An attempt to analyze the limitations faced by democracy in certain parts of the world.
|Pakistan came into inception as a democratic state in 1947. Since then, the country has had its share of military rules and martial laws, the majority of which arguably proved to be detrimental, or have been thought to be so. Democracy has always been considered the way forward for Pakistan, by the masses, and the country has seen democratic times too. But what has democracy actually given to Pakistan? If one peeks into history, one would realize that the progress that took place in the era of General Ayub (a dictator) is unparalleled; it has never been matched by any democratic setup of Pakistan. Democracy, thus, has never really excelled in Pakistan, and the country seems to be deprived of all the fruits democracy seems to bear in other countries. Are democracy and Pakistan just not compatible? Or are there some serious flaws with the ‘rule of majority’ in Pakistan? Here’s my take on it:
What is democracy? It can aptly be defined as ‘the rule of the people; by the people and for the people’, or in other words ‘the rule of the majority’. Democracy presents a, seemingly, very efficient and impressive political system, as it gives the power to the common men to elect their representatives, who would look after the affairs of the country on their behalf. This is a complete opposite of ‘Monarchy’, because the state is run, in a way, by the people themselves. But what if the majority is incapable of looking after the country? What if the literacy rate of a country is 49%, including those who are able to spell and write their names? What if the majority is incapable of understanding what is the best for them? What then?
Such is the situation in Pakistan. The majority of the population is illiterate, and so their priorities are, somewhat, misplaced. Let me present an example: Recently, a project for tree plantation was initiated by one of the provincial governments. This was, indeed, an act for the greater good of the people, but the irony was that it was criticized by the majority, because they felt that they needed roads and fly overs more than trees. The majority are unable to understand the drastic changes in climate of Pakistan. Rainfalls are slowly becoming rare in certain areas of Pakistan. The threat of famine looms large. In such a situation, such plantation schemes are EXACTLY what the country needs. But, sadly, the majority are unable to understand this.
Another problem is that the majority are stuck in social differences. People are divided by religion, language, sect, ethnicity, color, and what not. The majority here is self-centered. The representatives are elected from the majority, and so are no different from it. In a democratic system, the leaders are a reflection of the majority. This system can do wonders where the majority is literate and understands its greater good, but in less privileged countries, it can do more bad than good.
An argument that could arise here might be that even if the majority and the leaders don’t understand the greater good, what’s wrong with that? Why can’t the people just live like they want to, under leaders who are busy serving themselves rather than the people? After all it’s their tax money. In reply, I’d just say that it’s a leader’s job to see and understand what a common man cannot. This is what makes him/her a leader. A leader should understand the difference between ‘temporarily good’ and ‘greater good’. The problem is that in Pakistan and similar countries, the leaders are self-centered, who can only see their own good and nothing else, because they are a reflection of the majority. The people who can see the bigger picture, who can really help the country are, indeed, a minority. They are capable, but not popular. Hence, such people never get a chance to become leaders, because they are unlike the majority. People who speak of unity, for example, instead of baseless and useless divisions are not popular with the masses, because their thoughts are not a reflection of the general consensus. People who try to represent the entire nation, instead of a particular community have no chance of political progress. If a system doesn’t bring forward such people then it, certainly, needs to be reviewed. No wonder the fruits of democracy are not tasted in such countries.
Now let me introduce a little twist in the tale. I’ve stated that the leaders are an image of the majority, be it in thinking, preference, religion, language etc. But there’s something they have a lot more of than the majority. This thing, sadly, holds the most importance in today’s world and that is…MONEY. Yes, there’s a huge class difference between the majority and their leaders. Now you tell me, how can such a leader even comprehend the problems of a common man who lives from hand to mouth? He just can’t. How can he understand the effects of his decisions on the life of a common man? How can he represent the population he is alien to? Again, he can’t. So, in a way, the representatives of the majority don’t even belong to the majority. A person living in a bungalow represents, a million living with tin sheets over their head, in the Assembly, oh the sad irony!
It’s not that there is a lack of people who are more like the majority in this aspect, but again they are neither popular, nor do they have millions of rupees, which they can’t show on their balance sheets, to spend on election campaigns. The ultimate result is that such people choose to become writers.
I mentioned earlier that the leaders of Pakistan are self-centered. Let me further build up on this: What do you think the income of an average household is in Pakistan? Pakistan is a relatively poor state, and so the minimum wage is said to be Rs.12, 000, but trust me when I say that you’ll find people striving for a lot less in every nook of the country. Now try to guess the monthly income of a member of National Assembly, or the LEADER. A leader of this poor country, where majority are living from hand to mouth, gets more than Rs.100, 000 monthly, along with along with entitlement to receive travel vouchers of Rs.300, 000 per annum. I’ll let that sink in.
One might say, “So what? One shouldn’t be concerned with what others are earning. They work hard for it.” Yes, one shouldn’t be concerned with what others are earning, but when the ‘others’ are your representatives, you have every right to know what they are earning and how, I believe. What does this show? This shows that a seat in assembly is a crown of feathers. This makes people yearn for such positions, not because they care for the people, but because they care for the benefits that follow. Such positions shouldn’t be crowns of feathers; rather they should be thrones of thorns, which would only be willed by those who ACTUALLY care for the people, and trust me when I say that there are quite a lot who do care for the people. But when these thrones are thorn less, millions are spent to acquire them so that billions can be earned while sitting on them (no kidding). Simply put, positions of service become positions of earning, and so they attract self-centered individuals.
One point, which needs clarification, is that I’m, in no way, suggesting that a leader should lead a life of poverty. My point here is that they shouldn’t be privileged to such luxuries, Rs.300, 000 worth of air tickets, as well; especially in a nation where half of the nation is struggling to put food on the table.
Democracy is, no doubt, the best political system there is, but it has its limitations in certain parts of the world. The alternates, monarchy or dictatorships, are a straight no. Then what is the answer? The answer, I feel, is education. Unless people become literate, unless they learn to differentiate between good and bad, unless they start understanding the greater good, no system can ever be successful. For only educated and enlightened people, who understand themselves and the world, can choose the right representatives, and unless the right representatives are chosen, democracy, as well as every other alternative, will be fruitless.