October 6, 2010

Democracy or Dictatorship?

Classic political theatrics on display in Pakistan.
(Photo: Dawn.com)
So recently a friend of mine called me a right wing fascist rooting for military rule. First of all, all fascists are ultra right wing, and secondly, the last time we used the word fascist was in reference to the Nazis. Now if this was Europe, I could have sued that friend for causing me emotional injury but looking at the farcical judicial system prevalent in Pakistan, I'll let it go.

The friend asked me to comment on the statement that the worst democracy is better than the best dictatorship. Now if she thought, or was hoping that I would somehow contradict this statement, she is in for a surprise. I mean how can anyone (me included) agree with the idea of preferring a dictatorship over a democracy? Sure for the sake of argument I can harp on about it but this isn't an argument; this is a way of defining the destiny of a country.

Despite my image which comes across as pro Musharraf, I am not a pro army person. I believe the army needs to be sent to the barracks; I believe they don't even have the right to set up cantonments in the middle of cities; nor do I condone the antics of the army setting up entrepreneurial ventures instead of enhancing the capability of defending our borders. The fact remains that the army has a clearly defined role and it needs to stick to it. If it doesn't, then there ought to be severe repercussions for it too.

As far as Musharraf goes, he was a dictator and as such, he should be tried with all resources under Article 6 of the Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan. My only point of admiration for the man was in the way he handled the affairs of this country, be it economic, interior or foreign. I believe in giving credit where it’s due and Musharraf deserves credit for pinching his nose and doing what many of our elected representatives lack the gall to do; that is take steps that will lead this country towards a platform of stability, and some sort of governance.

Over the past 63 years we have glorified the army to unrealistic levels. We have associated fables to it which aren’t true. There have been heroic deeds by our Jawans but only because the generals deciding those soldiers’ fates were selfish and egotistic. How then can one even think that those ego maniacs who have made us fight and lose three wars with India can change our national destiny for the better? It is simply outrageous to even think about inviting the army to take charge.

And here is where I differ from Musharraf and his ilk. While he calls for giving the army a constitutional cover to let it act as an accountability court for the civilian government, I feel that is tantamount to declaring the army the King of Pakistan. Sadly for those rooting for this cause, monarchy is still illegal in Pakistan. Democracy on the other hand is very much legal, and despite the unbelievable ineptness, incompetency, corruption and moral indecency that defines today's government, it still has a legitimate election win to its credit. Not only that, but I'm also opposed to the idea of a midterm election because that would mean derailing the democratic process completely, plunging us once again into the same pattern of self destruction that was prevalent in the 90s.

So really, there is no doubt in my mind that the worst democracy is better than the best dictatorship. Theoretically speaking, we're free when we're democratic. Of course that's not true for Pakistan because the army is still in charge of this country's affairs but that doesn't stop me from hoping. The thing is, when you're in a real democracy, the whole power construction is based on the masses and consequently, the collective country's stance is reflected in its policies. Since we're basically run by the army with Zardari and Gilani as face saving gimmicks, it isn't true for us; and quite frankly, that just pisses me off.

Someone once said that every country when faced with disaster has something to fall back on. The Japanese have their culture and the Indians have their huge population; the Americans have their world influence and the Europeans have their technologies; for Pakistanis, it is their army. The fall back option, and quite literally, the one that has altered our destinies.