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Volume 3, No. 7 - December 2003

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Why democracy didn't take roots in Pakistan?
Vinod Kumar

"AN intensive debate is raging in the country about revival of democracy" says Ghulam Kibria in his article "Why democracy didn't take roots" (Dawn April 22, 2000) and then goes on to observe "What is missing in this debate is an in-depth analysis to identify real reasons because of which democracy did not work in Pakistan but in India it did."

Otherwise a very thought provoking article, it fails to identify the real reasons for the failure of democracy in Pakistan. I will come to this later -- let me first review his article.

He goes on to list the various reasons, like lack of education of people and politicians in democratic fundamentals, illiteracy of the masses, division along provincial, linguistic and ethnic barriers, leadership having become a family affair, etc. among others for the failure of democracy in Pakistan. He even goes on to list castes as one of the reasons -- I thought castes was the curse of the Hindus alone and Pakistan being Islamic society should be free of the castes.

He then returns to kafir bashing. He says " The Muslims of India suffered from all this social sickness but to the leaders then, Hindus and the British were the only problems." Had Kibria read the history right he would have known that it were the Hindus (also the ancestors of the majority of those who are Pakistanis today), who were enslaved and were the victims of Muslim atrocities through centuries of Muslim rule -- but if it pleases Ghulam Kibria that the Muslims suffered because of the Hindus -- let it be. Let him have his moment of satisfaction. If putting the blame on others could solve problems, no-one in the world would ever had any.

On all those counts that Kibria believes have prevented democratization of Pakistan, India was no better than Pakistan in 1947 when the Muslims decided to form an Islamic nation. As a matter of fact, in most fields, Muslims held better position as compared to the Hindus. Even today India (read Hindus) has (have) far more divisions along provincial, linguistic, ethnic and caste lines than Pakistan does. In addition India has the religious minorities problem also which Pakistan, thanks to its far-sightedness, in its own way, solved at its very inception.

Coming to the basic question -- why democracy did not take roots in Pakistan?

As a matter of fact, Kibria has answered the question in his article when he noted that "(T)he first and foremost condition for growth of democracy is acceptance by all the sovereignty of the people" but failed to pursue it further. Democracy demands men make laws to govern themselves. It is the acceptance of this premise that democracy has succeeded in India and it is the rejection of this very premise that democracy failed to take roots in Pakistan.

No society can live outside the parameters of its basic ideology; and not only the ideology but the very raison d'Ítre of the existence of Pakistan is Islam. Though India is not a religious Hindu state but Hinduism is still the soul of India and still guides the way India thinks and acts. It is the basic difference in these ideologies that has made democracy a failure in one and success in another even though in all other respects both countries are twins. It is when religion comes into play, the two part company.

As Kibria noted and I repeat, "the foremost condition for the growth of democracy is acceptance by all the sovereignty of the people" and this very basic requirement of democracy is quite contrary to the basic ideology of Islam. Islam says "all sovereignty rests in Allah" and any ruler that rules the Ummah rules as "vice-regent of Allah". The Ummah can elect the vice-regent but neither the vice-regent or the Ummah has right to make laws to govern themselves -- the laws have already been 'revealed' in the holy Koran. Only the Ulema can interpret them and the Ummah follow what the Ulema interpret. In Islam, Ummah is created by Allah and have no independent existence or will. Islam is a monotheistic faith and thus allows no diversity either in the concept of their God to suit the individual or the mode of worship or life. Every individual has to fit the preconceived mold -- no diversion is allowed.

It is not without reason that most Islamic scholars have declared democracy, which gives sovereignty to the individual, an un-Islamic concept.

To the contrary, in Hinduism, the individual is the most important factor. Each individual is urged to search the truth for himself -- even the authority of the Vedas -- the highest regarded scriptures of the Hindus -- is not to be accepted if it does not pass individuals' search or interpretation of the truth. With the concept of multiple manifestation of Hindu gods, diversity is the norm rather than the rule. I will not be far off if I were to say, in Hinduism each individual creates his own god or at least worships the god of one's own choosing. Hindu scriptures are man made and evolve with time. No such freedom is allowed in Islam. Islamic laws, as revealed in the Koran, are immutable and unalterbale.

Even in democratic India, the Muslims don't want to live by man-made laws but by Sharia -- the laws revealed by Allah.

Democracy did not fail in Pakistan because of illiteracy or castes or ethnic differences or linguistics or any of the other reasons put forward. The Indians, as already said above, were no more literate, only marginally if at all, than the Pakistanis. And as far as castes, ethnic differences or linguistics are concerned, Pakistan does not even come close to the problems India faces.

Other than religion, the people of both India and Pakistan come from the same stock, were part of the same nation, share the same history, had the same opportunities in pre-partition days. If any, the Muslims had an upper edge over the Hindus on two counts: firstly the Muslims had ruled India for centuries and then under the British, the Muslims were given preferential treatment in government jobs (and in army) in excess of their population proportion.

The real reason why democracy failed in Pakistan is the ideology Pakistan is wedded to. Sadly, this is true of any Islamic country. Pakistan is not unique in this respect. A quick glance at all the Islamic nations around the world will prove the point.

The day Hinduism becomes a minority religion in India, it will be no different from Pakistan.


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