By Shahid Zafar (Mulkhow)
Benjamin Franklin, a well-known physicist, writer and reputed politician of his time once said that democracy is a balloon filled with air and thrown into the air purposefully, to attract the attention of the masses. The balloon hovers above for five years and constantly attracts their attention and keeps them busy while politicians do their usual business. He was of this view while he was living in the 19th century.
The country of Benjamin, America, did move from that phase of democracy and got a new definition from Abraham Lincoln, who abolished slavery, that “democracy is a form of government which is of the people, by the people and for the people.” Literally speaking, people of America applied this form of democracy and now America is the sole superpower of the modern world.
On the other hand, the Europeans before their uprise fought two destructive wars against one another along their borders as well as on foreign territories. The European empires like Great Britain, France and Italy expanded their boundaries and colonized many parts of the world. They democratized, industrialized and educated their own countries but wilfully kept the colonies backwards save a reserved class of people.
And after the World War 2, the Great Britain decided to give independence to the colonies. She divided the area which has come into our lot into two new countries-Pakistan and India. The British had established a form of democracy which suited only the interests of the elite class of people which the masters had raised for their own services. They knew that one day they will have to leave India, so they developed a class of people, granted them lands and other privileges so that they might remain loyal to the empire even after their departure from India.
When Pakistan got independence on August 14, 1947, these so-called elites became the champions of democracy and got control of the political parties. But unfortunately, from the core of their hearts, they were still loyal to the British empire and were trained in such a way that they couldn’t emancipate themselves from the slavish mindset.
Hence they borrowed a form of the political system for this the newly born country which suited their vested interests. As approximately 70% of the total population was illiterate and were vulnerable to any kind of persuasions, and could easily be moulded according to the master’s desires. This opened the gates of the new show of politics in this country which I call “POLITICAL CIRCUS.” A few families controlled whole of the power and became masters of the show.
During the first nine years of the adolescent country, the legislative assembly passed laws such as public safety act (1949) and security of Pakistan act in order to press criticism, instead of paving constitution for the country which was their primary obligation. Under these acts, the government started to strangle freedom of expression.
According to Justice Munir ’s report, about 31 newspapers were banned in Punjab and 15 were asked to furnish their securities. Many renowned writers such as Faiz Ahmad Faiz (Editor of daily Imroz) and Abdu Salam (Editor of Pakistan Observer) were arrested on criticizing the government.
Because of the inability of the politicians a vacuum of power was created and the army came to fill that vacuum in the form of first martial law imposed on October 28, 1958, by Gen Ayub Khan. Politicians of that time joined Ayub Khan and ruled the country but when they felt that Ayub Khan was no more capable of safeguarding their vested interests mass protests were organized against him which eventually forced him to transfer the powers to the then Army Chief Gen. Yahya Khan.
Yahya Khan’s era was in many ways better than his predecessors. He did many good jobs like the abolishment of censorship and releasing of the journalists who had been captivated in during the previous era and conducted elections within four weeks of his coming into the power. This election is considered to be the freest and fair election in the entire history of Pakistan, but it created a political deadlock between two major parties which eventually led to armed resistance in East Pakistan and to counter it Pakistan army was ordered to start a military operation. Thousands of civilians were displaced to which India gave justification for her intervention and Dec 16, 1971, Pakistan army surrendered to Indian forces and Bangladesh proclaimed independence.
After that untoward incident, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto took oath as the next prime minister of remaining Pakistan. He gave the constitution of 1973, yet his era is also marked as an era of political killings, torture, corruption, and nepotism. He was overthrown by the then army general Mr Ziaul Haq in July 1977 and the nation experienced a culture of drugs and Klaphake.” Zamir Niazi calls this era as a ‘dark tunnel ‘ for press freedom (1977-1988).
Upon the time politicians were landlords and power circled around them as they had vote banks in the form of serfs (Mazari). Zia introduced businessmen into politics and due to this advancement money started deciding the future of politics and also of political parties. A new face Nawaz Sharif, appeared on the horizon of politics. After Bhutto’s death, people’s Party was now chaired by his daughter Benazir Bhutto. From 88 to 99 politics of abuse was introduced in the country. People call it the politics of the 90’s. little attention was paid to the welfare of the masses and much of the time was spent on corruption, malpractices and abusing political rivals. Presidents using article 58-2b (introduced by Gen. Zia) sent home four consecutive governments.
On October 12, 1999, Gen Musharaf, the then Army chief dethroned Nawaz Sharif and politics of the country took another turn. America along with many hostile nations came to Afghanistan and resultantly the terrorists fleeing from Afghanistan took sanctuaries in our tribal areas and hence army was sent to there due to which terrorists attacked our cities and we not only lost thousands of precious lives but destroyed our trillions of dollars and infrastructure. During the election campaign of 2007, Benazir Bhutto was assassinated on Dec 27, 2007, which swept the results of 2008 elections in the favour of people’s party and a new phase of corruption, favouritism was started under the leadership of Asif Ali Zardari, then came back Nawaz Sharif started the traditional political show. His party did myriads of projects except for anything for the welfare of the poor masses. The people remained as they were, mere spectators and the political show went on, till Nawaz was sent home by the judiciary for his mal-practices in the national exchequer but the government completed her tenure of five years.
Another election has been taken place and these parties are prepared for yet another show: some in form of government and some in the form of opposition. We will enjoy the show because it is need of the time that the show must go on.
After seven decades the people have opted for new faces to represent them and we should be optimistic but our past experiences don’t allow us to be so. Let’s see what this new phase of the show brings to us.