The debate on fake degrees has captured the middle class imagination of Pakistan’s mainstream media. True that lying and misrepresenting facts is not acceptable. Yet, discriminatory laws against the political elites are not kosher either. The debate on the issue remains sensationalist, purist and devoid of the larger context of Pakistan’s democratic history.
Each era of our existence has witnessed such campaigns. In the 1950s laws to screen out the corrupt politicians was launched with much fanfare. It was a clear tool for the unelected institutions to tame and manipulate the political class. In the 1960s such a process was institutionalized and Pakistan reeled under the ill-effects of authoritarianism leading to the break up of the country in 1971.
The establishment continued the policy throughout the 1980s and we witnessed the growth and proliferation of politicians who were absolutely wedded to the fortification of Pakistan as a national security state. In the 1990s, such games continued and we have cases from that decade which are yet to be adjudicated. The state as a whole has used these as bargaining chips. This is why the debate on NRO is complex and its moral simplification becomes a historical act in itself. Continue reading
Pakistan has crossed a major milestone last week by achieving a historic consensus on the 18th Amendment with 105 clauses, additions and deletions to the Constitution. The distortions inserted by the military rule have been done away with. Political elites this time, however, have gone a step further and improved the state of provincial autonomy. Perhaps this is where a civilian negotiation and democratic politics of compromise has been most effective. Who would have thought a few years ago that this was achievable? There were many skeptics who thought that the amendments might not be approved. However, the ‘corrupt’ and ‘incompetent’ politicians have proved everyone wrong.
Leaving aside the discourse of corruption, the NRO, and a vociferous media campaign against the President, the achievements in the last one-year by all political parties have been tremendous. The Awami National Party, after its initial truce with the militants, has stayed the course and resisted Talibanisation by giving full support to the army operations against the militants. The PPP and PML-N, despite their rhetoric and political point-scoring, have worked together on the national finance commission award (NFC) and now on the implementation of the Charter of Democracy (CoD) that has become the basis for the amendments to become a reality.
The nay-sayers of democracy and the political process forget one fundamental fact: a federal structure cannot work without a robust political process. A start has been made through the recent successes after a decade of ‘controlled democracy’. However, despite the march towards the democratic ideal, there are clear and present dangers that democracy is as fragile as ever. Continue reading
by Raza Rumi
Much has been elaborated on the binding constraints faced by Pakistani democracy. Conventional wisdom suggests that the civil-military imbalance has left little space for democratic institutions to grow and flourish. There can hardly be any disagreement with this point of view. In fact, decades of centralised martial rule have resulted in the militarisation of the society to such an extent that one can hardly discuss anything pertaining to Pakistan without a mention of the Pakistan Army and its role in the country.
There is also a predominant counter narrative in the mainstream discourse. This view holds the impatient and elitist Pakistani politicians responsible for the systemic crash each decade. It stresses that the politicians are adept at undermining the democratic order and it is because of their petty differences and thirst for power that they enter into alliances with the powerful establishment. Continue reading
by Feisal H. Naqvi
Do you know about Webcop? No? Well, don’t worry. The People’s Party does not know anything either. The only problem is this; your lack of knowledge is understandable: the PPP’s ignorance is criminal. Continue reading