07 October 2010

Articles: Pakistan: What price democracy?

The article, "Is honeymoon with democracy over?", by Kamran Rahmat, an Islamabad-based resident editor of the Pakistani daily newspaper "Express Tribune", appeared on 30 September 2010 on the website of the daily newspaper "Gulf Times", operating out of Doha, Qatar.

The full text of the article can be read free of charge here:


Excerpts: "Rumours have abounded about the imminent fall of government [....] 30 months after a transition to democracy from a long bout of military rule, the average Pakistani citizen wonders if that is what street battles in 2007 were waged for. [...] At the first glance, it seems to have gone all horribly wrong – the dream of a functional, sustainable democracy replaced by a sense of foreboding and despondency that seems all too familiar. But is it? Is everything really unravelling and devolving to the inevitable last-hope lure of the khakis doing another turn at 'saving' the country? Is all in the country headed for a point of no return that will usher in the much talked about political change; or is this merely a clever perception that is part willingly and part unwittingly being promoted by the media to a point where it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy? An independent, pluralistic media that played a spectacular role in mobilising and achieving the transition to democracy was supposed to reflect and strengthen the citizens' aspirations and perspectives after popular governments were in place. And yet turn on a private current affairs TV channel any time of the day and the staple fare is prophecies of doom and predictions of a change.

"Not on a single private TV channel is an assertion of faith (or even hope) discernible any longer in the very democracy that the media had valiantly pushed for in 2007, along with other civil society actors. The honeymoon with democracy for the media seems to be over. Agreed the governments in both the centre and the provinces have been found woefully inept and wanting in delivering the dividends that democracy was supposed to usher in for all and sundry. [...] But what is more transparent than the disappointing performance of the governments and political parties now is the growing sense of entitlement of the media that it is the final arbiter of this performance [...]. For sure, they have a right to offer analysis and venture opinion on what is going on but this can only be based on news and events, not conjecture and theory [...]. This is exactly the kind of milieu that provides a space for the anti-democratic forces to manipulate the media and through it the perceptions that people end up embracing. [...] Instead of focusing on the citizens and their grassroots and street perspectives and being their voice, [...] today's media in Pakistan has gone from being a watchdog of public interest to being a virtual attack dog for undemocratic forces."

An example of this tendency may be provided by an undated column by one Khalid Saleem, "What price democracy?", published recently on the website of the daily newspaper "Pakistan Observer".

The full text of the article can be read free of charge here:


Excerpts: "Democracy is the buzzword these days. [...] Ever since the then US President, George W. Bush, announced in his message to the Iraqi people on the eve of the Iraq invasion that, 'We are determined to bring (read: thrust-down-your-collective-throats) democracy to your country', the word 'democracy' has become something of a sine qua non in all statements emanating from the West. [...] Our own herd of liberal intellectuals has been weaned on Western propaganda. [...] In their estimation, any person wishing to be counted among those fit to be counted must needs be an admirer of the Western type of democracy or else. [...] Democracy, thus, is at best an over-rated system of government. Hullabaloo about the 'virtues' of democracy appears to have been blown out of all proportion. The Western propaganda notwithstanding, there is hardly any doubt that a system of government can be only as good, or as bad, as those administering it. Given dedicated, honest and well-meaning leaders, any system worth the name would be workable. On the other hand, if the leadership does not measure up, then no form of government will deliver the goods, whether democratic or otherwise! Come to think of it, what matters in the long run is how well a people are governed and not how the government in question came into being."

I can't figure out whether either of these articles appeared in print too.

1 comment:

  1. Those undemocratic forces waiting for an intervention from the ‘boots’ are also in for a disappointment. There are a lot of factors militating against a military intervention, at least for the foreseeable future. The international community, especially the US, would not support a military dictatorship at this point in time. Pakistan would have a hard time coping with the situation if international aid is cut off. Apart from this, the army is too busy combating the terrorists right now to think of embarking on yet another misadventure. If we keep lurching from crisis to crisis in a reactive manner, we are unlikely to get out of the mess we are in. At his critical juncture mid term poll with be nothing but tantamount to add fuel in fire. Mid-term elections will be last nail in the coffin of democracy. All the democratic forces must realize that anti-democratic elements want to pitch them against each other. It is time to be mature and vigilant against such forces.