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Sunday May 19, 2024, Zul-qaadah 11, 1445 Hijri

Real Democracy - How to achieve it?

29 August, 2010

By Col. Riaz Jafri (Retd)

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The bomb shell dropped by Altaf Bhai inviting patriotic generals to weed out the feudal and corrupt politicians has let out a furore and ignited a raging debate both in the print as well as electronic media. The general conduct of the politicians in and out of the power being discussed on the TV talk shows is anything but enviable and the people are openly talking of the army to step in, nip the evil and depart after a quick surgical operation.  It is easier said than done.  Little do some of them realise that once the army is in it takes it long to leave.  How-so-ever good a military rule might appear it is always bad for the country in the long run.

However, this also goes without saying that according to the general perception prevailing in the country, continuation of the present style democracy in Pakistan is also not good for the people. It badly needs to be improved and improved considerably. To expect a change for the better from within by the ruling parliamentarians themselves is asking for the moon. How can they be expected to axe their own feet? What to do then to bring about the required change of weeding out of the feudal, corrupt, professional and hereditary politicians? How to get rid of them and not let them or their scions return to the assemblies and power to replay the same repeat performance time and again. One answer is to throw them away forcibly by the army through Martial Law, or by the masses through a revolution. Both are fraught with danger and as such not desirable. The other answer is not to elect such breed of politic ians. This seems more plausible but for it those who elect them would have to be educated on this count. 

Can they be educated or prevailed upon not to do so?  Not to my mind, because they mostly constitute the `captive` electorates - illiterate serfs and tillers at the mercy of the feudals, blind followers in faith (mureeds) of the peers and Makhdooms, given to baradari and tribal compulsions and even some brainwashed extremists or Jialas.  Unfortunately, they form a big majority too, to the extent of easily offsetting the opinion of any other segment of the society. They will keep electing the same people again and again, baap nahi tau beta, chacha nahi tau mama, beti nahi tau bahu, etal, not necessarily out of loyalty but because of the compulsions mentioned above and to which the monetary consideration may also be added for the poor. How votes are purchased is an open secret now!  With the result that though at best there could be some c hange of the faces but essentially the system stays the same! .  

In order to elect honest and capable politicians to govern and deal with the day to day matters of statecraft, the very first thing for the electorate is that it must itself be wise enough to elect the proper persons. The voter has got to be sufficiently knowledgeable to make a judicious use of his/her vote. One man one vote cannot hold much water in this scenario.  Even, otherwise too, universal adult franchise is not a very Islamic in essence which advocates Shura – a collection of few wisemen.  Qura’n clearly asks in Sura  Az Zumar (39:9), “Are those who know equal to those who do not know?”  That means that the knowledgeable and the ignorant are not equal. If they are not equal (essentially in their intellect and knowledge) how can they be tasked to perform equally well in a serious matter of advice, that is; giving their opinion in electi ng people to govern? The judgments of the knowledgeable and the ignorant in this matter are bound to differ.

Now, how to form a moderately knowledgeable electorate from a mass of ‘ignorants’ to elect good people for themselves to rule and govern? One way of overcoming this situation and balancing out the adult suffrage could be to impose constitutionally certain qualification limits upon the eligibility of the persons casting the vote.  We had (alas! I have to use the word ‘HAD’) graduation as a precondition for the legislators. Similarly the voter could be subjected to qualify one of the following conditions to cast the vote. Such a qualified person is bound to be a responsible voter, know the worth of his/her vote, possess some Shaoor and knowledge as to who would be the better person to safeguard his/her interests when returned to power, etc. The subject qualifications could be any one of the following:

  1. Be of 21 years and above. (Teenagers are known to be more  emotional than pragmatic)
  2. A Matriculate
  3. A National Tax Payer
  4. Self employed (businessman) earning at least Rs. 500,000 a year.
  5. Holding 12 acres of lands.
  6. A Public Servant including retired.
  7. A Private Company Servant with a salary of at least Rs. 15,000/-        per month

(Political pundits can think of more similar pre-conditions)

Now again the question arises ,”would our parliamentarians bring about such a constitutional change or amendment willingly?” I have my serious doubts about their doing so. Therefore, again the options are that either the Judiciary does it on its own, or, the masses force the legislators to do so. How the judiciary or the masses will do it, I leave to the good imagination of the readers?

Once we have the knowledgeable electorate, only then we shall have honest, capable, dedicated, dutiful and real leaders with vision, who will keep the nation and the national interests before their selves. Only then can we hope to prosper and enjoy the fruits of true democracy.


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