Give Democracy Time

There is a famous quote by Winston Churchill that says, “democracy is the worst form of government – except all the others that have been tried.” I think this is something that we need to consider as we evaluate the progress that we have made in democratization, and the work that remains. Obviously, passing the 18th Amendment will not cure all the nations problems overnight. But we must keep focused on the goal of building our democracy. It is necessary that we allow democracy enough time to take root and grow if we are to enjoy the rewards. We cannot give up now.

During the nuclear summit in Washington DC this week, American President Barack Obama assured Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev that “We’re still working on our democracy.” For the world’s premier example of democratic governance to admit that after almost 250 years, they are still working on democracy says a lot about how much work goes into building a successful government.

Unfortunately, it seems that too many people are expecting our own democracy, which is very young, to magically solve deep rooted problems caused by years of misrule under military dictators. This is simply unrealistic, and we must have the patience to nurture our democracy if it is going to be allowed to grow and ripen.

Mahawish Rezvi, a Pakistani journalism student at the prestigious Columbia University, makes this point very well in her column for Huffington Post yesterday.

Since the party has been elected for a 5-year term this government should be allowed to complete its tenure. After that the choice is in the hands of the voters. That is the point of democracy, the point of political due process. Pakistanis need to learn to be patient and let a government run its course and use elections to portray their disappointment or approval.

This is wise advice.

Despite the overwhelming support for the 18th Amendment by people across the nation, there are some who have begun loudly criticizing this effort to repeal the constitutional aberrations made by dictators. Some of these are simply anti-democracy people, like a recent commenter who posted that life was better under Zia than it is today. I can only assume that this commenter is too young to have ever known life under Zia, or to fully understand the terrible legacy that his misrule has left.

But others seem to be simply impatient and misguided. I understand very well that it is hard to have patience when there are so many issues that need to be addressed quickly. But I also understand that things take time to mature.

Democracy is like a tree. If we keep cutting it down to the roots, it will wither and die. But if we cut away only the diseased limbs (like the 17th Amendment) and nurture it with care (like the 18th Amendment), then it will grow healthy and strong.


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