Dilemma in Procuring Democracy

PakistanThe common statement circulated is this – ‘Musharraf has done it again, within and outside Pakistan.’ International criticism has turned its eye towards the nation and it’s dictator of 8 years, Pervez Musharraf. Interestingly enough, with all the internal and international pressure on him, he has been forced to call off the restraining orders on the Chief Justice. However, he is yet to lift the state of emergency which is showing no signs of being lifted! Musharraf’s defense has all the skeptics raising their eyebrows and the hopeful idealists shaking their heads. How can emergency laws be a facilitator for the formation of democracy within a country?In his statement to the press regarding the ‘emergency decree’, he defends this action as a necessity by taking into consideration the ‘ground situation’ which has come about through Pakistan’s involvement in the war on terrorism. Yet, even as it becomes clear that he has explained it as a measure to maintain law and order, it also becomes inexplicably clear that holding a ‘free and fair’ election under these circumstances is a dubious affair. Nevertheless, the question that should have been asked by many from the very beginning is that why a dictator should be worried in securing democracy within his country. Surely, he could continue a dictatorship (we have more than just one example within the South Asian region itself) even with all the opposition in his country. After all, he is a military man (the basis of the supreme court to contest the winning of elections being the very same, that he shouldn’t be standing for elections in his uniform in the first place). So does this mean that the man with the stick is maybe, after all, on another agenda?The major debates discuss how far Musharraf has become the puppet for the

United States. When he took the restraining orders off the Chief Justice, after an important request made from President Bush himself, it just seemed to reinforce the fears of the idealists and convince the extremists and Islamic fundamentalists that he would to continue to pay such lip service to the Western Powers. However, we must also take into consideration the fact that extreme forces are building up within

Pakistan. The formation of

Pakistan is both diverse and complex. For over two decades, Pakistan has had an influx of refugees from Afghanistan, Uzbekistan and

Chechnya at various, if not simultaneous, time periods. The unique Tribal form of governance in the Border States that separate Pakistan and Afghanistan has made it even more important for the government to separately identify the tribes and their armed forces that are loyal to the Government of Pakistan from the mercenaries which infiltrate these borders from

Afghanistan. The very mercenaries trained and sent in by The United States to combat

Russia are the ones who then coalesced with the Taliban and Al-Qaida. Ironic isn’t it?The fundamental extremists are susceptible to be won over by these elements as they are in favor of a rule established on the Holy Koran (under their interpretations), which they feel is threatened by the democracy that Musharraf seems to promise. Already, anti-social elements have spread into the Northern and Southern frontiers. Hence, it becomes vital that the government deals with this; this can be done if there are any real intentions of bringing back democracy. In the history of

Pakistan, the Army and the mullahs have always gone hand in hand, one sustaining the other. But now, there seems to have arisen a deep rift between the two powers. What is it that is preventing Musharraf from actually coming to a deal with the religious parties, instead of antagonizing them? Surely, he could still try to maintain a balance between them and the Western Powers. Their suspicions would be curbed had some sort of power balance been settled. Musharraf still wants to be identified unconnectedly from them. Still, he is under constant flak from the liberals at the same time, for being either a collaborating force with the Mullahs or for siding with the

United States. Musharraf has made this picture even more complex by bringing Bhutto back. It is obvious that he is trying to maintain his status quo throughout all these political intrigues, but the question remains of his dedication in bringing democracy to

Pakistan and the distance he is willing to travel to ensure that it happens under his leadership.Musharraf claims that he is indeed facilitating a democratic awareness and changes from the grass-roots. According to him, it is in ‘

Pakistan’s interests’ to eliminate extremism at the source and for all these aims to be realized, he asks to be given time (reference to the address to the nation after declaring emergency). His request remains to the critiques and idealists “not to expect or demand your level of democracy which you learned over centuries”. It is true that for real democracy to evolve in any new nation, it takes time. And it has to be contextualized. Musharraf has been in a power position for eight years already and he is still trying to balance the various powers within his country and battle poverty, a key obstacle to the people of a country to function democratically. Even if his intentions were genuine, he is still surrounded by corrupt politician who are, in the end, the central manipulators. So how does he hope to overcome these various challenges? There are questions which only time can answer.No matter how much international scrutiny there is, it is up to the people of

Pakistan to decide what they want. Democracy is, in simple terms, the will of the majority. It is unto them to decide if they want a democracy or dictatorship and whether such a unanimous voice will be heard in a population where more than 70% live in rural areas under severe strains of poverty. There is as well another more serious question- what if Musharraf never was able to land his plane on that fateful night in September 1999 when then Prime Minister Navaz Sharif tried to establish an Islamic take over? What if there was no military coup? What kind of a

Pakistan would we have on our maps now? And if indeed, now, Musharraf is ruled against contesting in his uniform, what viable options does

Pakistan really have? Aaranya Rajasingam