By MIAN AKHLAQ-UR-RAHMAN
Having smoothed out their countenances and donned them with smiles, the warring factions of our socio-political milieu, not burying their hatchets but forgetting them for a while, still basking in their past glories, have joined hands and combined their efforts and political skills on a single issue, restoration of democracy in Pakistan, and for it they have put down a charter of democracy.
The COD on which the political parties have put their minds and hearts calls for judicial reforms, an independent election commission, a just system of accountability, and reining in of military bureaucracy. The spotlight of public scrutiny, however, seems to be more fixed on the role of the army in the affairs of the state than on any other issue.
People have created armies; armies have not created people. This instrument of state designed to guard and defend the will of the people has turned on its parents and has subjected them to its corporate will after successfully abstracting and insulating itself from the general will. The mindset that in the previous centuries had donned the Royal Regalia has thrown off the frayed garb and now dons the new Regalia of caps and pips; there is no change of heart under the change of form. Premonition shows us that very soon these will be irrelevant and despised symbols if they occupy the slots not meant for them. The general will of the people will regain its ascendancy and the instruments of the state will be relegated and pushed back to their proper positions and places, as responsible parts of a viable political arrangement of the society.
It is neither tyranny nor any disservice to the nation, if the people through the instrument of legislative assemblies, with duly elected representatives, question the acts of the army and its members. Mark Twain, said, “My kind of loyalty was loyalty to one’s own country, not to its institutions or to its office holders.” However the immunity of the armed forces from public scrutiny in matters of national security should not be disturbed and weakened.
Democracy is the safest system in the way that in it no idea or thought is stifled, preventing its development from festering wounds into revolutionary boils. Further it is the only system, yet developed, that can fruitfully absorb the evolutionary process of nature and existence. Except in a democracy, in all other systems of management the thoughts and ideas of men, who are alive, meaning by this those of us who in line and pace with the evolutionary process of the universe are continually learning, maturing, and changing, are slighted and thwarted. Instinctively aware of the demands of evolution, in a democracy, these men are instruments, through their active participation, of the manifest progress of mankind. Further the interaction of the democracies is the interaction of the people of the world, thus giving a genuine legitimacy to international treaties, processes, and agreements. Asserting that international peace cannot be achieved without a democratic participation of all the people of the world, Woodrow Wilson, said, “No covenant of cooperative peace that does not include the people of the New World can suffice to keep the future safe against war “. We have to shoulder two responsibilities at the same time, one as an independent Nation and the other as an active member of the international community of Nations; two functions, one domestic, the other global.
Despite the points in favour of a democratic setup, democracy in its present form has failed to deliver goods, especially in the developing countries. The governments are not only responsible to people and their representatives but also dependent on them. This dependency of the government on the public representatives for its life makes government a handmaiden of the ruling and opposition politicians who under the mask of public welfare use this strength to pursue their own nefarious designs. The political and social agendas of the political parties bow to and give way to the personal agendas of the members of the political parties.
Solon, 600 B.C., Athenian legislator, drew a constitution that established free elections and emphasized the rights of the individual over the power of the state. At this stage democracy meant the formation of a legislature, through public vote, responsible for legislation of laws and formation of policies for the governance of the state and of setting its national and international, goals. In Athens, the General Assembly comprised of all the freemen, and was the supreme body, legislative and official. Political parties arose later with the development of a multiparty parliamentary system, with each political party representing a different political school. However with the progress in economic and cultural globalization the role of the political parties will gradually reduce, and in future they would be voted for the personal integrity and useful to the nation professional skills of their members and not for their political agendas, for these will stand merged in the global systems. But this is something that would not be possible till the people are educated to recognize these traits in their candidates.
Having freedom of association, in a democracy, people with common interests come together to form pressure groups, taking the form of corporate bodies, industrial and trade cartels, trade unions, and unions of professional groups, with time becoming powerful enough to thwart all measures of the state that promote general welfare but undermine the monopolies and benefits of these corporate bodies. Bertrand Russell said, “and at last I began to feel that all politics are inspired by a grinning devil, teaching the energetic and quick-witted to torture submissive population for the profit of pocket or power of theory.” Will Durant, 1931, in his letter to Bertrand Russell, wrote, “Democracy has degenerated into such corruption as only Milo’s Rome knew”.
Kant, said, “The Whole People, so called, who carry their measures are not really all, but only a majority; so that here the universal will is in contradiction with itself and with the principle of freedom.” He further said, “Is the laity expert enough to give its opinion and vote on issues that are technical. Demagogues tend to confuse their visions with ambiguous speeches, full of clichés, good sounding words, and balmy constructions, then after arousing their passions they direct these towards furthering their own personal goals and ambitions”.
Allama Iqbal, said, “Gareez az tarz-e-jamhoori ghulam-e-pukhta karay shau”
“Kay az maghze do sad khar fiqr-e-insanay nami ayad”
(Remain away from the democracy oh mature, because the brains of two hundred donkeys do not make a man’s wisdom). “Jamhooriat ek tarze hakoomat hai jis may”
“Bandoo ko gina kartay hain tola naheen kartay”
(Democracy is a system in which men are counted and not valued.) “Hay wohi saze kohen maghrib ka jamhoori nizam”
“Jis kay pardoon may nahi ghair az nawae kaiseri”
(Europe’s system of democracy is the same old musical instrument In whose folds is not other than the song of Caesar)
No two societies are, at the same time, at the same stage of evolutionary development, therefore a generally agreed system of management cannot be applied to different societies at different stages of development, however it can be applied with particular relative modifications specific to each. Aristotle, in The Republic, recommends rights according to abilities. The modifications are all the more necessary in a country like Pakistan where the civil society is far from developed and social milieu is still most of it a hegemony of landed feudal and religious aristocracy.
In the history of the Western culture, during the transition from medieval to modern times, the landed feudal aristocracy lost their political power, after having lost their economic power to the merchants and the industrialists. In Europe Voltaire and Rousseau were the two voices of the enormous processes of transition from Feudal Aristocracy to the Rule of the Middle Class. In India too with the rise of merchant and the industrial class the feudals were wiped away from both commerce and politics, they no longer held the destinies of their serfs, industrialization had liberated this huge chunk of population, who after liberation became an important part of the national politics. In Pakistan the feudal culture, despite having lost its commercial aspect, still persists and occupies the corridors of political power. They cannot legislate for the people because at the core of their politics is the need and desire to hold and perpetuate their serfdoms. They are the sons of status quo and are the best buys of the dictators and the tyrants; they can never bring in a social revolution that will change the lives of the miserable majority. The most tyrannical of the lot is the landed aristocracy that combines in it the elements of the church and the aristocracy, the aristocrats who are not only the feudal lords of their areas but also the religious heads, mini-divinities, holding the keys to happiness in this and salvation in the next world. Lenin was partially right when he said, “Democracy- the best possible political shell for Capitalism.” In “Communist Manifesto”, Marx and Englles state, “The Proletariat, the lowest stratum of our present society, cannot stir, cannot raise itself, without the whole superincumbent strata of official society being sprung into the air”.
An important factor of democratic vitality is the active engagement of the citizens across cultural boundaries, something which is not possible in a feudally and religiously closed system. Freedom of speech, thought, and assembly is essential to the establishment of a civil society as it is the basis of the ability of the people to act publicly. Alexis Detocqueville, says, “It is important not to let this idea (of free will) grow dim, for we need to raise men’s souls, not to complete their prostration”.
Through democracy people gain control over, politics, commerce, and culture, as through science they gain control over nature. This is however only possible when the will of the people is free of feudal and religious aristocracy, when they are educated enough not to be moved into emotional sprees by witty and cunning demagogues, when they can understand right from wrong, when they are not bonded by labor to certain social hegemonic aristocracies, and are free to labor as they like. Though no man is dumb enough not to know what he needs, and had always acted according to the needs of his times, the social bonds referred earlier do not allow a free application of his will through vote. To accelerate the process of the development of the civil society, certain steps can be taken. First, the rights of the individual, ecological, biological, social, political, and economic, will have to be legally and constitutionally guaranteed and protected. This will not only grant recognition to the individual but will also empower him against social, economic, and political exploitation. Secondly, Middle Class should be developed through a general spread of government sponsored education, reduction of poverty and promotion of economic independence with the help of small industrial and personal loans in the case of urban population, and small agrarian and personal loans in the case of rural population, development of a rural civil society by encouraging the formation and promotion of civil organizations in the rural areas. Thirdly, as it ensures a grass root people and government participation and liaison, development work should be totally entrusted to the local government institutions. Fourth, to educate the public representatives in good governance, the members of parliament should be asked to submit annual reports on the political, social, and economic development of their constituencies to the legislative assemblies. Sixth, now, as, after having traversed a long road, life has become very complicated and human desires and needs have accordingly become sophisticated, and as akin to these desires an elaborate organization system is required, a professional beaurucracy trained in management skills should be developed and established for the management of the economic and administrative affairs. Seventh, the institution of the army, knowing very well that it is the only institution of the country, despite all the right or wrong misgivings about it, whose sincerity and patriotism to the state is beyond doubt, can be used, the method can be laid down constitutionally, when times require for the purpose of internal and external security, however the conduct of the high officials of this institution should be made directly responsible to the legislative assemblies. Eighth, as judicial and legal corruption, reported by many global forums, is a spreading phenomenon, and as in Pakistan the legal and judicial community is as much corrupt as any other corrupt institution of the country, be it political, social, or administrative, yet being the most immune to any kind of probe, enquiry or censure, the conduct of the higher judicial officer should be allowed to be discussed and reported on by the select, committees of the legislative assemblies.
Till the times are there for a true democracy, times when the civil society has grown out of its ills, either through a deliberate or through a natural evolutionary metamorphosis, and the common man is mostly in control of his will, guided and qualified democracy is the solution for the current times. There can be a blend of different systems, which being in the welfare of the general public should be accepted as a transitional phase in the history of the nation. Benjamin Franklin says, “Only a virtuous people are capable of freedom. As nations become corrupt and vicious, they have more need of masters”.