Written on April 14, 2013
As national elections in Pakistan draw closer, there are still some who doubt that the elections will be held as per schedule. It is widely believed that many in the political mainstream, the civil and military bureaucracy, and judiciary, as well as in the media are not only hoping but striving to postpone the general elections. It is also widely believed that only one political party would suffer if the elections are postponed i.e. Pakistan Muslim League-N (PML-N) which is currently considered to be the front-runner in the run up to the elections, as if all others including the country itself would benefit from the delay.
However, statistics as well as the historical precedence would say otherwise.
There are many reasons for this lack of optimism or confidence, as well as the abundance of wishful thinking. The political parties have still been unable to announce their final candidates, as well as to kick start the election campaign in full throttle whereas less than 30 days remain to the polling day. The prevailing law and order situation in the country also prevents the political parties, and their leaders to hold public rallies and gatherings which are a necessary part of electioneering. The general public is also affected by widespread indiscriminate targeted killings on the basis of sectarian and ethnic differences. This also deepens the ongoing economic crisis. In the last three years, economic growth has been under 3% which is inadequate to provide enough jobs to the growing population or improve their living conditions. Simultaneously, inflation continues to grow at a consistent pace of over 11%, coupled with grave energy and fuel crisis, and depleting foreign reserves, the country stands on the verge of an economic emergency.
In a recent Pew Research Center Poll, over 40 % Pakistanis preferred a democratic government; however, this number may mislead a reader if seen exclusively. A staggering 22% of Pakistanis believe that it does not matter what kind of government they have. A reflection of what it truly means can only be seen if this number is compared with other Muslim majority countries, where only 13 % Egyptians, 11% of Jordanians and Tunisians, 9% Lebanese, and 5% Turks feel this way.
Today, almost universally the term “democracy” is associated with prosperity and stability. Over 90% of World Values Survey respondents prefer democracy, whereas most Pakistanis believe a strong authoritarian rule will be better able to address the country’s problems than a democratic form of government. Only last night I was held in an argument with someone I know who has worked in a pro-establishment think tank. He tried to convince me that a direct military take-over or a quasi civil-military government under the wings of someone dictatorial a.k.a. the Bangladeshi Model will be much better off for Pakistan than a smooth and peaceful election and transfer of power to whatever democratically elected government emerges. He went as far as saying that even bloodshed, or a “controlled demolition” to reach that end might have been useful for the country. I call these ideas as extremely dangerous. Whoever is conceiving them has no thought of the fact that any attempt to “controlled demolition” has no guarantee that it will not spiral out of control.
We have learned these lessons four times over that no military take-over or authoritarian rule hold answers to the questions Pakistan faces today, on the contrary as precedence says, authoritarian rules have damaged our country above anything else. The temporary economic stability that a dictator brings must not been seen in isolation. This temporary economic stability is one of the “textbook merits” of dictatorship through which a dictator seeks legitimacy. The effect and damage of the dictatorial rule must always be seen in a wider context, and its post-rule fallout. For one small example Pakistanis have witnessed the worst possible government from 2008 to 2013 only due to a law known as National Reconciliation Ordinance which General Pervez Musharraf passed to secure his own future term. It is imperative to understand that dictatorship in any of its forms will prove disastrous for the country.
Economic stability and prosperity may only occur in a government which ensures that civil, religious and political liberties of all are protected. This form of government these days is called substantive democracy, and any democratic process, essentially, is a time taking process. Pakistanis need to concentrate more on spreading respect for civil, religious and political liberties as well as political stability in not only creating harmony and tolerance like a civilized society, but also ensuring smooth and timely transition of power from one elected government to another. Time and again, people will vote and elect politicians who are perceived better from the rest, and gradually the political culture and governance will also improve.
India, in Pakistan’s neighborhood, as an excellent case in point, is continuously striving to rise among the economically and politically respected countries. This has only been made possible, apart from other reasons, because of political stability; whatever sort of politicians they had they ensured implementation of their constitution and smooth transitions of power from one elected government to another.
This may sound like a lifelong struggle, however, strong countries and stronger nations have spent generations of patient efforts to make their countries prosperous, stable and peaceful. The international brokers, covert planners and hidden agendas as well as their cronies in Pakistan may always try to alter variables in the country in their favor. But general and loyal Pakistanis must remain on guard and protect their political stability and ensure that Pakistan remain politically and socially stable, once that is ensured economic stability will automatically follow – that is a given. Elections should be held on May 11, 2013 and not a day later, and Pakistani voters must come out in numbers to vote whoever they deem better than the rest.
Optimism and stability go hand in hand in the foray of politics and economy!