Zardari – a threat to democracy?


By Farman Nawaz

Confusing the concept of democracy with good governance is the logic Pakistani opposition is using for agitation against the sitting government. Whenever opposition wants to protest it starts declaiming ‘Zardari is threat to democracy’. Media also did not bother to explain that democracy is not a guarantee to good governance.

In Pakistan the way democracy is in its preliminary stages similarly common people’s knowledge about some political terminologies is also in initial stages and they can not differentiate between democracy and government. Opposition takes advantage of the ignorance of the people and bad governance is labeled as an attack on the democratic process. Democracy is the mechanism through which people select their rulers while governance means to minimize the political, social and economical shortcomings of a state by the proper utilization of government machinery, civil society, media and market. If the mandatory objectives are achieved successfully, it is called good governance. A government can perform badly in economic field but it does not prove that the government is against democracy. This explanation can be applied on the recent recession in the USA. The recession is a kind of Obama’s administration failure but no one said ‘Obama is threat to democracy or system’.

By studding the recent history of Zardari we can easily come to the conclusion that he tried his best to strengthen the feeble democracy in Pakistan. ‘Pakistan Kapay’ was the start of his new political career in Pakistan. NFC award is another step in this direction. Balochistan package – though not met the desired destination – was a move to appease the annoyed Baloch. Struggle to rename NWFP was also his motive to diminish the political meagerness of Pakhtoons. Strengthening the parliament by disowning the power of president to dissolve the assemblies is a clear example of giving more powers to democratic government. Standing like a rock in front of US pressures to guard the pro-democratic establishment shows his commitment to reconciliation with establishment which will certainly strengthen democracy in future.

Some critics of the government opine that bad governance will create space for undemocratic forces to come in power for this reason Zardari’s government poor performance is criticized. This idea is no more than nonsense. Actually agitation against feeble democracy is providing a way to undemocratic forces to creep in to derail the democratic process. Bad governance must be criticized within the parliament and constitutional ways are there to kick out the sitting government. If no confidence move is not possible for the opposition and Zaradri is clever enough to keep allies happy then opposition must accept it as an aspect of democracy. The way Zardari is struggling to keep the alliance intact similarly opposition must also try to workout a plan to come in power through constitutional ways. Otherwise the option of forming a public opinion against the government is always available to opposition.

There is a perception that allies are not with Zardari but rather they are having lust for the government. But can opposition change this attitude of allies? The same attitude will be there even after elections. Now will opposition take advantage of this behavior of political parties or they have any planning to educate people and political forces to shun this approach. Zardari had now the experience of handling diverse interests of allies and this gives him an upper hand over opposition. Opposition will have to learn this technique of bargaining, reconciliation and running a coalition government.

Zardari is derided of hiding in ‘presidential bunker’. After murder of Benazir Bhutto and Salman Taseer and a suicide attack on Asfandyar Wali by extremists – the same terrorists which are also labeled by General Hamid Gul as perverted and playing in the hands of foreign masters – if someone is expecting that Zardari should repeat the mistake of Bibi and must come out in public, they are not well wishers of Pakistan. Zardari is brave enough to live and hide inside Pakistan but some leaders made agreements just to save their lives and the degree of their bravery can be measured from the point that even now they are not filing a case against the dictator for his action of 12 October. Leaders who sacrificed the two third majority of the parliament just for their own luxury are the real threats to democracy.

Zardari will be a threat to democracy if he plans to rig the elections of 2013. He will be a threat to democracy if he feels insecure and handover the reigns of government to establishment. He will be a threat to democracy if he starts usurping the rights of smaller provinces. He will be a threat to democracy if he starts taking funds from terrorists and foreign masters just to win the elections. Bad governance is not a threat to democracy but it will pave way for other political leaders to step in and rule the country.

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