Borrowing Dicken’s structure from The Tale of Two Cities, the current state of Pakistani democracy can aptly be defined. For democracy in Pakistan, it is the best of times, it is the worst of times. It is the time when the democratic rule is on the verge of entering its second consecutive decade, it is the time when the democratic process is being subjected to vicious political engineering. It is the time when half of the people have clung on to the hope that democracy will mature and rectify itself, it is the time when half of the people deplore the birth of a hybrid democracy.
If the ongoing debate about democracy is categorized for the sake of simplicity, two schools of thought seem to form, in other words, the current state of democracy is judged in two ways. The presumed two school of thoughts expound on the nature of current democracy through equally valid and much distinct point of views. One school of thought views the current situation as auspicious and propitious for democracy. This school of thought hopes that an uninterrupted democratic rule – though hybrid, would gradually bring about the development of pure democratic ethos that would, in turn, ensure the supremacy of democratic rule and rid democracy of the current undemocratic filth that has infested it. On the other hand, the second school of thought consistently laments the hybrid democracy that has taken shape recently through the interference of the experienced hand of undemocratic powers. In this school of thought, there is despair that a democracy in which core democratic values are trampled, cannot sustain itself in the long run. Such a democracy eventually yields to the nefarious designs of the undemocratic forces and falters, which brings the democratic process back to square one.
This certainly is not the quintessential optimism vs pessimism debate, where the optimists view the times auspicious for democracy and the pessimists seem to be losing hope in the face of intriguing undemocratic forces. Both of the presumed schools of thought have merits in their respective assessments of the current situation. But the analysis of each of the school of thought appears to be lacking when applied to justify the entire status quo alone. Expecting the current adulterated democracy to be sustainable in the long run is too starry-eyed an assessment and on the other hand, selling short the recent democratic achievements might amount to cynicism.
A realistic assessment of the current situation depicts a rather gray picture with an intermix of arguments belonging to both of the presumed schools of thought.
It is no farce, that the uninterrupted rule of democracy is about to enter into its second decade on the trot for the first time in history of the country, that we are about to witness in a month a second smooth transition of democratic power and that the undemocratic forces seem exposed like never before but along with these promising developments the undemocratic powers have also doubled down, leaving no stone unturned in a bid to maintain their illegitimate and unconstitutional supremacy. Gagging of the media, abductions of dissenters, and using institutions for political maneuvers have all become frequent phenomena that have come to characterize the current hybrid democracy. Democracy is under fire like never before from those who imagine it as a controlled and constrained form of government on a short leash, that can do their bidding.
At this point in time, democracy is somehow resisting with resilience the onslaught of undemocratic forces. Though such a hybrid democracy cannot sustain itself in the long run, till now it has somehow succeeded to survive.
So what would be the fate of democracy? Would it persist and rectify itself? Or would it falter due to non-existent core values?
What happens to democracy in the near future would be decided by the people. For a democracy belongs to the people. Defending it or yielding it to the nefarious designs of undemocratic forces is the people’s choice and prerogative. If the people decided to shun the undemocratic powers they will vote out the players backed by such powers, democracy would survive, progress and ultimately flourish, and it would be the start of the rectification of democracy, on the other side of the people sided with the powers that be, they will deal democracy another fatal blow. The machinations of the powers that be would appear to succeed, which would give them impetus and heart to manipulate and choke the democratic process even more.
Democracy would die a slow death. When? that would be anybody’s guess. But that would be the people’s choice, wouldn’t it be?
Again, what happens to democracy after a month would be decided by the people. Up till then, for democracy in Pakistan, it is the best of times, it is the worst of times.