By Najeeb Jung
Mar 28, 2013
IN ITS 66 years old history, a democratically elected government has completed its five- year- term for the first time in Pakistan. Much to its credit, this has happened despite serious issues of law and order, sectarian differences, poor economic conditions, and above all, Chief Justice Iftikhar Ali Choudhary’s methodical madness that seemed committed to punish the senior leadership of the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP).
It is much certain that, unless there are catastrophic occurrences, elections will be held for the next Parliament on 11 May, 2013. Is Pakistan prepared for these elections? A new election commission is in place and for the first time since 1970 the electoral rolls are ready; but issues like law and order, booth capturing etc may yet test the system.
Insofar as predictions go, it is almost certain that the country will be managed by a coalition. But what is equally certain is the unpredictability as to who will lead this coalition. The two largest parties, i.e. the PPP and the Muslim League (Nawaz) seem well prepared and if one is to go with the traditional belief that most voters will go with past patterns then Nawaz Sharif’s ML (N) has an edge in the Punjab, the PPP may do badly in North and Central Punjab but it may gain in the South and of course retain its traditional hold over the Sindh. Also if Imran Khan’s Tehreek- e- Insaf were to come up with anything between 30 and 50 seats, this will obviously be at the cost of Nawaz. The disturbed NWFP will be up for grabs for the moneybags.
If one were to look at these as elections with a difference, with most voters concerned over national issues traversing regions, castes and sub castes, the inclusion of a large number of young voters, the Imran Khan factor, anti- Americanism, enhanced Islamisation, it seems impossible to say which way they will go.
The more important issue, however, is whether this will lead to the establishment of a permanent and sustaining democracy in Pakistan or this path is strewn with uncertainties. Will another elected government continue for a full term? Will it be allowed to succeed by the forces of religious fundamentalism or by the army? While we wish for the best, it is necessary to ask these questions considering the history of this young country. On 11 August, 1947 the Quaid e Azam, declared Pakistan a secular country. “You are free, free to go to your temples; …. Free to go to your mosques. …. In the course of time Hindus will cease to be Hindus and Muslims cease to be Muslims…. in the political sense as citizens of the state.” He wished for a modern Islamic, yet secular and democratic state because to him, once the Muslims had gained a homeland, the reasons for nationalistic communalism were dead and the new country could well be secular and democratic. Alas, it was not Jinnah’s dream but Maulana Maududi’s Islamic ideology that eventually won. Maududi claimed to be carrying the message of the prophets to instil an Islamic attitude towards life and morality to such an extent that the people’s way of thinking, ideals in life, and standards of values and behaviour become Islamic. The thrust was towards creating a hegemonistic Islamic state and it got reflected in the Objectives Resolution adopted in 1951 that declared Pakistan to be “ the Islamic Republic of Pakistan”, making it also the first Muslim country to use a religious nomenclature in its name!
All Pakistani governments have had one thing in common. It is the fear of ‘Hindu India’ they continually thrust on the people.
Each President from General Ayub Khan onwards has contributed to this thought. This is a conscious and consistent effort to convince the people of the validity of the government in power and to obtain foreign help (money as well as arms). This started with Prime Minister Liaqat Ali when he made his first trip to the United States in 1951 to seek enhanced friendship and was continued by Yahya Khan, Bhutto, Zia, and the rest of them till date.
But the façade of Islam being critical for the nation and the cultivated fear of India has been horrendous for Pakistan because it has indeed strengthened the forces of Islamic fundamentalism as also the army.
While the former pose an existential problem for the country the latter are a permanent threat to democracy. Any new government will have to face this petard hoisted over for the past 60 years.
Were the next government to last its full five- year term, it would certainly mean a deepening of roots for democracy. Where would then this leave the army? Is the Pakistani army mentally prepared to shed its phenomenal power and sit back quietly in the cantonments? Are the young officers who joined the elite forces with visions of power and grandeur ready to live out their lives playing golf and performing routine duties? The army is the largest and most powerful business group in Pakistan. It controls most businesses and vast lands that are from time to time distributed as largesse to its personnel. If the economy gets into further trouble, will the army not intervene? Some Pakistan watchers claim that it is difficult to conduct a coup without a firm reason. I suspect a collapsing economy and deteriorating law and order are adequate reasons to step in once again as saviours against “these incompetent civilians!” But let us hope for the best and believe that Pakistan may well be at the cusp of a continued romance with democracy that, despite hiccups, will lead to a strong and stable government.
Najeeb Jung is the vice- chancellor of the Jamia Millia Islamia
Source: Mail Today