Saturday, February 23, 2008

Pakistan: Leading the World (!) Toward Democracy

Leaders who break the laws of their countries need to be held responsible. Perhaps in a particular case they should be severely punished, in another case only verbally reprimanded. What is done to the individual leader is far less important than making explicit that the violation is illegitimate and should not be considered a precedent. Otherwise, today’s crime becomes tomorrow’s excuse. Whatever the details of the decision made by legal authorities in a given case, to ignore illegal behavior on the part of a leader undermines the legitimacy of the state and the security of the society. It is an open invitation to endless future trouble.

One country in which this principle of leadership responsibility is currently on center stage is Pakistan, where the people have just demonstrated a commitment to democracy and moderation that puts to shame the behavior of more than one Western society. In contrast to the bullying of the world by Western societies so easily panicked after 9/11, the Pakistani people stood up to extremists on both sides by voting against both military dictators and religious fanatics. This popular demonstration in favor of democracy follows closely on the heels of the impressive willingness of leading members of the Pakistani judiciary to put their careers and lives on the line in the face of blatant government undermining of the constitution and brutality against their persons. Moderate Pakistani politicians--whatever one may say about their compromises, hypocrisy, or corruption in the past—have also put their lives on the line: not just Benazir, but also Nawaz Sharif and the moderate nationalist leader of the Awani National Party, Asfandyar Wali Khan. Voters, members of the judiciary, and politicians have risked their lives to support the vision of a moderate, democratic Pakistan in which the rule of law is observed by all, even the leadership.

Despite constant interference from outsiders aggravating Pakistan’s situation, Pakistanis on the whole did not blame others and certainly did not launch a war against anyone else. Nor did they turn their backs on constitutional protections and surrender to dictatorship in order to make some minority a scapegoat. Nor did they renounce modernism, despite all its flaws, in an emotional flight to the fraudulent sanctuary of fundamentalism. Pakistanis chose the slow, hard road of supporting a moderate society ruled by laws in which all are free to express themselves and no one is free to force his views upon his neighbors.

They remain far from achieving victory, of course; this road is not for the impatient. For example, Professor Ali Khan of Washburn University School of Law recently described the next challenge on Pakistan’s horizon:

Pervez Musharraf, who usurped power in Pakistan on November 3, 2007 by
virtue of his Proclamation of Emergency, refuses to relinquish the office of the
President, an office he unlawfully occupies against the will of the people and
contrary to the Constitution of Pakistan....if Musharraf does not voluntarily vacate the Presidency, Pakistan's newly-elected Parliament is authorized to pass an Emergency Bill to capture him, charge him with treason, and prosecute him under Article 6(1) of the Constitution, under which: "Any person who abrogates or attempts or conspires to abrogate, subverts or attempts or conspires to subvert the Constitution by use of force or show of force or by other unconstitutional means shall be guilty of high treason."

Arresting Pervez Musharraf will establish the sovereignty of the Parliament, fulfill the demands of justice, and restore the rule of law for which the judiciary and lawyers of Pakistan have paid a heavy price. Any compromise with Musharraf that keeps him in office might please foreign constituencies. But it will be lethal for democracy and constitutionality in Pakistan. Any such compromise will encourage future military coups. The time has come for Pakistan to show to the world that a fearless democracy can remove usurpers in a strong but lawful manner.

Recognizing that enormous challenges lie ahead, we must also recognize that Pakistan has made a leap forward that hardly anyone outside Pakistan would have thought possible six months ago. The fact that Pakistani society has had little exposure to democratic norms, the fact that it is poor, the fact that it is not a leading industrial state, the fact that it is Moslem, the fact that it is an artificial country created by Western imperialism and built of nervous ethnic blocs...all these facts turned out to be less important over the last few months than the fact that several different elements of Pakistani society came to share a highly sophisticated vision of the democratic society they could, just possibly, construct together.

The West needs to pay attention to Pakistan. Certainly Pakistan is worth paying attention to because serious dangers arising in that country could emerge to threaten the world. But we should also pay attention to Pakistan because that society has just taught the world—including the smug, superior, self-congratulatory West—a lesson about democracy.

1 comment:

Ilyas khan baloch said...

Dear sir/Madam,
Democracy as a system of governance and interest representation demands respect for dissent and opposition. It recognizes the principle of majority rule and guarantees protection of minorities. Democracy also builds faith in electoral contestation to gain public office and gives legitimacy to political parties as primary instruments for acquisition and transfer of power from one set of individuals to another.
Unfortunately, despite the significance of the above elements only the power full elite are fitted in power and Pakistani are always left at the mercy of circumstances. As this policy is denial of right of Pakistani people to rule their country according to their aspiration and desire to built this country, which can provide equal opportunity to all without any discrimination for the establishment of welfare society.
Only the society based on tolerance, equality and justice can be the real guarantee for the prosperous and strong Pakistan there for your intention is invited to the crucial movement which could be the point of distraction or disaster. Change of socio-political system is inevitable to empower the Pakistani at grass route level for rapid development.

Ilyas khan Baloch