Since Yousuf Reza Gilani, Prime Minister of Pakistan, was found guilty of contempt of court and convicted (Sky News HD, 26 April 2012) there has been a head on collision between Judiciary and Executive. It seems that the majority in Pakistan and world over believe that democracy in Pakistan is far away from attaining maturity and the corruption charges on majority of politicians ruling or opposition; a strong feeling among many quarters that democratic norms and values are smashed to smithereens. Asif Ali Zardari, ruling party’s co-chairperson and President of the country accused of corruption and money laundering (theguardian, April 26, 2012) is faced with huge challenges and his political future, Presidency and his party are at stake. Pakistan’s experience with the type of democracy offered has been disillusionment, frustration and disappointment which can easily be attributed to electorate’s lack of understanding due to a very low literacy rate regarding the working of this system. The political populism in the form of small financial gains, dreams or false promises practiced keeps people sedated and manipulating democracy to suit a privileged few allows carrying on with the old system of feudal hegemony.
To draw a comparison between armies of India and Pakistan, on the face of it, Indian army’s writ cannot be challenged in Kashmir, Assam, Christian belt of Northeast, dealings with Maoists, Naxalites or other trouble spots and to this effect both dominions draw a parallel to a large extent. The credit India can claim is that it allowed democratic political setup to flourish unhindered as the invisible political hierarchy makes it an article of faith to hold on tightly to the concept to derive benefits on the international level. India was lucky to play the cards right from the start as its British educated leadership closely associated with British-Indian political top brass gave it necessary experience and edge to grasp the benefits it could derive. The Muslim leadership, unfortunately, did not have this political and educational enlightenment and depended wholly on M. A. Jinnah who was an exception to have similar advantage in the likeness of his other Indian counterparts.
General Ayub Khan’s rule [1958 until 1969], some quarters believe termed as golden period put Pakistan on the world map of developing nations. The foreign minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto received the polish and grooming to become a versatile politician who soon after fall of East Pakistan became Martial-Law Administrator and the President of Pakistan from 1971 to 1973 followed by his Premiership from 1973 to 1977. Many in Pakistan believe that democratically elected majority leader Sheikh Mujeeb-ur-Rahman should have been allowed to head the government of United Pakistan and hold Z. A. Bhutto responsible to become an impediment to allow such a democratic arrangement. Though there were other pretexts, seceding "East-Pakistan" was the main charge and reason Bhutto was hanged for.
Z. A. Bhutto is considered the pioneer for laying the foundation to initiate nuclear program and this gave Bhutto nearly seven years to work on a mission that at times did not leave much time for him to concentrate on a speedy execution of nuclear ambition as he was politically engaged with other major issues like the release of 90 thousand prisoners of 1971 war with India, Kashmir and issues those needed attention internally; finally, as some believe, Bhutto also paid the price for hosting a very high profile Islamic Conference in Pakistan.
General Zia-Ul-Haq, after Bhutto’s removal ruled Pakistan nearly for eleven years [July 1977 to August 1988], was able to give this fledgling nuclear program a boost to take it to logical conclusion; grabbing the opportunity kept the world powers particularly India at bay using Afghanistan occupation by Soviets a priority for the world to worry and clandestinely expedited speedy work to attain nuclear capability. Like India the whole world was shockingly surprised to see Pakistan go nuclear but because India had preceded the action, there was little that international community could do and settled the issue by imposing economic sanctions on both the countries. Some argue that Zia-Ul-Haq should, in the real sense, be regarded as “father of Pakistan’s nuclear program”.
General Musharraf (June 2001 to August 2008) managed to give some stability to Pakistan except the jolt it got from 911 and it will be a matter of time to see if Musharraf’s decision to ‘be with us rather than against us’ proves right. But the powers that be in Pakistan used the time to concentrate on improving on the accomplished nuclear ambition to better missile technology as well.
The governments of ZA Bhutto, Benazir Bhutto, and Nawaz Shareef though democratic in name as we know, did not have much substance and proved a mirage. If democracy was allowed to thrive and continue, Pakistan would today be at par with all democratic nations of the world. It is ironical, that the promotion of free media that was allowed to nurture and mature during Musharraf’s time, the fact acknowledged by all including print and electronic media in Pakistan became instrumental for the recent political developments. People in the streets have expressed dismay about working of democracy in Pakistan and the debate about democracy vs. army rule is already a hot topic discussed widely almost on all TV channels and print media of Pakistan.
Pakistan as it seems, due to endemic feudal culture, could not cash on using ‘democracy’ to further its political image internationally. Be it the ruling elite, the main opposition of Nawaz Shareef or the religious groups, the common man is disappointed and disgruntled and seems fed up
On a closer scrutiny; comparing the two democracies of the sub-continent, one witnesses a whole lot of similarities as far as corruption, nepotism, favouritism, exploitation, discrimination, crime, and above all the control of political power by a select few is concerned. The carefully crafted political image of family rule exists on both sides of the border and democracy is manipulated to have firm grip on political power. The politics of political parties revolves round exploiting religion and sectarian division.
Pakistan’s internal strife and political disturbance is the culmination of corrupt socio-political and intolerant religious environment, a historical legacy of feudal and ethnic divide which is deep rooted and to have a taste of genuine democracy Pakistan needs to tackle corruption head on.