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How to bring real democracy in confused state like Pakistan?

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Posted by on Tuesday, October 5, 2010, 11:59
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Why Ghazala Khan’s mantra is democracy, democracy. What is it that everybody is longing for?  How it came into this world. Under which situation, it is the only way out? And above all, why it is not flourishing in Pakistan? Well lets say, Ghazala khan among others consider democracy as best governing system to run the state. To answer what is it, simply a system in which all citizens wants to have their say in making and implementing rules.

How to bring real democracy
How to bring real democracy

To answer how it came into this world, we have to travel back to Athens, 505 BC, the city state of Greek, which was the introductory place of democracy after oligarchy failure. But that democracy was much different from present world democracy as women and slave were not entitled to vote. One may raise the question that why Greek tried democracy when other parts of the world were living with kingship monarchies, dictatorships etc. The answer is because of lots of individual opinions were available to run the matter of state. Partly due to their limited population and partly due to their thinking mind, most of the city dwellers want to have their opinion counted in making decision (direct democracy).

But after Greek city state, we couldn’t find that developed democratic spirit in Roman Empire, in Iranians, Muslims, and in Medieval ages European kings, till Renaissance and Enlightment era. But to reach democracy, they travelled from Church supremacy (Church + King), to aristocracy (King + landlords), to enlightened monarchs (King + traders + industrialists), to urban aristocracy (traders + industrialists + urban middle class) to communism to democracy. It is wave of change that spread at least on 600 years, from 14th century renaissance to 20Th century. Again the question is that why they evolved through all these stages to reach democracy and if every other country has to follow the same path. The answer to first part is that the governing system adopted by countries is outcome of state of society cultural complexity.

The transition of Europe from Church supremacy to noble backed kingship was result of people lost of trust on church especially after what they did in crusades. Aristocracy (King + landlords) to enlightened monarchs (King + traders + industrialists) shift was mainly the result of green revolution (latest scientific innovation in cropping) that reduced the number of peasants need in agriculture. This led to migration of rural population to cities and new cities formed around trading and industrial hubs. The balance of power shifted from traditional landlords to new stake holders in power (traders + industrialists). These urban dwellers backed king to out power landlords not only because they were offended by landlord’s atrocities but also because of their requirement for rules, regulations and protection of city life. As highly professionally specialized life of city was much complex in comparison to simple self sufficient life of village, therefore requirement of order and regulation was order of the day. These enlightened monarchs were much different from the kings of medieval ages and before because they were subject to constitution in most of the matter. As for example Magna Carta of 1215, bill of civil rights etc. reduced the powers of British king. This king was marginalized by urban elite. Yet another transition was French revolution, which was first real step for transfer of power toward commons though yielded limited success. But voices of Voltaire, Roseau and Montesquieu were too strong to be forgotten even after failure of French revolution, especially when Thomas Jefferson floated that idea in America.

Both communism and democracy ideals were the welfare of common people, however, with different methods. In communism, though the welfare of all was equally important but individual was nothing in comparison to collectives. Whereas, in democracy, as we all know, all are equal but in different perspective. But the main point is, the requirement of democracy emerge from cultural unrest which was result of managing complex state affairs of big states with simple rules of king ship for benefit of few. This failure was felt by think tanks and channelized by social and political activists of urban educated middle class. Theaters, plays, prose, poetry, discussion forums, news papers, tea clubs, and pubs all were then platforms to create awareness towards the nature of problem. To make people feel that they are being exploited by elite few and they are spending their whole life for the luxury of rich, every forum played its part. Yet democracy came in increments, first to men and also the weight of vote was according to share to taxes and then by and by women were given a right of vote and weight of vote became even for all. In short, it was the cultural, social, economic requirements of the society in Europe which bring them to find and struggle for democracy as governing system.

In comparison to this evolution of democracy, the former colonies soon after independence decided to adopt democracy. Without considering their past, which had kingships and then colonial dictators which kept them from evolving toward democracy, they declared them as democratic states. Imagine the situation, in which anybody is asked to enroll in college without having primary education. Similar was the case of building democracy based politics prior to social structure of society necessary to support rather wish for democratic system. The plight of unfortunate developing third world is similar. Little they knew that adopting democracy as governance system require tremendous prior homework or evolution background. In the struggle of last half century, only few states manage to realize their mistake and set their house in order by bringing orderly stepwise development. Rest of the developing world, including most of Africa, Latin America, South East Asia, central and south Asia continuously repeated the mistake of reverse order in development: by basing modern political structure on fragile primitive social footing or replacing it with dictatorship out of frustration.

Democratic politics couldn’t survive unless supported by meaningful social structure. The social structuring means the ordering of society in social network on variety of different footings. A bond different from family, cast, geographical and creed, is pre-requisite in this modern society. The parallel relations of citizen and state, employer and employee, legislature and legislate, vendor and vendee were needed to be developed. A conscious movement from self sustained simple rural life to complex interconnected city life was prerequisite for new structuring. The resulted life based on highly specialized and interdependent citizens individually and institutionally could only have provided breeding ground for democracy because of its complexity. Only this complex connected form of social structure requires collective state services in lieu of taxes, laws to order their life, judiciary to interpret laws and law enforcement agencies to implement it. In these situations, democracy emerges out of necessity as it did in Europe rather being imposed or adopted as fashion, as it is in our country. Then society create in their rows collective bodies like interest groups, focus groups, trade unions, government policy watch dogs, NGO’s, professional groups at each level of governance, i.e. district, division and province, to demand and protect public interests. In this structure only, society ask and fight for access to information and freedom of expression, in order to check on delegated authority of governance and suggest for better management of state resources in this complex system.

Introducing democracy in Pakistan, without doing homework resulted into a conflict of old and new forms of government. Self sustained life of village versus interconnected life of cities, landlord to former relation versus employer to employee relation, faithfulness versus merit, custom based conventional laws versus laws of land, Jirga versus judiciary, self protection of village life versus protection by city police, collection of money privately versus collective collection in banks, private cooperative business versus big corporations, Zakat versus tax, self services providence by charity versus state welfare, in short these parallel governance systems created mess in a society.

In this confused situation, introducer of new system gained benefits by getting elected without proper knowledge of electees of election implications, raised indirect taxes without the knowledge of tax payers that he is being taxed, having loans from foreign countries without the knowledge of subjects, creating production and trade monopolies without knowledge of people being affected, and allotting public lands to themselves without public knowledge. Even, the political parties were created overnight without democracies within. Though political parties fight against dictatorship but unfortunately none of them strive hard for bringing real grass root level democracy. Rather, they kept state of affair confuse to maintain status-quo for the sake of personal interests. If we really want to move forward and base our footing on complex inter-connected democratic modern society, that we have to, then we need to built social fabrics consciously, which otherwise are forming in unconscious haphazard way.

Problem is that we are forcing one to drink water which otherwise he doesn’t want to, we have to create thirst and then he will struggle himself for a water. In practical terms, we have to introduce technology in agriculture to make labor surplus for industry, and in parallel have to launch industry to absorb the labor and built new cities for this migrating class. The reduction of power from land and tribal elites by this urban migration will produce power vacuum which will be filled by new urban middle class. The new educated urban middle class will be a potential toward sustainable democracy provided it is properly guided by political thinkers, writers and intellectuals, to seek their lawful rights by saying stop to the exploitation of fictitious democracy. In nutshell, we still have to sow the seeds which only be reaped by our next generations because there are no shortcuts toward sustainable developments of the countries.

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