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Monday, 20 December, 2004, 10:53 GMT
Pakistan: Democratic solution?
A party allied to Pakistan's military leader has won the most seats in the country's first general elections since the overthrow of the last democratically-elected government three years ago.
The Pakistan Muslim League Quaid-e-Azam won 77 of the 272 contested constituency seats, according to the official count.
The Pakistan People's Party, aligned with former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto - who was banned from participating - came in second with 63 seats.
But a coalition of religious parties which has criticised President Pervez Musharraf for backing the American military campaign in Afghanistan has done much better than expected, coming a strong third.
Observers say the religious parties could hold the balance of power, as no one party will have a majority in the new assembly.
Earlier this year President Musharraf announced constitutional amendments which would allow him to dissolve the newly elected parliament at will.
In spite of the protestations of opposition politicians, military rule has often been seen by many ordinary Pakistanis as being preferable to corrupt and incompetent civilian governments.
So is democracy necessarily the best path for Pakistan at this time? Will the elections result in genuine democracy for the country?
This debate is now closed. Read a selection of your comments below.
I am astonished when people say that demoocracy is not for Pakistan. Whatever the shortcomings of a democratic system, especially in a poor country with low literacy rate, the main benfit of a democratic system is that the rulers can be changed peacefully without resorting to violence, revolutions or military coups. Secondly, the masses may not be able to analyse and discuss the relevant issues but they know whom they want to be in power.
Pakistan needs elections and real reforms. Leaders like Musharraf should go and good leaders should be in power. Leaders should not use "Kashmir" as vote bank to steal the votes. Many people are starving - but the Pakistani leader doesn't care he needs his seat and doesn't have any regard for democracy and doesn't even think of yielding a chance to his people. But he calls the Kashmir elections a flaw, which are well organized and appreciated by the world community.
Hasan Mir, Mississauga, Canada
I would say that the results of the elections are not acceptable. There was a long delay in the declaration of the results, which could be looked upon as rigging. Secondly, I think that the emergence of the Islamic extremists in Pakistan is a threat to the world. They are anti-US thus against the freedom of the world. In order to secure the future of Pakistan the government of Pakistan should plan for the re-elections.
Just because a country has an election doesn't make it a democracy. Rule by corrupt people who cannot be checked is anarchy. Rule by an extreme religious sect is theocracy. Neither are democracy and an enlightened military dictatorship is preferable to either.
Why does Pakistan need a democracy?
What is so brilliant about democracy?
What Pakistan needs is a government that represents the people be he a dictator or a prime minister.
Under Musharaff Pakistan has done better than under any previous "democratic" regime.
Although he is a puppet of the US but you can't have it all your way in a world run by the US.
I have listened to the arguments, mostly by Americans, calling Pakistan a fundamental backward country. At least we Pakistanis are not planning every day how to kill many people in the name of a war on terrorism and saving the American democratic peoples. Is this the outcome of democracy that kills innocent people without proof for its global occupation plans and keeps its eyes closed to the fundamentalism going on in India and the actions of the Israelis? If this is the case then we don't need democracy. Shame on you America.
In two provinces the
religious parties are
dominant. Is the West
going to ask General
Musharraf to declare
the elections null
and void? Do we see
the making of crisis
as in Algeria or do
we have the moral courage to accept.
How can such a deliberately skewed-up arrangement be considered a solution to the military dictatorship in Pakistan when even before the so-called elections the military junta had decreed that General Musharraf can dismiss the prime minister and parliament when he so desires? Didn't the late General Abacha try such "democratic solution" for Nigeria and the West rebuffed him?
Methinks that whenever Western interest is well protected, then a dictator becomes a democrat even in military fatigues. But history always has a way of catching up with these born-again "democrats". The "impressive performance" of the radical Islamic parties is a warning of the obvious political bumpy road ahead of Pakistan.
At least there were elections in both Pakistan and Kashmir. It does not matter if the elections were fair or fixed, at least voices of some of the people were heard.
The number of seats gained by the Muslim fundamentalist parties indicates why a firm ruler like Musharraf is needed until these extremists are tamed. Look at what Hindu fundamentalists got away with under the democratic government of Modi in Gujarat.
Pakistan's problem is its genesis. A country based on religious chauvinism cannot really have true democracy. Pakistan's contradiction will never end, unless it becomes a truly equal for all its citizens.
It doesn't need to rejoin India, just turn itself from an Islamic republic to a republic where there is no officially sanctioned discrimination on the basis of religion.
Democracy is the key of establishment in any country but this should be a real democracy. The Election 2002 held in Pakistan is not the way to democracy. Pervez Musharraf wants to remain in power. I would like to state clearly and confidently that all the decisions made for Pakistan's future are purely done by the USA and now the elections results shows the same. We Pakistanis reject the election and are not happy with this step of Musharraf. We pray for Pakistan to stay alive and peaceful and independent from external forces.
Bilal Rana, London, UK
Unfortunately the events of "9/11" have so distorted the international situation (with significant global uncertainty and instability), that the elections in Pakistan are of limited, if any consequence or significance. All the participants (above and below) continue this debate oblivious to this reality!
Pakistan needs real democracy but unfortunately again a military ruler is in power. The election was not fair and can't help in the development for real democracy. Musharraf got the results he wanted. Now he can rule easily with the method of divide and rule - America will also back him. There is no need for the national security council because the people's representatives should be independent in taking all decisions - this is real democracy.
Party position in the national assembly and in the provinces shows that only one thing can help the elected assembly to complete its term - cooperation among all parties. If party leaders still think that it is their basic right to sit in power then nothing can be achieved. At this moment a controlled democracy is the right solution because lot of old corrupt people are still in the new parliament.
Deep down, Musharaff knows he must secularize and democratize, but it's a tall order. He has done as good a job as could be expected under very difficult circumstances. The country must secularize their government or else their nation is doomed to be on the fringe in the world community. History has proven secular governments to be the most successful.
Imran, Houston, USA
The political vacuum that was created in the last three years is presenting us today with an emergence of native fundamental values that in other times were kept at bay and creatively absorbed by the national mainstream political parties. It seems that a presidential form of government is the only choice left in order to save the state. Let the games begin.
General Musharraf tried to reintroduce democracy to placate the West but Pakistan may have to pay a very heavy price for this folly. The hung-parliament will give another opportunity for discredited politicians to indulge in their favourite pastime of political intrigue and infighting. Also, this unnecessary election has given an unwelcome boost to the religious fundamentalists. The politicians and fundamentalists are going to usher in a new period of instability and chaos in the country.
I hope that the Western countries are happy now that Pakistan has gone to the polls and given the religious parties a majority in Government. It is them that forced and pressured General Musharraf to hold elections in the country. If only they had backed him and his current government to sort out Pakistan's internal problems and get rid of religious extremists without holding elections.
K. Zubair, Canada
Democracy in Pakistan cannot work unless the basic institutions are improved, particularly the education area. The main reason why democracy could not establish its roots in Pakistan was the presence of a strong feudal system which is quite intact even now. Until or unless, this feudal system is totally eliminated, I don't think real democracy can exist in Pakistan.
These results are proof that the extremist element is still there in Pakistan army. This is known by whole world except Musharraf.
Hasan Tarique, Toronto, Canada
This is democracy by the army, of the army for the army. A hung parliament and divided verdict suits no one but the army.
Democracy? What is democracy? The only thing Pakistan needs is an educated, honest, and sincere leader. Personally I do not care whether that person is elected or he is a general.
Bilal Abbasi, New York, NY
There is no need for elections in Pakistan. The present government is excellent but conducting elections due to international pressure.
Democracy? What democracy? With the president saying himself that he WILL stay for three years, what democracy is there - even with these sham elections? With only 27 people being able to vote today in the station I went to, I am sure the winners will emerge to be the pets of Musharraf and America.
Moazzam Saleem, Islamabad, Pakistan
Of course democracy is the best way of rule for Pakistan. It is wrong that without the participation of the military in rule there cannot be a good governance. Actually, the real cause of democracy's failure is the military. It likes to give an impression that politicians are corrupt, but the question is: Who will keep in the generals in control?
Kamil Mian, Karachi, Pakistan
It is very apparent from all the postings
here that many (if not most) Pakistanis
have some serious doubts in their mind
about the benefits, underlying philosophy and mode
of implementation of democracy. So, it will be decades
before we see any recognisable form of democracy taking
root in Pakistan. You don't get equality, justice and the freedom to choose unless your heart cries for it.
President Musharraf's recipe of democracy evidently has much support. (Amazingly mostly from Pakistani expats in the Western world). Their arguments rest on the realities of the widespread illiteracy of the populace and the corruption of past "democratically" elected leaders.
While people may be illiterate, they are certainly not ignorant. It is a fallacy that they are incapable of recognizing the imperatives that will accelerate their own wellbeing. Corruption cannot be solved by introducing the military into the equations of power play. A free media, true democratic and judicial institutions address the issue of corruption.
It maybe true that President Musharraf has the toughest job in the world. Yet it is a fact that it is a job he has sought for himself and he has changed every rule in the book to suit himself. History will judge him harshly if he fails to deliver to his people the true fruits of democracy.
I do believe that democracy is an ultimate solution for any prosperous society. However, democracy does not work at a time when majority of people are illiterate and they are exploited in the name of religion and race. As a Pakistani, I have witnessed this exploitation throughout my life. I personally do think that Pakistan does need a moderate dictator like Musharraf to crack down Islamic fanaticism. However, I am also worried about the abuse of extreme powers he has achieved.
Takura Zhangazha, Harare, Zimbabwe
Musharraf has done more for the country than Bhutto and Sharif ever did. His reforms will benefit Pakistan greatly in the future and therefore there will be hurdles to overcome in the short term. Should this require democracy to be "altered" then so be it. A western influenced democracy will not help Pakistan. It needs to be a democracy which will enable all groups to flourish.
What we are really scared of is change in our lives. What really matters is how to overcome our fear to recognise the power of our vote. In Pakistan people haven't realized their power of the vote, though the generals didn't miss the opportunity. Will these opportunistic generals last?
Hindowa Momoh, Sierra Leone
After Mohammad Ali Jinnah, Musharraf has been the best thing that has ever happened to Pakistan. He is trying his best to weed out Islamic fanaticism that had gripped the country into ethnic violence. Let's not forget before Musharraf took over, Pakistan was thought of as a terrorist state by many. He has silenced all those who were pointing fingers towards Pakistan. He is the best reformist the country will see for a long time to come.
Pakistan will never become a democratic country as long as Musharraf is in power because he has to save his skin. And as for his much touted anti-corruption campaign against the past regime, giving away important positions and assignments to key military leaders irrespective of whether they are qualified is also corruption.
Navid, Faisaabad, Pakistan
Western style democracy is inapplicable to the Pakistan of today. Democracy implies informed choice. In a country with a literacy rate of 20% and a feudal system of agriculture there is neither choice nor information. A graded transition to democracy is more realistic and sustainable... exactly what Musharraf is doing.
Maroof Shah, Saudi Arabia
We have seen democracy. We have seen dictatorship. Unfortunately leaders like Benezir and Nawaz have muddied the water. While the involvement of the army in civilian politics can never be a good thing, it hasn't been any worse. Indeed, if anything it's been slightly better. So maybe we need a different kind of governance, which guarantees greater transparency and accountability for all, be it civilian or the military.
I think Musharraf has done well so far. He has to keep his masters in the US and the madrassahs happy. He really has a tough job.
Most of us are quick on the trigger to condemn the military government and the current military ruler. Being a Pakistani, I know that quite a few of us favour the current government and the reforms it is putting in place. The question we really need to ask is of the previous so- called democratic governments. What good have they done for the welfare of majority of the people?
Arif Malik, USA
Democracy is an empty noun. It refers only to a regime by which people are fooled into believing their opinion matters.
It is weird but fascinating to see so many Pakistanis living in the USA claiming that democracy is no good for Pakistan. I am sure most of them made it to the USA not only because of their hard work but more importantly because there is freedom here to transform that hard work into something tangible. Would these same people go back to Pakistan and vote for a dictator?
Democracy is always a good path for any country to follow. It builds self-esteem in the nation, it preserves minority rights and provides a channel for them to express themselves. If not, we will end up with what Pakistan is currently: a place for religious fundamentalists.
Maz Qureshi, Lahore, Pakistan
President General Pervez Musharraf, in my opinion, is doing his best for Pakistan under the circumstances. I totally agree when he says that he has the most difficult job in the world. He is the best leader that we have had in the past two decades, and we all hope and pray that Pakistan will recover in the long run!
Democracy was never given a proper chance in Pakistan. It is sad that army was never behind the elected leaders and the other way too. There cannot and should not be a replacement to democracy. The government is for the people, of the people and most importantly by the people.
Mere elections cannot restore democracy in Pakistan. For democracy to flourish, one needs strong democratic institutions like an impartial and vibrant judicial system; an electoral process that is not only transparent but is also autonomous; a multi party political system; devolution of powers at the central and state level even to the grassroots level.
Does Pakistan have such institutions in place? Unfortunately the answer is an emphatic no. Will it have such institutions in place in future? Only Mr. Musharraf can answer the question.
Mark Schofield, France
Military dictatorship is preferable to the kind of Democratic dictatorship that we have seen from civilian governments so far. We have less human rights violations and more freedom of the press now than we did during so-called democracy.
Democracy in its ideal form has never worked in Pakistan where the ruling elites have always hankered after the absolute power which in return made them absolutely corrupt. I think whichever government comes into power, it must work under a system of check and balance. For that, the National Security Council appears to be the only viable platform.
Democracy is indeed needed but not the kind we had. What we need is what works, the previous so-called democratic governments certainly did not work. We need to avoid them at any cost even if it means a semi-democratic system. I think National Security Council is a good solution.
Pakistan was liberated from British rule due to the election of 1945 and the main purpose of it was to implement Islamic rule in Pakistan. We forgot our basic aim and we started electing corrupt leaders and involving armed forces in running the Government.
Democracy is inconsistent with the concept of an Islamic republic which Pakistan calls itself. The country needs a system of governance based on Islamic laws like the Caliphate. Let's hope that Musharraf succeeds in building one.
Atif Rafique, USA
As most of the Pakistani politicians are very short-sighted and have very little concern about the country, I think General Musharraf should stay as President of Pakistan and be a watchdog on politicians until his proposed reforms are completely installed and a strong system of check and balances is developed. If this hurts democracy than let it be because the past so-called democratic governments were worse than the current military rule. I strongly believe that his reforms will bring true democracy to Pakistan gradually.
What is the point of having elections? Can't you people understand that the previous leaders were actually "democratically elected." Look what they have done. I think Musharraf should stay in just as president, and there shouldn't be a prime minister
There has never been democracy in Pakistan. Even during "democracy" there had always been a dictatorship under the veil.
V. Gill, UK
I would like to see democracy by actions not by words. I mean freedom to say and freedom to listen.
Democracy is a good thing but what good it is to anyone if you have to choose between equally corrupt and illiterate politicians? Pakistan cannot afford to give another chance to these individuals.
This is Pakistan. Democracy or military dictatorship - all the leaders are corrupt. It is like a choice between the devil and the deep sea. In most nations, people choose leaders with the question "Who will be the best for us?" In Pakistan the question the people ask is, "Who is the least likely to mess up the nation?"
Nausherwan Lahori, Lahore, Pakistan
I think democracy is the very much needed for our country and it is also the demand of the world. It gives us more stability in social reforms. And it will be very much needed for bilateral relations with our neighbours.
Pakistan needs a system like that of India. Ceremonial president, elected parliament and ministers, independent judiciary and no intervention from the military. But then India's corrupt democracy isn't any better.
At the present time democracy may allow the Pakistani people to elect an extremist government that may chose not to support the US. On the other hand if Musharraf continues his dictatorship the US will continue to send money to Pakistan.
Boks, Hong Kong
Having a military presence on the street has by all means brought some 'calm' and 'security' to Pakistan, but like his peers and predecessors before him, Musharraf still has to prove to the people that his intentions and route to economic and Habitual reform, will be definite. Like many other people, I too am sceptical regarding his softly softly approach, where his nature and persona is the opposite - a military one, it may seem that the economic reform is a somewhat mirror of doctrines established elsewhere, places possibly where his new found friends are - America, UK?
Democracy is made a mockery of by the politicians in Pakistan. They have been making a mockery of every civilian institution for the past decade. A military check on these civilian dictators and autocrats is definitely welcome.
What is the use of a half-baked democracy in which the parliament can be dissolved at any time by military rulers? The democratically elected government will be under constant threat from military rulers and will not be able to perform satisfactorily. Democracy in Pakistan will not succeed unless military rulers are kept aside by the international community.
Yes! Democracy is the need of the
hour. The National Security Council if it performs
well, could provide a good measure of checks and balances
on the newly elected government.
12 Oct 02 | South Asia
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