoculars, with left and religious right shouting now and then solo slogans in empty auditoriums, the best a positive mind can do is to support even the corrupt Zardari against the mighty half million disciplined, organised and paid party, the security establishment.

    And if one can afford to give give the nation as duty or a fovour, there is a dire need of a progressive political party. Stakes are high but gains are uncountable. Issues are desperate to be slogan-ed and vacuum is looking for anything to fill it.

    Pray nothing wrong gets fed.

  3. libertarian

    @D Asghar: It should be based on the participation of the electorate on a daily basis.

    This is not just Utopian. It’s downright dangerous. Beware the tyranny of the majority. Without safeguards the majority legislates crap like the Hudood Laws. Even state-sanctioned murder can be legislated in such a system.

    Truth is almost all states are Republics – not Democracies. Most governments are democratically elected, but are bound by laws of a Republic. The difference is not academic. Republics have safeguards for minorities – the extreme minority being the individual. Democracies – majority wins – have no safeguards and went out of fashion 2000 years ago.

  4. I think we need to change our thinking. We have to bring some real change. Why we always elect those peoples who already known as corrupt?

  5. Anoop

    The kind of Democracy as practiced by India, US, Europe can never exist in Pakistan unless the Army loosens its grip on the state. But, this is unlikely as due to the Indian invasion fixation Army will always want to stay in power or remain a dominant player.

    I dont see a way out of this vicious cycle.

  6. D. Asghar

    Dear Friends,

    Thanks for your valuable feedback. Any reform on the surface seems to be a bit of a utopian thought.

    Come to think of it, in this equation, you have two major stake holders. The public and their chosen representatives. Under the current system, the chosen reps have 5 years, in most cases with limited accountability to the public. With these measures the burden of accountability shifts.

    If you are reviewed by your employer closely, chances are that your performance is going to improve. Under the current system, the chosen reps act like they are above the law and not accountable to the public.

    This is a partnership, where public and their entrusted reps work, hand in hand. Sadly, our elected officials tend to lean towards the idea of a kingdom. With proper checks and balances there cannot be any tyranny. The current disconnect between the two parties is a result of despair and lack of confidence. Thanks.

  7. Sajida

    In Pakistan the moneyed are in power and they engage in gluttony during their time in office feeding off the public trough on way or the other. In the US, and India, they follow the dictates of those with money.
    What you suggest requires an educated and informed citizenry that is willing to act. Otherwise it can be manipulated. Direct democracy works best in small scale. As the example of California has revealed, it can be a mess. Part of the mess California is in is due to the wrongful use of direct democracy.
    Maybe the Swiss approach to direct democracy is better. The Swiss ,are hiwever better informed than a developing country voter.