By Dr. Haider Mehdi

“The liberty of a democracy is not safe if the people tolerate the growth of private power to a point where it comes stronger than their democratic state itself.  That, in essence, is fascism – ownership of government by an individual, by a group.” Franklin D. Roosevelt

It is disgusting to watch day-in and day-out the raging battle of rhetoric going on in the media between the PPP and PML-N “jialas”, apologists and blind loyalists to defend their respective leaderships and their roles in saving democracy in Pakistan. The daily experience in itself is an intellectual atrocity inflicted on the nation by those selective few spokespersons who are invited time and again by television anchors – as if no one else in the country other than those few know what democracy is and what it means in the context of Pakistan’s political landscape. These cavalier and superfluous party stalwarts speak of democracy as a holy script whose defense is their sole and holy responsibility. But “democracy” is not a sacrament of a heavenly-revealed scripture. Democracy is a humanly- inspired conceptual notion whose ultimate aim is for the elected representatives to acquire political management skills and good governance strategies to deliver welfare to the masses. If divorced from this fundamental aspect, as is the case in present-day Pakistan, democracy becomes irrelevant to the nation. Consequently, the word “democracy” is being used in Pakistan as a slogan in a politically motivated exercise to manipulate peoples’ will for specific vested-interest groups.

The fact of the matter is that today’s so-called democratic Pakistan is besieged by massive and unending political melodramatic theatrics staged by the two main political parties, the ruling PPP and its friendly opposition the PML-N. Together, the leaderships of these two parties have turned the notion of democracy into a political slogan completely removed from its fundamental purposes. Hence, it becomes imperative to comprehend the deliberately-organized implicit political deceit waged against the nation. It is a vital task in order to truly democratize the country and defeat those political forces that are working against the interest of the Pakistani masses.

Let me start by explaining what democracy is not: Parliamentary democracy is not about completing a fixed term in a political office. It is not about protecting a presidency. It is not about safeguarding the prime ministership, federal and provincial ministers and prolonging hold on the corridors of power. It is not about a friendly opposition and engaging in sloganistic rituals to manipulate public opinion and perceptions. It is not about the Benazir Income Support Program. It is not about indulging in legal battles and confrontations between different governmental institutions. It is not about fiery speeches and contradictory claims by those who are at the helm of national affairs. It is not about winning Senate seats and sweeping national and provincial assemblies elections. Democracy is not about being elected only. It is not about voting only.

Democracy is the people’s sacred trust given to those who are capable of visionary leaps forward in nation-building.  It is about delivering effective and imaginative resolutions to the problematics of a nation and its people. It is about political competence and efficiency. It is about political-economic management skills. It is about national policy planning and setting national priorities. It is about the state-of-the-art strategic methodologies aimed at national problem solving. It is about an ideological doctrine focused on socio-economic equality of the people. It is about creating jobs, giving livelihoods, providing education, literacy and health facilities. It is about social harmony, national integration and delivering security, peace, stability and prosperity to the nation. It is about giving prompt justice to the people. It is about national independence, integrity and sovereignty of the nation. It is about an independent foreign policy and domestic planning without external interventions. Democracy is about making ethical choices in the conduct of national affairs and making moral judgments in the exercise of political power.

It is unfortunate that Pakistan’s entire traditional political leadership considers politics as the ultimate form of deceptive art to cling to power and a medium to make an enormous amount of wealth. Consequently, the overall community of political leadership has remained oblivious and unaware of the essential nature of democratic principles rooted in the fundamentals of ethical and moral considerations. Moral-ethical political practices have been at the center of discussions since time immemorial: Aristotle, in the fourth century B.C., equated leadership with ethical governance. In the subsequent periods of democratic progress in Europe, political philosophers focused on the need for ethical decision-making in politics. Locke, Hobbes and Rousseau stressed public empathy, social trust and ethical politics as fundamental goals in the social contract treatises that they envisioned for democratic progress. In political Islam, the entire emphasis is on moral-ethical practices in the conduct of political affairs: so much so that the faithful are implicitly instructed to protest against unethical political norms, and revolt against political status-quo that is based on moral infringement and emphatically work to bring its demise.

The national tragedy in Pakistan is that its traditional political leadership, as of the present-day, has remained completely unenlightened and absolutely uneducated about the ethical premises which are the foundations of a democratic polity. And yet, they seem convinced that their sloganistic rhetorical approach to politics will keep them in political power indefinitely. Indeed, they are mistaken.

Public discontent with the present so-called democratic dispensation is at an all-time high. People want resolutions of their ever-expanding problems. They want actions, not slogans. They want truth and transparency in public conduct, and they will not tolerate apathy towards them anymore. The writing is on the wall – the message is loud and clear: they are fed up. Enough is enough! They want a revolution.

Pakistan has only one choice now. Ethical democracy: A democracy of the people, by the people, for the people! Will a Third Force step in to fill the void and honor public democratic aspirations?

Mind it, it is a battle for Pakistan’s survival!