Is this the road to democracy? ???Dr Ayesha Siddiqa | Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf
<p>The country, some of us will claim, is on its way to normalcy and democracy. The President has taken off his uniform and exiled leaders have been allowed back into the country. Now all that is left is for elections to take place and the emergency to be withdrawn. According to one prominent PMLQ leader, Pakistan is on its way to normalising political life. <br /> <br /> Such a perception is in sync with the argument of the transitionists who believe that the only way to normal politics is through the route selected by the country&rsquo;s General-President. <br /> <br /> The general had always said that he would not surrender power under pressure, that he should be allowed to choose the right time for shedding his uniform and allowing contending political forces to play any role. <br /> <br /> He has to be taken seriously because, as transitionists argue, the current balance of power favours him rather than anyone else. <br /> <br /> The now retired General Musharraf had threatened to impose emergency if he was pushed to the wall which is precisely what he did. He has now extended the date for removing the emergency until December 16 which is a day after the last date for political parties to withdraw from elections. <br /> <br /> The general showed his power once and he could do it again. The only difference is that now he is no longer the army chief. Surely, the army would be tired of showboating along with certain political parties on General Musharraf&rsquo;s behalf. They would not fancy the prospects of playing second fiddle to the former chief&rsquo;s wishes. <br /> <br /> But the issue under consideration is whether the civil society should be challenging him at all. Is it worthwhile to wait until conditions improve such as better macroeconomic figures, more socioeconomic development which will naturally lead to, it is assumed, greater socio-political progress? This is the path to democracy as chosen by city-states like Singapore. The formula is that economic prosperity will bring about a more just society. So, why challenge the general prematurely and make him take defensive measures? The power lies with him. As my friend Ejaz Haider has argued in one of his columns, resisting the general will invoke his wrath and block the way to democracy. <br /> <br /> What I have gathered from his argument is that democracy is defined as allowing the electoral process to continue so that a liberal parliament comes into power. A combination of liberal political parties with a liberal head of the state such as the present president will ensure a better Pakistan. One can agree with the objective of having a liberal Pakistan but it is difficult to agree with this particular definition of democracy. <br /> <br /> Democratic politics is not about adult franchise but a political process in which marginalised groups also get a chance to build stakes in the political system without the state taking positions in favour of one or the other. <br /> <br /> The threat to liberal Pakistan is not necessarily from the mullahs but from the state supporting extremist elements and partnering with them to fulfil certain narrowly defined military-strategic objectives. According to Charles Tilly, the process of democratisation depends upon insulation of public politics from categorical inequalities which can be ethnic, sectarian or even ideological. <br /> <br /> The issue of whether one should challenge the general or not because of the present balance of power stems from what particular approach one adopts in analysing the question. One could take a &lsquo;strategic studies&rsquo; approach according to which an assessment revolves around power politics or a broader historical and political approach. The approach narrows the analysis down to assessing the balance of power. Surely then it is not wise to challenge the man at the helm of affairs. <br /> <br /> However, it is important to see the long cycle of history rather than the narrow dimensions of military strategy. Societies can suffer for long durations before they are able to bring about the needed change. <br /> <br /> The fact is that the ruling elite anywhere in the world does not concede political space easily, and certainly not without struggle. It is vital for a society to determine its core values and strive for that. In Pakistan&rsquo;s case, for instance, the rule of law is important not just for the sake of some judges or the community of lawyers, but for the building of a state and society which can deliver justice to the bulk of its people, if not all. <br /> <br /> So should then people concede on this principle? (to this approach?) That is a moot point. <br /> <br /> Even if we were to use the strategic studies methodology, it is too simplistic to assume that General Musharraf took off his uniform due to the goodness of his heart. It was a combination of external and internal forces that prompted this change. The international community understood that there would be a lot of instability if Musharraf did not take off his uniform. And this understanding in the international community was reinforced by the protests brewing in the streets. <br /> <br /> Basing the viability of agitation on the behaviour of the stock exchange may not be a great idea. According to Haider, the fact that the stock market did not react to instability caused due to the emergency shows that the streets were unable to build any pressure on the general. In fact, it was within a few days that the stocks started to pick up again. It is very interesting to see the stocks not really responding to the cycle of instability. There are a couple of explanations for this. <br /> <br /> First, stocks can be kept stable due to covert injection and manipulation of resources. The stocks and the capital market, as is obvious from the American situation, can be manipulated artificially creating negative impact. The story of six to eight people controlling Pakistan&rsquo;s stock market is known to most people. So, the stock exchange might not necessarily be the best indicator of the level of turmoil in the country. <br /> <br /> Second, the stock market represents the interests of the people who do not necessarily benefit from rule of law. The bulk of Pakistani business, in any case, supports military authoritarian rule not just because it provides them greater stability, but also due to their ability to influence re-distribution of resources. The senior military commanders, who are made in charge of public sector organisations and resource distribution at the micro level, perform their task based not on any superior knowledge of how the pie is to be divided. For instance, the officers in charge of leasing out hoardings on Shahrah-e Faisal do not necessarily know the worth of each location and so can be easily manipulated by those around them. Obtaining these hoardings then depends on how well a certain businessman or group can influence the man responsible for making the decision.<br /> <br /> The stock market, in any case, represents the interests of the oligarchs who are being challenged along with the general. The route of public protest might be long and winding but this is the only method to make the rulers realise the need for adhering to the rule of law. It is only when sufficient pressure is generated that the rulers will notice what will keep the people happy and the country stable.<br /> <br /> <em>Ayesha Siddiqa is author of Military Inc: Inside Pakistan&rsquo;s Military Economy. She can be reached at [email protected]</em></p> <p><em>source:dailytimes</em></p>