A New Charter Of Democracy Proposed By PML-N An Eyewash
Imran Khan has played an important role in creating space for future reforms. As a false savior, he has damaged the old status quo but does not have any solutions to offer to our social, economic, and political crisis. He has created a void that is an opportunity for real reforms but status quo parties are rushing back to reoccupy this space, writes Abdul Qayyum Khan Kundi.
Whenever I say that the current republic is beyond repair and has to be replaced by a new one, I get messages that it is still viable. But time and again government and institutions of the state of Pakistan demonstrate that I am right. Two facts have confirmed my position yet again. Firstly, federal and provincial governments are failing to synchronize their efforts to contain the highly contagious and deadly coronavirus. There appears to be no deep thought, efforts, and resource allocation to contain and fight this pandemic. Secondly, a high-level retired diplomat blamed the former Prime Minister of being friendly towards India at the cost of national interest. The same person did not inform us why she preferred her job and career opportunities over standing up to protect the national interest. Both these are indicative that both elected and career executives are incapable of managing the current republic. This highlights that the institutions and structure of the current republic have to be replaced.
All nations go through a process of evolution, depending on their social, political, and economic conditions at the time. When we compare India and Pakistan, these differences are quite clear. Pakistan got into a constitutional and political crisis right at the start of its independence when it lost its founding father, faced the trauma of assassination of its first Prime Minister and then experienced a state capture by a martial law jointly orchestrated by oligarch, bureaucracy, and military. This means that we have been going through one or the other crisis ever since that initial instability.
India, on the other hand, experienced political stability and quickly introduced a constitution that was never abrogated by an unelected power. That stability and predictability helped them develop their economy, diplomatic clout, state institutions, and social relief valves needed for a highly diverse society. This does not mean they do not have their problems to solve but that their nature is different from Pakistan. India is now facing a constitutional and ideological crisis that can erase all the gains it has made since its independence. The fundamentalist and intolerant BJP PM Narendra Modi is the greatest risk that the country has faced. It is too early to know the extent of damage inflicted by him but if recent events are any indication, the social erosion is penetrating deeper than many thought could be possible.
While India spirals intro a crisis, Pakistan, on the other hand, is getting ready to reform itself for the better. But this is not an easy task to achieve as the reformists have to solve many dilemmas on this winding road to reforms. The first puzzle to solve is the constitutionally mandated and culturally acceptable intolerance and fundamentalism (not just religious but also liberal). When we look at the experience of other countries that embarked on a reform agenda, one of the pre-condition is the emergence of a highly polarized society where people are so widely divided that they are not willing to accept anyone different from them. This infighting and polarization tire people and they slowly start to realize that someone has to save them from their hateful agenda that they are themselves unable to contain. It is like an addict seeking help to rehabilitate. They don’t accept the opponents so it has to be a neutral group of people that can find the common ground among all these competing tribes and factions.
Reformists occupy that space but they are pulled by all sides to join them rather than stand their middle ground. This process is painful and hurtful as a lot of abuse and false allegations have to be borne by the reformers. Gandhi, Jinnah, Mandela, Deng Xiaoping, and Martin Luther (the German) all faced abuse and threats to their lives. But they stood their ground and moved the nation around because of a firm belief in their ideals and no desire to seek political power just for the sake of it.
The other precondition for reforms is the emergence of a false savior that destroys the earlier status quo to make space for something new. Hitler, Mussolini, Napoleon, and Cesar are some examples of false saviors. But it is quickly realized that these false saviors have nothing to offer. Imran Khan, from this perspective, has played an important role in creating space for future reforms. As a false savior, he did damage the old status quo but does not have any solutions to offer to our social, economic, and political crisis. He has created a void that is an opportunity for real reforms but status quo parties are rushing back to reoccupy this space.
Ahsan Iqbal and Shahid Khaqan Abbasi’s proposals to develop a new charter of democracy is an effort to deny reforms and to provide breathing space for the current republic that has served all of them well. Anyone listening closely to these two can notice that they are accepting the fact that the current situation is the making of their past bad decisions.
This is another dilemma faced by reformists. They know that status quo political parties have been the reason for decay and part of the problem but they have to work with them to achieve success in the reform agenda. Mandela, Deng Xiaoping, and Jinnah worked with existing parties to be able to reform their societies. Jinnah’s political alliance with the Unionist Party of Punjab was not appreciated and approved by Allama Iqbal as an idealist. Allama’s letter to Jinnah expressed surprise and distrust of the Unionists with a suggestion to break that electoral alliance. But Jinnah knew the political benefit of it and also understood that he will not compromise on the ideals in working with the status quo party.
The hardest dilemma faced by the reformists is to convince their supporters that a new destiny could be achieved. During the process, the signs are generally not visible that reforms will succeed. Supporters express frustration and dismay because of this lack of clarity and visibility that progress is being made.
Reformists have to exert almost superhuman efforts to keep them on track. Supporters also push reformers to provide answers to never-ending questions. Mandela in his autobiography writes that when the apartheid government showed interest in dialogue, there were allegations against him that he had sold out the ideology for political power. He says that he had to explain his position hundreds of times and never showed frustrations about these allegations.
Finally, the greatest challenge to reformers is that they are always small in numbers against an overwhelming majority that is either neutral or against any kind of reforms. This small nucleus has to hold its ground and keep hammering that there is a need for reforms. We are at that stage in Pakistan right now. We have to keep hammering the message that the current republic has failed and there is no way it can be saved or may help the nation achieve its potential. It has to be replaced by a new republic. The sooner we do it the better. Developing a new charter of democracy proposed by PML-N politicians is an eyewash and not a solution.