Alarm Bells Ringing for Democrats in Pakistan
Malik Ramzan Isra & Mussadiq Khan Niazi
The year 2008 was not only a great opportunity for the democrats to resume their responsibilities to drive this nation towards a right direction but also a good beginning after a long dark night.
Musharraf’s tenure was quite testing for the democrats with many political leaders either put behind the bars and forced into self-exile or even inking a deal to save themselves for time being.
This period was dark but it no doubt made the democratic leaders to think over the past mistakes and to assure the nation that they would not repeat the same.
The Musharraf regime was quite stable until mid 2005. In fact, there was no sign of an end to his rule as he completed six years of his government. In fact there was no sign of an end to his power. But suddenly a chain of events was somehow triggered, starting from the assassination of Nawab Akbar Bugti and then the move to depose the then chief justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry.
The political leaders had been unable to mobilise the public but the mistakes committed by Musharraf were so horrible that they came on streets on the lawyers’ call. Later the political parties took advantage of the situation which ultimately led to the ousting of Musharraf.
We as a nation never resist having dreams-despite the repeated disappointments since inception of Pakistan. The post-Musharraf scenario was quite challenging for the democratic forces amid the high expectations about governance and the quality of life.
The PPP came into power after losing Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto. Her murder was a great loss to the country and the PPP which hasn’t been able to get out of this shock yet.
Bhutto’s vision was attractive for a common man during the 2008 election campaign and the victory meant it was the time to deliver; however, the PPP government didn’t live up to the expectations and the promises. It couldn’t even investigate and nab the main characters responsible for the assassination of BB. There are several reasons behind this poor performance, including the hyper judicial activism and alleged corruption of the PPP government.
But by the year 2013, the PPP started disintegrating and limited itself to Sindh from the status of a federal party. This was quite shocking moment for the party’s ideological workers. It is one side of the story but the damage was mainly suffered by democracy because of those who started believing that democracy is the name of corruption and incompetence.
After the 2013 elections, the PML-N came into power on the basis of a variety of promises and slogans, ranging from eliminating corruption and to improving governance. Although it was somewhat better than the PPP due to some Arab friends, good relationship with the powerful circles (at least initially) and effective media management, but it too could not fulfilled the promises made with the masses. From low attendance in the Parliament to the rare cabinet meetings, the rulers didn’t give importance to the legislature and democratic norms. Finally, the Panama Papers proved the final nail in its coffin.
It was a sad day for all those who believed that exercising the option of PML-N after PPP’s rule would be a fruitful exercise and the things would improve for the common people. In short, the democrats could not prove their worth during the tenures of the two parties.
Now it is the PTI’s turn and its admirers are terming the party as the last hope. But things are not improving at a pace that was expected. Even the followers of PTI are waiting for miracles with a large number of them already disappointed.
During the PTI’s tenure, the Parliament is not the centre of mature debates and Prime Minister Imran Khan’s claim of facing weekly question and answer session has also proved a lie. Democracy within the political parties could not nurture in these 11 years. The biggest loser in this entire episode is democracy in which whom people’s faith has start diminishing.
The ongoing debate about the presidential system hinting at the bad performance of democratic forces also conveys a message that they are not meeting the expectation of the common men. The discussion about presidential system should be alarming for democrats and it’s the high time for them to reset their direction.
We must admit that our democratic leaders could not fulfil their responsibilities, as all the talk about presidential system and comparison of democracy with dictatorship should be a wakeup call for them.