IS THERE A WAY OUT? (A Discourse on Democracy)

کیا ہمارے لئے بہتری کا کوئی راستہ ہے؟

My Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Once again our nation is at a critical point in time where historical decisions shaping fate of a nation are taken. Whether it is the internal feuds or the external threats, the situation of our country is precarious. Most of our fellow men are distressed and weighed down with anxiety. (For all we know they just might be paying price for their deeds and thoughts, after all what goes around comes around), and are in search of a Messianic Light that might guide them out of the engulfing darkness and despair, and give them a ray of hope and happiness, making its way into their hearts so that the withered buds of hearts bloom once again basking in the light of faith, hope and happiness, and life becomes a good affair, and living it a cheerful prospect.

You should not only understand and acknowledge, but also make a strong determination of the fact that it is you, only you who have to take the first step towards your progress and improvement. These changes can be brought about only through the purity of our intentions, the love pulsating in our hearts, knowledge and good deeds, wisdom and understanding, through augmentation of our thoughts, by discipline and organization , and last but not the least, by having the spirit of sacrifice and practice of patience and tolerance. However falling prey to hopelessness and mental perplexity will definitely be a hindrance in the way of achieving these goals. Man gets only what he strives for, and Allah Almighty has never brought a change in a nation’s condition, unless they themselves aim for it and strive for it. Allah has bestowed on humans the power to take the right decisions, on the basis of reason and sincerity, besides continuous determination and diligence with faith and belief (in Allah and in ourselves). The nations that keep their hopes high and their priorities right are showered with blessings and success by the Almighty, while alternatively calamities and tragedies become their destiny.

With purity of Intention and sincerity of feelings, I am bringing up all this because once again the fate of you country and people lies to some extent in your hands! If the circumstances remained favorable and elections are held on time, then you yourselves will be deciding your fates. All the difficulties and troubles befalling you as the result of wrong decisions taken will be only your responsibility.

80% of the total population of this country comprises of people who are in no way involved in politics, neither do they belong to any political party nor are they political workers. Political parties all they do is that they present their candidates and their manifesto before the masses and employ all fair and unfair means and resources to achieve their agendas. But the important point is that we should look beyond what a political party says or claims and perceive the broader picture debating different problems, matters and principles. Eventually it is our country, and democratic principles require that masses take part in the affairs of country with obligation and integrity.

The question arises here, what is our objective and what sort of government do we want?

  • We aspire for a system whose basic ideology rests on the fact that absolute sovereignty belongs to the one and the only One Allah. This is an integral part of our constitution too. Our Creator in whose hands are the reigns of everything and in whose complete control is the functioning and destiny of everything. He is the Omnipotent, the One to whom we turn to for our final and absolute decisions. The one who is the Creator and the Sustainer, the all Knowing, the all Wise. Man has been created only to obey and worship Him. He is the One who determines right and wrong, the permissible the forbidden in all levels of individual and collective life. He is the ultimate source of peace and harmony.

  • The second basic rule should be that Allah’s last Prophet (p.b.u.h) is the best example for us and his teachings are a complete code to succeed in life. “The Sunnah” (sayings and deeds of the Prophet) teaches us wisdom, knowledge, purity, independent reasoning, truth, sincerity in our actions and deeds.

  • Allah sent human beings as His representative and emissary; all the forces of nature have been deferred for him. He granted us knowledge and the ability to think rationally, and clearly marked the difference between right and wrong, good and evil. He granted man with all the blessings to test how he will fulfill his duties with purity of faith, love, and fear of Allah, loyalty, discipline, wisdom, patience, courage and resilience. And consequently either attains the loftiest of ranks in life or collapses into the deepest trenches of regression.

  • Holy Quran, an exemplary, highly authentic and respectable book was revealed to us for our guidance, telling us the difference between right and wrong. Understanding and following the Holy Quran is a duty implemented on us. It is a promise, an oath which we have to fulfill. This temporary world will eventually come to an end, after which we will face our Creator and give account for all our actions. There justice shall prevail! Bad deeds shall be punished and good deeds shall be rewarded. That is the reason that both on individual and collective level, it is the duty of the government to be virtuous and follow the rules set by Allah and keeps the national harmony intact.

  • All major decisions should be taken through consensus of opinion and opinions should be sought only from those people who are pious and abstain from sins, and those who establish prayers and give zakat(charity).

  • Conflict and chaos should be put to an end.

  • Good should be enjoined and wrong be forbidden.

  • People should help each other in noble and virtuous deeds.

  • The commands of the government should be followed honestly, sincerely and efficiently.

  • All matters should be dealt with justice and sincerity of intentions.

  • Life, honor and wealth of the citizens should be protected. Law should be upheld and order and restraint be maintained. The criminals should be punished aptly and in time.

  • Equality and brotherhood should be promoted.

  • Basic needs should be fulfilled. Orphans, widows, helpless and the needy should be helped and taken care of.

  • Rulers of the nation should be the servers (servants).

  • Everybody should be equal in the eyes of law. Rulers should be accountable to the law too.

  • Rulers should be trustworthy, sincere, honest, wise, strong, brave, kind, dignified, patriotic, generous and humble.

  • Rulers should be approachable to the masses.

  • People should not run after official positions.

  • Moderation and good sense should be assumed.

  • People should aspire to become role models for others.

  • Freedom of religion. Freedom of expression should be allowed for the spread of benevolence. Tolerance and mutual understanding should be fostered.

  • Promises and commitments should be fulfilled.

  • Peace and harmony should prevail. Fighting and killings should not be approved unless necessary i.e. to curb the evil and inhibit the conflict in a systematic and legitimate manner.

  • Punishments should be given but according to the nature of the crime and the judiciary should be independent and free of all pressure. Rehabilitation and forgiveness should be urged.

  • State should be free of prejudice towards different groups, ethnicities and classes. Affairs should be dealt on the basis of God fearing and merit and capability. Law should not allow attainment of personal benefits, bribery, and using contacts to get one’s way, corruption, dishonesty, theft, violence, vulgarity, alcoholism, drugs, interest, adultery, perjury and bearing of false witness. Laws should be formulated for the elimination of all these vices, whose implementation will be the responsibility of the government so that mutual love, trust and truthfulness flourish.

  • Spread of knowledge, industrialization and progress in the fields of science should take place.

  • Government should be responsible for the material, spiritual and educational development of its people.

  • Taxes should be enacted justly. Public treasury should not be used wastefully, and be fairly spent on crucial and important projects.

  • Defense of the country should be strong and impassable.

  • Dear friends! To have such a government must be your heartfelt desire, if not everybody’s but definitely must be the majority’s wish and aspiration. It is hard to nurture an optimistic thought like this through these dark times. It seems like a far-fetched dream which would perhaps never be realized but losing hope is parallel to losing faith. Although man is a sinner but he is inclined towards accepting goodness, when presented to him. Even though humans make mistakes every day, they can always ask for Allah’s forgiveness. The Merciful One’s benevolence is calling out to His slaves to revert back to Him, where never-ending happiness and prosperity of the both worlds are awaiting them.

    The question that arises is how did we reach our current state? How did we come by such state? What is the reality of present day situation?

    The sum-up of reasons of political turmoil in the Muslim world are as follows:

    Firstly we haven’t been able to devise an appropriate way of transfer of power till now, and this has led to loss of our precious strength and many valuable and capable individuals.

    Secondly there has always been a clash between the rulers and the clergy, and they have moved away from each other and in some instances became involved in internal conspiracies against each other.

    Thirdly masses have been lacking political awareness and missing cultivation of democratic conduct. The nation has not been able to tell between the sincere and the duplicitous, and the incapable were assumed as leaders. They have been bearing all the injustices inflicted upon them, and have ignored all their misconduct thus obstructing the way of those who are sincere, capable and honest. Other than this, the nation has failed to act rationally and rise above the prejudices of state, nation and race. Administrative matters became muddled. Politics and knowledge came to a stand-still. People were no longer enthusiastic about the prospect of finding new ways; rather they were transfixed on sectarian and selfish interests. They have been lured by the western scams. And then fate bestowed upon us, leaders who either did not have the best interest of country at heart or who had an altogether different set of principles, which they tried to impose upon people.

    Consequently the people forgot the little they knew about themselves and became all confused and disheveled. If we look around ourselves, the nations that have made progress even though merely material advancement are the ones who haven’t let go of their individuality. While those following blindly and mindlessly were repressed just like us.

    The answer to all these problems is said to be democracy. Let us analyze our present situation with this view point too.

    One important aspect of the political history of present world is that democracy has been generally accepted as a better and popular system. Even the developing countries have adopted democracy as the system of government. Recently, the communist block has affirmed democracy as the guiding principle in their policy making. In our country too, except for the times of martial law, we are ruled by a parliamentary form of government.

    The basic principle of democracy is that the majority of public participates and is given due representation in the administration of matters of society and the state. And that the reforms be made with the unanimous approval and consent of all classes and the public. Democracy also recognizes the differences, and favors the formation of different classes, programs, groups, and factions. Democracy helps to put a boundary between accountability and the interests of different strata of society. In theory, it is an easy and most appropriate form of government but knowing from experience we know that there are many practical obstacles and hurdles and dangers in it. It is no easy job to formulate an effective, just and feasible democratic system.

    With respect to Pakistan, democracy is even harder to implement because of the formation of many power hubs due to the historical process. Regional, factional, religious, societal, geographical, and historical factors determine either the progression or the regression of our political life’s destiny. Any individual with an insight cannot ignore the fact that these factors affect our society both directly and indirectly. Also the illiteracy and backwardness of our majority cannot be overlooked.

    Unfortunately we have taken democracy as an unalterable holy text that cannot change with time and circumstances. We have closed all the doors of its evolution. We think that in order to achieve the higher objectives of democracy, we have to preserve it as it is at all costs. In- fact democracy has been gradually evolving, since the times of Greece’s democratic states to the parliamentarian system of West, it has passed through many developmental stages. Philosophers, thinkers, reformers and politicians, in fact people from all walks of life have been improving this system. No system with all its constituents can be affirmed as definitive as it would cause it to stagnate. Human mind is progressing through constant change which is persistent and unyielding. Any system bearing the merits of progress and efficiency, will be analyzing different sorts and come across new experiences. Surely it will be based on fundamental principles and life experiences.

    If we carefully examine the present democratic system, we come across different questions and slip-ups which are summarized as follows:

    The first question we ask is that what will determine the scale of majority and its representation. A person may win in any constituency with a slight majority and sometimes even the total amount of nominally cast votes might declare him as the winner because the votes are divided. Consequently a large number of voters are denied the right of representation.

    Very few segments of the society can succeed in the present electoral system, whereas a large number of people cannot be a part of this system due to different problems and complications.

    In this era of science and technology where we employ various scientific methods to make important decisions, we rely on the majority for critical decision making, even though the majority might not be able to comprehend the delicacy of matters. Instead of being thoroughly deliberated and reflected upon decisions that determine the fates of nations are inspired by slogans and emotions.

    We have also seen that almost half of the registered voters do not cast their votes at all, thus the represented opinion is actually representative of only a minority. Due to lack of education and knowledge, the casting voters do not know the essentials and importance of matters. There is no system to make the candidates acquainted and determine their eligibility, experience and education etc. In fact there is no method to define or analyze any capabilities whatsoever. In national and provincial assemblies where the representative constituencies are quite large this problem becomes more complex.

    It has been also observed that very often people only vote for a candidate belonging to their own specific area, group or province which creates various problems for the federation endangering the whole system to collapse. What we are in need of is that plans should be formulated to reform politics and system of the government so as to ensure that discrepancies can be ruled out and problems be sorted out. However, in our present democratic system, all our time and energies are devoted to the unnecessary frivolities of long pompous and ponderous speeches, public appearances and swanky images. And after the elections, attempts to keep the supporters happy and humiliating the opponents are the top priority proceedings. Thus our leaders are left with very less time to build or work for the nation and the country.

    The independent candidates become saleable commodities. Nobody abides by the pledges of loyalty to their respective parties. They are ready to grease anybody’s palm, even for the slightest hope of getting a position or monetary benefits. Whoever offers more money can have their souls. In our dear country, anybody found guilty of such despicable acts should be dealt with like ordinary thieves. They should be presented in the courts of civil magistrate and should be remanded to police custody. Confessions should be extorted out of them by all means. The embezzled money should be confiscated and deposited in the treasury. They should be sentenced to rigorous imprisonment for peddling public’s trust. Otherwise democracy will come to a standstill.

    Let us now review some suggestions for the evolution and improvement of this system, and we might as well be successful in making it better still.

    Parties should be restricted to nominate only a certain number of candidates from any region or province. In this way the parties who have a regional base will be discouraged. In the same way the ruling party should also be able to get at least a certain number of votes, from every region or province.

    The distribution of resources, whether between the provinces or districts or different classes of the country, should be done justly through a fair system. These principles should be formulated after reviewing them for their practicality and scientific application. They should not be compromised on the altar of personal or factional ego of a person or a group.

    Ministers should be allowed positions according to their experience and eligibility. Also they should be citizens with spotless character and their broad experience should guarantee success. Professional courses should be devised to instill in them legislative procedures and conventions. Parties should train their people to become capable of delivering their optimal performance and not giving the bureaucrats an eye for the chance, after taking up these ranks.

    The whole nation should be given education. It should extend over a period of at least twelve years, so as to elude partial illiteracy. During this time they should be made capable of becoming completely aware of their rights and duties. The elected government should be above partiality i.e. benefiting constituencies that voted in the government’s favor with development projects, and disregarding and paying no attention to the anti-government areas. There should be development plans on a plane for the whole country. Similarly public treasury should not be treated as the entitlement of ministers and party members who toss it away as their birth right. There should be no unfairness in allocations of jobs as well as business contracts and tenders. Similarly in all fields, the deserving should get what they deserve. Politicians should sit down with politics and management specialists to devise a system for bringing forth suggestions about the modification and evolvement of the present system of democracy in order to create such harmony and peace in the country which will ensure equal opportunities for all. And politics will once again become a tool of service to the people instead of a trade. It has been commonly observed that democratic process is brought to a halt for without any sound reason just because some hoodwinks, along with their cronies will insist on generating chaos, anarchy, hooliganism, murdering, plundering, plotting, scheming, aiding foreign interference and other such nasty tactics so that the common man is forced to become a mere spectator, whereas these hooligans achieve what they set out for; an unobstructed path between a common man and their vested interests. This give rise to duplicity and there seems to be no way out of it. A common man would want to bare their faces and expose these people who are pushing the country into an abyss of despair and disappointment, but sincere and capable people are forced to stand by and watch in helplessness. Eventually it happens so is that when the politicians are unable to fulfill their duties and when the masses are fed up with their actions, then establishment and the military takes control of the country, using political unrest as their excuse (which is genuine to an extent) and the others testing their lucks . It is obvious that this can only be a temporary solution and everybody is aware of its long term disadvantages, as it doubles up the duties of military and establishment, which can affect their performance too. After all, how can a non-elected body rule the country on long-term basis and that too successfully? Eventually we will have to device a system in this country. For how long will the people be hurled between the politicians and the army in order to get their requirements fulfilled which gives rise to injustices, disparities, bigotry, transgressions and violence, and we have been through this situation several times. At this point yours, mine’s and everybody’s duty commences. To think, that what can we possibly do is essentially WRONG. If you can get rid of governments and dissolve assemblies, take out rallies and cause conflict and strive for every wrong and right, then how can you be not held accountable for national development. Remember that we are reaping fruits of this kind of thinking. We cannot sit back and wait for some other beings to help us in our plight, because that is Not going to happen. You and I are going to take the country ahead towards progress and betterment with our little efforts. Friends! You are well aware of the fact that many a little makes a mickle. You all must have definitely observed that courage, perseverance and collective effort can fetch surprising results and still when you are given a chance to vote then why do we make the wrong decisions most of the time? There are many reasons for this, which are mostly related to our way of thinking and our national psyche. First of all, it has been statistically proven that about 50 to 60% of total aggregate do not even cast their vote! Keep in mind that this does not include the unregistered voters. Why this thoughtlessness? When the country’s fate is at stake, when the course of our lives is about to change, when our future generations are to be affected and when it is the matter of our pride and dignity among the nations of the world and we do not even bother to cast our votes, and that too without any lucid reason. I believe this is a big mistake, and you are neglecting a very major duty. You might say that the candidates are not competent and we are not satisfied with them. You are right that men of character have become a novelty and it has become hard to find good people. But we will have to find a solution, because if we don’t, then these incapable people will soon be holding the reins of our country. It is not fitting that you leave the field, open and undefended, so that these greedy, shrewd and immoral people can get a chance to come onward and rule. We will have to get over this weakness. We will have to demonstrate moral courage and the spirit of sacrificing otherwise the right to command shall remain with the unworthy. But if the state of affairs is such that all the candidates are formidable, compelling and not credible enough then in accordance with the Holy Prophet’s (p.b.u.h) Hadith, we acquire the lesser evil. If however it is due to thoughtlessness then for God’s sake change this attitude, and if it is due to fear and vulnerability then try to somehow overcome this state of fearfulness and helplessness. After all, all human beings are dependent on each other, in one way or another. No person can be all authoritative and commanding. This kind of might and supremacy is for Allah alone. This message is for those who do not cast their votes at all. You form such a huge majority therefore you should step in and you can play a role in bringing forward much better people, and surely by Allah’s will state of affairs will change. In this context another important thing to be mentioned is that casting vote is not the sole problem. Casting vote to the right and committed person is what matters. This your responsibility to bring forward in your meetings better people from different parties or people who in your opinion are worthier, even though they do not belong to any party. They should be of the right attitude and best bearing and they should be capable and should have all the traits of a leader. (As wrong-doing actually starts when political parties give tickets to incompetent people). You should hold competitions between better people. Apparently this is difficult to say that all the upright and virtuous people belong to the same party or organization and all the decadent and corrupt people to the other. But if you will, you can systematically bring forward the righteous and noble people from all the parties and promulgate basis for clean politics and healthy competition. There can be differences in view-points and their relevance but this does not mean that all will go awry. If we have a look at the developed nations where democratic process has sufficiently matured up, every party holds open conventions for the nominations of representatives before the elections and they give a lot of importance to these nominations. Let’s talk about people whose uncalled-for kindness result in the imposition of incapable people on us, who are a disaster for the country, its resources and its destiny, resulting in final destruction of all of us. Every human being has, at least, the basic sense of what is good and what is bad. Still we must evaluate the criteria of assessment of candidates. One thing I would like to state here is that our people have a very queer temperament. They are either in search of an angel, who is devoid of any flaw. However it is quite clear that, this perfection can only be attributed to Allah. Finding the most perfect person on human level is difficult indeed in a vast society. And this is a fact too that even the word ‘’insaan” (human) means imperfect and guilty at fault. Even the best amongst us can err, but this is where we shut our minds and are not ready to accept reality. We must take into account character of a man as a whole; if he steers clear of major sins, if he is trustworthy, capable, wise and fair, then we will have to ignore the minor wrong-doings. But when we fail to find our ideal idol, then we lose track of things in utter disappointment and we bow down to any vagabond and thug who comes forward to take charge of us and we follow them blindly. We reap as we sow. Actually the bit of evil we all have inside us also plays a part here. When we feel the urge to follow the wrong, we blame everything on the extinction of good people (which is not true!) If there are no more good people, this world will be destroyed. And when we suffer at the hands of the selected representatives, we start complaining and criticizing. But it is quite clear that how can you hope for any good from dishonest and characterless people Besides all this, three things affect the thinking and decision of the voters. The first and the most essential thing which we come across in our daily lives and most importantly during the days of the elections is group partiality, on the basis of which votes are casted. Many have written in favor of and many against this biased approach. A lot has already been written. Here I will only say that do fight for your rights but do not be prejudiced. Do not stoop to levels of injustice, violence and ignorance. Keep it in check. After all other men are your brothers. They too are humans like you. They too are comprised of good and bad just like you. Criteria should be based on merit not on prejudice. Factions, color, race, language, nationality and classes, they all constitute such fixations that we even forget injunctions of our Lord and our beloved Prophet (peace be upon him) and basic human values. Remember, even two groups can arrive on a decision in harmony and tackle affairs brilliantly, which will result in tangible and long-lasting mutual benefit. This can be achieved when members of both groups are men of character, principled and capable, who tackle their problems in a just and straightforward manner, even if the decision goes against their benefits. In such matters wrong thinking result in discord, disharmony and weakness which might result in sinking of the whole ship. What a logic it is that one of the onboard, drills a hole on the other side of the ship thinking that those on the other side will perish, but he will survive! Isn’t it obvious that when a ship sinks it takes down everything with it into the water; it doesn’t differentiate between this side and that side. To fight for our rights is the correct thing to do, but not at the cost of rebelling against Allah Almighty and His Prophet (P.B.U.H) and being unkind and pitiless towards others. Thirdly, keeping in mind our personal and timely gains also tend to affect whom do we choose to vote. Sometimes these gains are in the form of paper money. What should I say about that? It is pretty obvious that this action depicts a weak character, lack of intellect and greed and it gives a golden opportunity to swindlers and raiders of public resources. These people buy your precious votes for a meager amount, and after being positioned they consider it their birth right to loot the country’s treasury and top up their accounts relishing in their glory, while leaving us miserable in our own plight. The purpose of delivering this message to you is that the next time you cast your vote; you shall know the sacredness of it and the role it will be playing in deciding the future of our country. Please understand these guidelines, use them and spread this message to all those who are less fortunate and unaware.