October 17, 2010

Democracy or Dictatorship – Part 2

We must let democracy prevail, because that is the only
way forward. (Photo: Cdn.wn.com)
I’m writing this in response to a very interesting argument between the only two people who comment on my articles on Facebook, Ihtisham and Isfand. They were discussing why democracy fails and why dictatorships have mostly been successful. I would just like to add my point of view here.

Why democracy fails is because we don't let it prosper. People like you and me have lost all faith in it. If democracy is allowed to take root, people like you and me will try to participate in it and try to right the things. That is how democracy works. Give it time. Once the people feel that their votes are going to make a difference, they will come out and vote.

The thing with dictatorships is that they do not take into account the mass opinion of the nation. No dictator has done that because he was wrong to assume command in the first place, and nobody questions him because he or she will be persecuted. That is why the decision of one man is implemented on all of us. And that is also why we only crib during democratic rule because we are only interested in crying and abusing and not doing anything, because 5 years of democracy followed by 10 years of dictatorship has turned us into cry babies who think they can do nothing.

That is why the corrupt politicians assume command and do as they please because they know that we're not going to do anything. And they're right; we haven't done anything have we? We cry and moan and make noises because that is what we did when a dictator was in power. However, if democracy had prevailed or had been allowed to prevail, we would have known that our ideas make the difference in our lives, and our opinions count when our politicians stand out there in front of the international community.

Now coming back to dictatorships and why they prosper is simply because the dictators came at a very opportune time, like I mentioned in one of my previous articles. When Ayub Khan came into power, 3 years after the unofficial start of the Cold War, Ayub Khan chose to ally itself with America causing massive aid inflows to our country. During that period, interest rates were low and the additional burden of accumulating debt wasn’t considered a burden at all. Come Bhutto, and the massively increased interest rates on the debt meant that Pakistan suddenly went into the red zone. Also Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto made the fatal flaw of nationalizing all of our industries which led to a complete decimation of our economy.

But then came Zia ul Haq, who once again inherited an economy in tatters. There was no investment and the government was spending almost 100 billion PKR from its own kitty on maintaining those debt ridden, utterly inefficient and corrupt, money leaking enterprises that Bhutto had nationalized. But like I said before, the dictators took over at very opportune times. Zia ul Haq was called a dictator internationally but come 1979 and suddenly he was an international hero simply because the US wanted to defeat USSR in Afghanistan. This resulted in massive aid inflows once again, and the battered economy resurfaced because of the invigorating cash being pumped into the national kitty.

However, by the late 80s the economy had taken a massive nosedive and we were on the brink of default when Benazir’s democratic regime took over, followed by the kleptocratic regime of Nawaz Sharif and so on and so forth. By 1999, after the nuclear tests, our situation was so dire that Nawaz Sharif had to freeze all foreign currency accounts because of massive capital flight and the resulting reneges on international pledges. And that is when Musharraf came into power, and two years later, the war on terror meant an endless supply of money into the national exchequer.

So merely branding the dictators as better rulers is flawed thinking. Zia ul Haq was and will always remain the most bigoted man to have ever ruled Pakistan; Musharraf was a very smooth talker and that was a brilliant attribute; and Ayub Khan simply enjoyed the fruits of a very peaceful time in economic times. The democratic regimes have always had to face the brunt of poor economic conditions, and well their own ineptness. But this does not mean that they ought to be brandished aside and let the army take over.

I hope this clarifies some misconceptions that we harbor in ourselves for and against the democratic governments. Democracy is the only way forward ladies and gents, not the military. The sooner we can understand this notion, the sooner we will be able to start making a difference in the destiny of our beloved country.