Daily Times: Support for Democracy

Daily Times editorial “Support for Democracy” makes an excellent point that has been made on this blog before and in other newspapers more than once also. That point is that democracy requires nurturing and patience, and cutting it down to start over every two years will not solve our problems, but will only make them worse. Daily Times also gives praise to Mian Nawaz Sharif for his responsible approach to opposition that supports change through the democratic process only, which this blog has also said. Democracy requires civility. Too many people in the media are talking irresponsibly about “martial law”, “revolution”, and “caretaker government”. It is good to see some sensible voices breaking through the noise.

PML-N chief Nawaz Sharif has vowed to support democracy though he would not support the government blindly. The opposition’s role is to keep a check on the transgressions of the incumbents. Mian sahib therefore has taken a stance well within the constitutional ambit. For an opposition to criticise the government for bad management and incompetence is within the ambit of a democratic system. Meanwhile, Prime Minister Gilani has said that there is no harm in a democratic intervention to make things better but that a change through undemocratic means would be dangerous. Mr Gilani also offered to make way for any parliamentarian who wanted to lead the country.

Right now, the premier’s slot is a crown of thorns and not a bed of roses. No one in his right mind is willing to destabilise the system and take charge. The arithmetic of parliament is such that no political party has a clear majority and would need the support of other parties to form a government. The PPP settled for a coalition government because of these reasons, though even before the elections it had taken a reconciliatory approach. If any party wants to get rid of the PPP-led government and take charge instead, to get the support of such disparate allies would be a tough task. Keeping this reality in mind, Prime Minister Gilani has made an open offer to the parliamentarians. As for the rumours about mid-term elections, it would not be wrong to say that even if they do take place, the results would not be very different from that of the 2008 general elections. Thus, it does not make sense to waste time and money on such a useless exercise.

Mian Nawaz Sharif’s support for the democratic system is quite reassuring. An active and critical opposition is part of a democracy. If a government cannot take healthy criticism, then it has no right to be in power. Rumours of threats to the PPP-led government have been in the air for quite some time now but recent events suggest that these may just be some people’s pipe dreams. In Pakistan it is said that no change can occur outside the democratic process without the army and the US agreeing to such change. The army and the US at the present conjuncture appear to be on the same page as far as the democratically elected government is concerned. In his recent visit, US special envoy for Pakistan and Afghanistan Richard Holbrooke said that the government is not ‘drowning’ and that it is doing a good job under the circumstances. The army too is aware of the ground realities and has its hands full with fighting the terrorists on Pakistani soil and carrying out the flood relief efforts. No other government, including a dictator’s regime, took ownership of the war on terror like the PPP-led government has done. We can see that the normal concatenation of forces, i.e. the US and the army, are not inclined towards any change in the near future.

Our brush with military interventions in the past has resulted in major disasters. Despite a considerable opinion tilting towards a military or autocratic intervention, the majority still supports democracy. There is no doubt that even the worst democracy is better than the best military rule. As a society struggling to establish a democracy with deep roots, we have to be patient instead of getting the usual two-and-a-half-year itch that we witnessed in the 90s. We might have to muddle through for some period of time until we get a better government or leadership. All democratically elected governments must be held accountable and this government is no exception. Prime Minister Gilani should ensure that his government pulls up its socks before things get worse

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