Pakistan needs a stronger democracy

If there is one thing for certain when it comes to Pakistan, it is the fact that the military establishment will never stop meddling in politics. Political circles are abuzz with talk of an impending coup, albeit an indirect one in the form of the ‘Bangladesh Model’; an idea our military has been salivating at ever since a democratically elected government came to power five years ago. The entry of Dr Tahir-ul-Qadri, a cleric with dual nationality, into the public arena in an election year gives credence to this conspiracy theory. Qadri’s call for a long march on January 14 to Islamabad and his belief that it will be turned into ‘Tahrir Square’ is an ambitious project but it reeks of a khaki plan to pack up the democratic process.

Dr Tahir-ul-Qadri addresses supporters
Backed by the army? Dr Tahir-ul-Qadri addresses supporters of the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) political party, during a public rally in Karachi on January 1, 2013. Pic/AFP

Director General (DG) Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) has reportedly denied the military’s involvement in the re-emergence of Dr Qadri. Such a ‘denial’ makes it all the more suspicious. Add to it the Muttahida Qaumi Movement’s (MQM’s) outright support for Dr Qadri’s long march and you know that the powers-that-be have given a green signal to further unrest in the country. That the military thinks it can derail democracy once again proves how its own vested interest takes precedence over national interest. It is trying to cash in on the new wave sweeping through Pakistan’s urban cities against the two mainstream political parties, the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) and the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N). Both parties stand discredited but does this give the military and other undemocratic powers to wrap up the democratic process once again? Absolutely not. The PPP-led coalition government may not have performed as well as it could have but only the people should have the power to vote out a government it is dissatisfied with.

Political parties need to stand united in order to thwart any undemocratic plans. Najam Sethi notes in his TFT editorial, “The PPP can partly pre-empt the problem by quickly announcing firm dates for the dissolution of the government and parliaments and establish a formal, transparent, neutral and credible machinery for making the caretaker governments to everyone’s satisfaction. But this may not be sufficient to thwart the aims and objectives of those who seek a longer-term solution to the corruption and inefficiency of both mainstream parties and want to keep them from assuming power yet again.”

The year 2012 was a bad year for Pakistan in countless ways: a democratically elected prime minister was ousted through judicial activism, the government cowed down to the mullahs and appeased the Right during violent protests against a blasphemous movie, Taliban attack on Malala Yousafzai, martyrdom of Awami National Party’s Bashir Bilour, target-killings of anti-polio campaign workers, massacre of Shia Muslims, murder and mayhem in Balochistan orchestrated by the military and its proxies, violence in Karachi, terrorist attacks, minority rights violations, and much more. Add to it Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) chief Hakimullah Mehsud’s message about the Afghan Taliban and TTP being one and the same, and the future looks grim. In the wake of such ominous signals, Pakistan needs stability now more than ever. The people of Pakistan should not let the military establishment succeed in its dastardly plans. Pakistan can certainly not afford an undemocratic regime. To counter terrorism and extremism, we need to strengthen our democracy, not get rid of it. The choice is simple.

The writer is a Pakistani journalist. Reach her at mehmal.s@gmail.comĀ 

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