The essence of democracy
April 27, 2012
Amin Jan Naim
Democracy as a modern political framework for states has evolved over a long period of time. This evolution has not been without bitterness, upheavals and catastrophes, both moral and historical.
Though still imperfect, the juridical, political, administrative and civic arrangements of a modern democratic country are much more conducive to economic, social and personal advancement of human beings than any despotic or autocratic government could be. The successful functioning of democracy is linked to demography, material resources and the intellectual attainments of a society. This context has been lacking in Pakistan.
If we imagine for a moment that the police, magistracy and electoral mechanisms of European countries were to be transplanted to our situation now in Pakistan, they all would be at a complete loss of what to do and would become paralysed in trying to curb the lawlessness, unimaginable violence and anarchy prevalent here.
Our own law enforcement mechanisms have also, in recent years, been confronted with entirely new challenges and duties quite outside their normal experience and training. These include widespread terrorism, cyber crimes, drug trafficking and human smuggling.
Their effective manpower and capacity have been overstretched beyond limits. They are faced with circumstances extremely difficult to tackle. If Pakistan is to remain steadfast to constitutional government, parliamentary democracy, free enterprise and universal human rights, these difficulties need to be overcome.
To what extent and in which situations do the better elements of human nature triumph over or, alternatively, are submerged by bale and evil are issues vital to our future politics. The massive technological opportunities opened up to evil forces and to organised crime, do not seem to augur well.
Thus, we see not only malfeasance by the state nowadays, but, what is much worse, a phenomenon such as the proliferation of private torture cells and jails and extortion rackets being indulged in by some political parties.
The sad fact is that whereas evil forces tend to reinforce each other and link up in grids, the struggles of the good elements in Pakistan are isolated and remain ineffective. When this situation is juxtaposed with intellectual confusion, religious dogmatism and the extremist fanaticism that pervades our country today, one can only visualise poignant tragedy.
Despite this pessimism, our aim, nevertheless, must be to remain steadfast in firm adherence to the rule of law, constitutional government, parliamentary democracy, regular and frequent elections and the strengthening of the judiciary. The superior judiciary in Pakistan faces a superhuman task. It is heavily overburdened. Its verdicts need to be respected. Our social order needs to be underpinned by ethical and intellectual prerequisites. The long periods of military dictatorship have left a tragic legacy. It will take time to surmount the damage that military dictatorships have caused to our political and administrative institutions.
Yet, we must not swing now to the other extreme but should respect and strengthen our armed forces. In all modern democracies in the world today, the armed forces are considered essential to the state. They are, however, kept under strict civilian control in democracies.
The complexity of modern juridical, legal, administrative and political processes needs to be accommodated in a framework of democratic freedom and liberty. This would only be possible if we inculcate a social outlook that is not malignant and contorted as it is at present.
Pakistan needs to take a place of pride in the modern comity of nations and the globalised world. We must do this by evolving a progressive and tolerant society. In earlier times of history, epic battles were single combats, as for example between Macbeth and Macduff.
In these days of faceless organised criminal networks operating worldwide, we need to join all enlightened forces of the world and build in our country a dynamic and prosperous society. At the same time, we must remain mindful of the harmful machinations of some western powers.
The writer is a former ambassador.Email: firstname.lastname@example.org