In the absurdities of the last few days over the Long March for democracy in Pakistan, and what can only be called the resulting chaos, while news channels and dime-a-dozen analysts revel in the cha-ching of advertising money as the nation tunes in to watch the political primetime drama, most of Pakistan seems to have lost sight of the realities of life in the country.
What the crowds gathered in Islamabad have been demanding is no different from the drivel we Pakistanis have been handing out in our own drawing rooms to anyone who happens to lend an ear. The government is corrupt; elections are absurdly rigged and the power-figures of Pakistan’s politics are masters of exploitation. Who in their right mind would deny these truths?
What has this so-called democratic government given Pakistan with its much-celebrated “popular mandate” other than misery, despair and a fear for their lives?
Sure, let’s conveniently forget the destruction to the rest of the countrymen’s lives, liberty and economy resulting from severe lapses of governance, bad judgment calls and rash decisions over the course of the last four years of the Zardari regime. A protest in the capital is deemed “undemocratic,” but a prime minister in violation of a Supreme Court arrest order is just fine.
Rampant corruption, terrorism, ethnic and sectarian violence, unemployment, declining healthcare, abysmal education system and two provinces in the throes of civil war; what has this so-called democratic government given Pakistan with its much-celebrated “popular mandate” other than misery, despair and a fear for their lives?
Our currency loses value by the day both locally and abroad; when we leave our homes for schools or offices we’re not sure if we’ll ever see our family again; the sight of the police on the side of the road instills a feeling of helpless loathing and fear rather than one of safety; a majority of us have no idea if we’ll have something to eat at the next mealtime; our fuel reserves have (apparently) run out, although one would think the ministry would have noticed the depleting gas reserves a little sooner and made arrangements; we have no electricity, and to top it off, our borders are continually violated on all sides of the country.
And this list is far from being even remotely exhaustive.
If Pakistan is truly intent on following the West’s idea of democracy, and indeed that is where this idea comes from, we must remember one thing: the country and the government belong to the people. When the government ceases to function for the people, it loses its raison d’être. One would think that a “democratic government” would lose its right to be called that when it defiles democracy itself by flouting its most basic principles on a day-to-day basis. It’s a shame then, that a system that has robbed us blind of all kinds of resources continues to be protected in the name of democracy.
Thomas Jefferson in the Declaration of Independence of the World’s biggest superpower today, and arguable the biggest champion for this form of democracy—America—wrote thus:
Whenever any form of government becomes destructive of these ends [i.e., securing inherent and inalienable rights, with powers derived from the consent of the governed], it is the right of the people to alter or abolish it, and to institute new government, laying its foundation on such principles, and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their safety and happiness.
Another thing that evades comprehension is why people insist on squeeze-fitting a popular revolution into the confines of the constitution. There is no such thing as a lawful revolt. The Arab Spring, the Iranian revolution, the French and Russian revolutions – these were not peaceful or even civilized debates conducted in the sacred halls of the parliament. Revolutions take place on the streets where the public is, not in the buildings haunted by their political leaders.
But I digress. Regardless of any of Dr. Tahirul Qadri’s personal vagaries, his demands are rational. So let’s get some perspective here. Imran Khan’s “tsunami,” Tahirul Qadri’s “million march” or the “soft coup” – call it whatever you want. The struggle against the status quo is not a derailment of democracy rather it is a struggle to protect it from the damage this government has caused it.
The political bigwigs who ridicule this movement are in fact ridiculing the Pakistani public for demanding its right to a peaceful and prosperous life. They’re ridiculing our right to demand justice for the wrongs they have committed us, the money they have stolen from us and the devastation they have wrought on this country. What remains to be seen is whether we’re going to let them continue.