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Wednesday, 22 August, 2001, 08:48 GMT 09:48 UK
Will there ever be democracy in Pakistan?
Pakistan's military ruler, General Pervez Musharraf, says provincial and federal elections will be held starting on 1 October 2002.
General Musharraf made himself president in June after seizing power in a 1999 coup.
Pakistanis have lived under military rule for nearly half of their country's existence as a nation.
Periods of civilian rule have been marked by corruption and instability, leading to popular disenchantment with democracy?
Will Musharraf keep his word? Can democracy ever take hold?
This debate is now closed. Read a selection of your comments below.
I don't see the point of democracy in a country where the majority is illiterate. How are these people going to decide what's good and what's bad for the country, when all they know about the world is what they see around them?
The question posed eludes me, it really needs to ask "should" there be democracy in Pakistan and the answer without doubt is NO - the reason being that Pakistan as a democratic country has failed miserably since its emergence in 1947. The military ruler at the moment seems to have things under control for once, so let General Musharraf continue.
Ms M. Rehman, UK
There will be democracy in Pakistan if and when they are ready for it. That means when the will of the people is strong enough to overcome the resistance of those whom the current system favours. I personally do not believe that democracy is a panacea - it is merely a more complex process of deciding who will rule in their own interests. But the people of Pakistan must be allowed their shot at it, if that is what they want. And as the Muslim faith is about where the Christian faith was in the middle ages, I would guess that it is indeed time for the Muslim world's equivalent of the renaissance to take place - which includes uprisings, inquisitions, slavery, imperialism, subjugation and, eventually, democracy.
General Musharraf has really taken on corruption this time, and I believe that he is going to solve many problems faced by Pakistan, including the economic crisis, a ruler becomes a ruler with the consent of the people in Pakistan, General Musharraf is there because the people want him to be there, and he is going to stay until the people of pakistan want him to stay
Usman Mir, Pakistan
At first it seemed that the devolution plan would usher in a new era, bringing in new faces and fresh ideas. It did bring new faces, but who are these new faces? The scions of the same old corrupt politicians. These politicians have found this devolution plan a nursery to groom their scions for future looting and plunder.
We all know that democracy can't work for Pakistan. In a country where corruption is abundant and with more than half the population not paying their taxes, military rule is a BLESSING! Musharraf is by far the most sincere ruler since the great Quaid-e-Azam. Musharraf is the best thing that could have happened to Pakistan. I say Musharraf should hold elections for Prime Minister and should stay President so as to provide a check for the democratically elected (and most probably corrupt).
Removal of civilian governments by military in Asian and African countries is not an unknown phenomenon. There are several factors that are responsible for it but the most important is misuse of political power by incompetent and selfish leaders. This is the reason that when civilian governments are thrown out people heave a sigh of relief. The history of Pakistan proves that military governments have been more efficient and have done more for the masses than corrupt regimes of Bhutto and his daughter whop had lost their head on getting popular vote. Democracy will come to Pakistan only if selfish and corrupt politicians are stopped from getting power.
Maulvi Tameezuddin, USA
What Pakistan needs is a system of checks and balances, with its associated institutions. Democracy itself may not be part of this equation. Democracy is often unpalatable with unique countries like Pakistan. The real question to ask is when will Pakistan get an effective system of checks and balances?
Sharad Bhuskute, Seattle, USA
Most of the Western allies in the Middle East have non-democratic leaders. This is Western double standards. When it comes to oil rich countries' type of government democracy is not an issue. In a country where politicians are corrupt by default, military rule, with all its shortcomings, is a far better option then so called blood sucking 'elected' politicians.
Self-determination is a fundamental human right. Thanks to our powerful neighbour, Canadians don't have to worry about military dictators who oppress their own people. Maybe it's time for Europe to make more of an effort to champion the democracy they enjoy thanks to US efforts in two world wars. We can't expect the Americans to do all the work.
Very unlikely. People in Pakistan seem to have accepted the fact that democracy is not necessary for stability and prosperity.
Ali K, USA/ Pakistan
WE have to accept the fact that Pakistan is a brand new country and we CANNOT compare her with well-established western countries. She will go through the due process and eventually grow economically and socially. We all have to be patient and watch, but the fact remains that Pakistan has done more in the last 50 years than most countries in that region, including India.
It is shame that not a single Muslim country has true democracy. I doubt the military will not allow true civilian rule, rather they install puppet set-ups.
Pakistan's Roadmap to Democracy is like saying the sun will rise in the west from October 2002! Military has been the only ruler of Pakistan since 1947. All the so-called elected governments have been sitting puppets in the hands of the generals who have usurped power at will. Musharraf needs IMF money and the West needs him to have elections. He has given himself till October 2002 which is when he is likely to create some trouble as an excuse to push the date back!
Everybody says Pakistan is a recipe for success. Everybody says we have the ingredients, a cheap labour force, a decent kitchen (of what remains of the government) - I think all we need now is a good cook!
Democracy does not go hand in hand with Islamic teaching. Pakistan is supposed to be a Islamic country, then why not the implementation of Islamic Sharia rules? The democracy may be implemented in western countries and those who are following the west blindly.
The negative effect of democracy is very clear to all who have the vision and the eyes to see and the mind to understand.
Vinod Dawda, UK
The fundamental rights of individual within a society is the key question and not the political process or the system of government. The individual rights do not mean only the right to shout but to be heard and listened to. Throughout human history many isms have been created but all more or less have failed to provide basic rights even to the innocent children. If we could have waited centuries for this to happen we could wait a few years to see what the man in Pakistan could do.
It amazes me that Indians can give sermons to Pakistanis about democracy. Please look at your own nation that breeds religious intolerance, and is rife with corruption both moral and financial. Pakistan will pave its own way and adopt democracy when it is ready, and by this I do not mean the regimes of the past. For the meantime good luck to the General who should stay in office for the foreseeable future. After all he still has many issues to contend with before a democratic government can be reinstated, for example the education of the masses!
What I have come to realise is that "democracy" is a generic term and should be used as such. The American or British democratic systems are not the best models for third world country, where politics has a wholly different meaning.
It depends on the definition of "democracy". If it is the EU/US version - ultimate control in the hands of big business - I would imagine that the Pakistani people would be as well sticking with General Musharraf if this means improving their standards of living.
I ask myself this question all the time? Why is it that of all countries India is foremost in lamenting the demise of democracy in Pakistan. Could this be because India and Pakistan's political clique are aligned in their goal to undermine the country. India would be pretty pleased to see the "return of democracy" in Pakistan. As far as India goes either Benazir or Nawaz would do. Benazir and Nawaz gave Pakistan the "lost decade" of the '90's. They are quite capable of giving an encore performance.
As military dictatorships go, the record of Pakistan is exemplary. General Musharraf appears to be a man of integrity with very clear ideas about what is needed for his country. So far, the only complaint Western countries have been able to make against him is that he was not "democratically elected". This is the case for the majority of developing countries, yet one party states like Kenya only get the occasional grumble from the West. One should also remember, for example, that until quite recently Robert Mugabe was widely regarded as a very acceptable political leader by the West.
Provided a government is trying to improve its country without excessive corruption, incompetence, and/or brutality, it should be deemed successful and acceptable. One could hardly claim more for most Western allegedly "democratic" governments. It is time the West understood that Islamic peoples see many things, including government, in different ways. It is just possible that the Western, multi-party democracy, model of government is not the best for all societies.
The government of Pakistan is no less or no more corrupt than any other government in the world. The recent antics of British politicians in the run up to the election and post election just proves how much of a problem corruption is in world politics.
Imran Ali, USA
Pakistan's return to democracy has nothing to do with the Kashmir issue or India for that matter. This is a domestic issue for Pakistanis. Unfortunately we don't have any good memories from our democratic past. But we should still strive for that elusive democracy. Musharraf's democratic plan for Pakistan will succeed if the army stays in the background and keeps a check on the dirty politicians. Realistically we can't have a democratic set-up like USA or Australia.
Democracy requires individual freedom, and opportunities. Pakistan with its huge illiteracy, feudal system, blasphemy laws, and active involvement in the "Kashmiri struggle" simply cannot sustain democracy.
Mohammad Ali Shaikh, Libya
Pakistan is caught in a vicious cycle. A democratic government is always overthrown by the military when it gets too powerful. Unless the people themselves decide to clip the wings of the armed forces, democracy in Pakistan will be like rain in the Sahara - a mere dream.
Democracy in Pakistan is a joke. In fact during civilian rule there is more dictatorship than during the military rule. Pakistan is better but not perfect under the Army. So we should all pray that military rule is accepted in Pakistan by the outside world.
Pakistan is no less democratic than the USA. It's often the case that people have more voice in what happens than in the USA.
A. Rastogi, Pakistan
When you talk about Pakistan always remember that this country has survived for 54 years even with all the turmoil. It is unfortunate that the politicians have never delivered and the military has had to step in a number of times. But so far, Musharaf has been sincere in his efforts to revamp the economy. His devolution plan will work in the long run paving the way for real grass roots democracy.
It is unquestionable that democracy needs to be restored in Pakistan and this will happen. However, democracy must mean democracy and not a route to corruption and greed, as was the case in previous administrations. True democracy will only prevail when the government addresses the needs of its people, irrespective of whether that government is democratically elected or a military regime.
The fervent supporters of democracy can rest a little easier now that there is a timeline for the restoration of the crooks aka the politicians, into positions of power. These crooks can start plundering the nation afresh.
Give the man a chance. All I hear from everybody is negative comments, especially from non-Muslim Indians
With so much illiteracy,
Pakistan is better served by the military.
It seems to be doing a better
job than any politicians.
Akif Nizam, USA
Military dictators are good at demanding self-determination for others - such as Kashmir; would Gen Musharaf allow the same freedom to his own people? Hardly likely.
Whether Musharraf keeps his word or not remains to be seen. Pakistan, as currently constituted, is a military dictatorship. India, the USA and Russia have noted this, and Pakistan is left pretty isolated, with China as its main benefactor, and the Taliban regime in Afghanistan providing Pakistan with bilateral moral support. With such allies, it is not surprising that Pakistan is having problems with the concept of democracy.
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Pakistan's return to democracy set out
14 Aug 01 | South Asia
Musharraf's 'roadmap to democracy'
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Profile: General Pervez Musharraf
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