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The Achakzai recipe

The struggle for democracy has been going on since the creation of Pakistan but gets derailed for one reason or the other – and then we are back to square one. Although we often blame the generals for that, and rightly so, but let’s be fair and see if the politicians also have a hand in it.

The generals take the wrong route to power so they become dictators but haven’t follies of our political leaders contributed to that? Can they be absolved of the mess that we have around us today?

Another point that needs to be considered when examining what leads to the weakening of democracy is the mode of governance between the two – politicians and generals. Have the democratically elected governments conducted themselves better compared to dictatorial regimes? Have the politicians addressed the grievances of the people more efficiently than the military rulers or have both focused on chasing personal interests at the cost of national wellbeing?

Pakistan will never become the proverbial democracy of ‘government of the people, by the people, for the people’ until elected governments prioritise resolution of collective problems over personal ones. It will continue to be a ‘government of the rich, by the rich, and for the rich’ focusing only on safeguarding personal interests.

We need to come out of this self-inflicted misery by pulling ourselves together and mustering enough strength to face the realities. Nothing in this world comes for free; we have to work for it or else we won’t be able to set the course of events right and take the nation out of the insecurity and economic mismanagement it is currently caught in.

The chequered history of this country is replete with instances where politicians themselves have stabbed democracy in the back. They have not only elected dictators as presidents – through basic democracies, through referenda in the name of Islam – but also assured them of getting elected repeatedly (for ten times) while in military uniform.

This is not on. The country needs to be set free of such politicians; they have to go if we want democracy to flourish. The next question then is: how do we do this? Where do we start from and from where do we bring people whose hands are not stained with the blood of democracy? The answer, though difficult, is certainly there as we still have politicians – though very few – who are not products of military rule or have used military crutches for political space in the country.

Mehmood Khan Achakzai, the chairman of PkMAP (Pashtukhwa Milli Awami Party) is someone who can rightly take pride in not having the slightest shadow of any dictator over his political history. He was absolutely right on the inaugural day of the current National Assembly when he called it a day of reckoning and self-accountability so as to learn from the past and strive towards peace and prosperity by defeating the enemies of democracy.

Achakzai reminded the members of the assembly of the harm done to democracy by their senior colleagues who had taken an oath to defend the constitution but not respected a word of it when the time came and instead sided with dictators. His speech was a true reflection of the national aspirations wherein he laid great emphasis on the responsibility the oath places on our elected representatives to defend the constitution against all odds.

Known for his candid talk, Achakzai urged leaders of all political parties not to allow space to such crooked politicians in their parties, leave alone handing them important positions. They have been violating the oath and will do it again. They had pledged in the same house and read the same words but stepped back when the time came to defend the constitution.

One may differ with his politics but can certainly not find fault with such a well-meaning message. Democracy can flourish only when its principles are adhered to. And when its principles are adhered to that automatically takes care of turncoat politicians.

Corrupt leaders in positions of power cause more damage to the national health than anybody else since people look towards them for resolution of their day-to-day problems. The monster of corruption grows bigger and spreads faster this way. This is exactly what happened to us during the last five years. When people saw that their leaders left no place for merit, rules and regulations in pursuit of personal interest, they (people) followed suit.

As a result today we see no respect for merit and even the law of the land. There is a complete collapse of institutions all over the country. The incident in Islamabad where a lone gunman kept hostage the entire machinery of the federal government for more than five hours is enough evidence of that.

Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif may have committed blunders in the past but now he cannot afford to repeat them. The public has reposed confidence in him for the third time and that too at this crucial juncture in the history of this country. He has, no doubt, many difficult and daunting challenges ahead of him but the most important amongst them is putting discipline back into our collective life.

He is to focus on building the nation afresh and to do that he is to set a high standard of moral and financial discipline through rule of law and good governance. Otherwise the vicious cycle we are in will continue and we will keep electing these so-called politicians and they will keep on showing us the wrong way by flouting rules in complete disregard to the principles of democracy. Nawaz Sharif must work on the recipe proposed by Achakzai to put an end to all this or else we are doomed.

The writer is a former ambassador. Email: waziruk@hotmail.com

Ayaz Wazir, "The Achakzai recipe," The News. 2013-09-04.
Keywords: Political science , Political issues , Political leaders , Political history , Government-Pakistan , Democracy , Currpution , Laws , CourrptiDictatorship , Politicians , Politics , PM Nawaz Sharif , Mehmood Khan Achakzai