SIXTY-THREE YEARS OF HOPE AND DESPAIR

SHAMSUL GHANI
(feedback@pgeconomist.com)
Mar 29 - Apr 4, 2010

Just sixty three years may not be important in nations' history, but what a nation has done during all these sixty three years is certainly important and worth analyzing.

Sixty-three years is quite a long period to determine the course a nation has charted for itself. Media and scholarly people keep on bombarding this hapless nation with their deceptive dissertations on the merits of democracy (a form of governance wherein a cartel of feudal lords seize power through the so-called election process and immediately become oblivious of their responsibility towards voters) and the evils of dictatorship (a form of government by the army people who are less brutal and ruthless than their counterparts).

Pakistan's scholarly elites often feed the poor masses with the timeworn dogma: the worst form of democracy is better than the best form of dictatorship. Poor masses who are predominantly illiterate (or not sufficiently literate) fail to understand that why a good thing should have its worst form, and how a bad thing can have its best form!

During all these years, we have been unable to reconcile with the stark reality that what we call democracy is in fact a new form of governance known only to this country. This is feudocracy, something akin to the economic hit man John Perkins' corporatocracy.

A certain group having high stakes in this country, both political and economic stakes, ambushes a weakening dictator and shares the throne in accordance to the vote banks of the smaller groups within the group. The so-called voters - hardly one fourth of the adult population - make best of the celebration known as election and go through this ritual with an extreme sense of elation. Their, role, however, ends then and there. The three fourth silent majority witnesses the proceedings in fear and disbelief.

The first two years or so are passed praising democracy and castigating the dictatorship that was done away with. With the economic and social problems taking a turn for the worse during this period, the government propaganda to discredit the previous regime is heightened. This situation gives the opposition, waiting in the wings for its turn, a chance to unleash rhetoric against the present setup. The political and the media pundits start seeing the opposition as the only force capable of saving the country from becoming a failed state (as they have already declared it a failing state). New election, usually mid-term, takes place and the opposition gets to the throne. One cycle is completed, the next starts, and it goes on until some other "dictator" takes over.

This is what has been happening since 1951-that is after the assassination of former premier Liaqat Ali Khan, but no body seems prepared to admit that we have never seen a real democratic era. Democracy with feudalism, and sans education, is feudocracy. There is no country in the world that can claim benefiting from democracy with feudalistic powers in full control and educational system in tatters. These were the feudal lords who after getting a new lease of life with the creation of Pakistan delayed Constitution until 1956, and then in league with the civil bureaucrats arranged for its early demise in 1958. True that the dictators made most of the amendments in the Constitutions, but who can deny that making of amendments is also a legislative process in which the so-called democrats take little interest during their term of rule. By the way, who stopped them from voting those amendments out from the Constitutions, when in power? The Parliament, instead of involving itself in the continuous process of law making, prefers to remain busy in non-issues all the year-round. The debate over the grave economic and social issues is hardly undertaken, or if undertaken, then dropped on such excuses as lack of quorum etc.

Economically and socially, we have been worse off during all these sixty three years, hardly being able to make any significant contribution to the quality of life of the common man. Interestingly enough, and for the surprise of those defending feudocracy tooth and nail, we have been economically better off during dictatorial rules with higher GDP and per capita GNP rates. Recently, a scholarly article from Dr. Hasan Askari points out: "Democracy can not become viable unless it commands the loyalties of the common people who learn from their political experience that democracy offers a better and secure life." Unfortunately, the common people have learned from their experiences just the opposite. To sum up, it is not the western democracy that has failed in Pakistan, rather it is the putting of the label of democracy on a home-made, crude form of governance that has created a sense of disillusionment across the board.

SOME OF THE SOCIAL INDICATORS (P*=PROVISIONAL; NK= NOT KNOWN)

YEAR POPULATION (IN MILLION) LITERACY RATE (%) EXPENDITURE ON EDUCATION AS % OF GNP EXPENDITURE ON HEALTH AS % OF GNP TOTAL EXPENDITURE ON HEALTH & EDUCATION AS % OF GNP
1960 NK NK NK NK NK
1970 NK NK NK 0.6 NK
1980 96.3 29.5 0.8 0.8 1.6
1984-85 94.9 28.8 1.8 0.7 2.5
1990-91 112.6 34.9 2.1 0.7 2.8
1994-95 121.5 39.6 2.4 0.6 3.0
1997-98 130.6 43.6 2.3 0.7 3.0
1998-99 133.5 45.0 2.2 0.7 2.9
1999-00 136.7 47.1 2.1 0.7 2.8
2000-01 139.4 49.0 1.6 0.7 2.3
2001-02 142.9 50.5 1.9 0.7 2.6
2002-03 145.3 51.6 1.7 0.7 2.4
2003-04 149.0 53.0 2.1 0.6 2.7
2004-05 151.1 53.0 1.0 0.6 1.6
2005-06 154.0 54.0 1.9 0.5 2.4
2006-07 156.8 55.0 2.4 0.6 3.0
2007-08 160.9 56.0 1.7 0.6 2.3
2008-09P* 162.4 NK 1.4 0.5 1.9

Pakistan's economic and social indicators are abysmal. Either in dictatorship or democracy, an average two and a half percent of GNP cumulatively was spent on education and health. Both the parties, on either side of the fence, will have to take blame for the historic disillusionment country's masses have suffered from. Up till now, there is little the common people can be proud of. The immense economic potential of this country and the unwavering trust on God keep their hopes alive. Experience has taught them that democracy and dictatorship are merely subjective issues that are blown out of proportion by the stakes. It is only the delivery of social and economic justice to the downtrodden masses of this country that is going to determine the supremacy of one governance system over the other.

Their fast diluting purchasing power in the wake of a stubborn inflation and the growing sense of insecurity, particularly during the last two years, has made them believe that democracy is nothing more than a catch phrase. So, democrats do something fast and special for the emancipation of the masses. Give them at least one good reason to believe that you are a better ruler than the dictators. Do it in earnest before you are again out of the picture; this time perhaps, for a longer period.