A historic moment

There is little to celebrate in Pakistan. Every day you hear one depressing news report after another. There was another Shia massacre, this time in Abbas Town, Karachi. Hundreds of houses belonging to the Christian community were burnt in Joseph Colony, Lahore, right in front of the police. The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) has held the police and the provincial administration equally responsible for this grave injustice. On Wednesday, social worker par excellence Parveen Rehman was murdered in Karachi. A senior journalist in Lahore is being openly threatened by Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ) just because he belongs to the Shia Muslim community. All we do is express our anger and frustration till another tragedy occurs … and another … again and again. The horrible news cycle continues in Pakistan.

Amidst all this doom and gloom, one news item should lift the spirit of Pakistanis, which is: “Pakistan’s parliament made history Thursday by becoming the first National Assembly in the country’s history to complete a full term in office, dissolving in a low-key session that paves the way for elections” (AFP report). It is indeed a historic thing. Despite many hurdles created by the anti-democratic forces, a civilian government has completed its tenure. This is no mean achievement.

Countries with longstanding tradition of democracy may not be able to understand the import of this historic news but the truth is that we in Pakistan can never take democracy for granted. Our military establishment’s misadventures are no secret. Every time a civilian government comes into power, the military and its undemocratic allies leave no stone unturned to derail the democratic process. Even now when the next general elections are just around the corner, there are apprehensions within some circles that there could be a last-minute attempt to delay the elections. If elections do take place on time, some people fear that there would be another hung parliament, leading to the formation of an even weaker civilian government. No one can say with certainty what the future has in store for Pakistani politics but the real test would be the continuation of the democratic process. As long as democracy survives, the people of Pakistan would be able to voice their grievances. All political parties want peaceful relations with India. As and when democracy is finally able to evolve in our country, the issue of civil-military imbalance would finally be addressed. The civilians would only be able to have complete control over our foreign policy once this imbalance ends. Terror as a policy of the state would also end once the civilians are powerful enough to challenge the military’s narrative. If democracy is derailed, chances of Pakistan facing international isolation would increase manifold. The world views us with distrust, and not without reason. Thus, our only salvation lies in the continuation of the democratic process. Whether one likes the present dispensation or not, at least the people of Pakistan will get the chance to cast their votes and decide if they want the PPP in power once again or another party. We, the people of Pakistan, should decide the fate of our country by casting our votes. This is where the real power lies. We should be proud that a civilian government has lasted five years. Here’s to another five years of civilian rule!

(Originally published in Mid-Day)


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