By Mohammad Jamil
Political parties are once again at loggerheads reminiscent of 1990s, yet their leaders vow that political leadership across the board will unite to defend it. But when would they know that the biggest enemy to democracy in the country is none else but the political leadership itself; and if this system collapses none else will be responsible but this leadership across the spectrum. In the past, internecine conflicts between the political parties and launching of movements against the elected governments had provided opportunity to praetorians or to the president under 58-2(B). Political leaders had joined the military dictators’ bandwagons after every martial law; and courts had legitimized it because of anarchy in the country. That point besides; it is not real democracy but sham democracy. In fact it is plutocracy where majority of the people are living in gloom of stalking poverty, squalor, want and deprivation for seven decades.
Economic disparity, socio-economic injustice, rampant corruption, rising crime rate, energy crisis and ineffective criminal justice system especially in lower courts are the challenges facing the nation that must be met. If measures are not taken to improve the lives of the teeming millions, the rulers could meet wrath of the people. The general thinking among politicians is that nobody should question them during their 5-year tenure in the government, taking the plea that people will reject the party if it fails to deliver. But holding elections after five years does not mean that people cannot ask the government to fulfill the promises made in the manifestos during elections. It should be borne in mind that the concept of democracy and human rights dates back to the Age of Enlightenment and French Revolution, which was revolution of capitalists against feudalists, and in its ‘time and space’ was indeed a step forward in the development of human society.
The Encyclopaedists led by Voltaire and Diderot had prepared the ground for Enlightenment, which inspired people to carry out French revolution. The slogans of liberty, equality and fraternity tolled the death-knell of Louis XVI. It also ushered in a new era in which masses became the determining force of history. However, capitalism emerged with Industrial Revolution and its super structure was democracy. Under this system, the people of the US and Europe had a new social contract with the rulers, whereby the former surrendered a part of their sovereignty by casting their vote to the rulers, and in return got guarantees for fundamental rights, equal opportunities and promise for socio-economic justice. In Britain and France feudalists had put up a bloody resistance to the change but they could not stand before the capitalists’ democracy. This concept had reached America with the settlers from Europe who were mostly traders or skilled workers.
In Pakistan, eminences and leading lights talk about democracy, justice, rule of law and constitutionalism, but such discussions were held in the past also. One dialogue had taken place in 4th century B.C. The venue was the house of Cephalus, a wealthy aristocrat, and in the group were the brothers of Plato and Thrasymachus – a gruff and excitable Sophist who was provoked to commit himself to a definition. He thus came out: “I proclaim that might is right; and justice is the interest of the stronger. Different forms of government – democratic, aristocratic or autocratic – make laws with a view to protecting their interests; and these laws so made by them serve their interests; they deliver to their subjects as justice, and punish as ‘unjust’ anyone who transgresses them”. In other words, all the institutions are meant to serve the plutocrats.
In Pakistan, amendments to the Constitution were made with great fanfare. At least, two clauses in the Eighteenth amendment made top leaders of political parties as virtual dictators. One was the deletion of sub-clause 4 of Article 17, which had stated: “Every political party shall, subject to law, hold intra-party elections to elect its office-bearers and party leaders”. This was an effort to hoodwink the people because there is a marked difference between the requirement in the political parties act and a provision in the constitution adopted by two-third majority of the Parliament. The second one was an amendment to Article 63-A with regard to disqualification of a member on the grounds of defection by the ‘Head of the party’ instead of head of the Parliamentary Party. The self-styled custodians of democracy are in fact authoritarian leaders, who dictate party policies, because parties are run as dynasties.