Democracy Plus Formula
by Javed Malik
A lot is being written and said about the various
minus and plus formulas, mostly aimed at the president. However, I don’t
think that any of these formulas offer a democratic outcome. All they seem
to be doing is adding further confusion to an already perplexing political
scenario by suggesting a reversal of the democratic process.
Those, who float such formulas, must not forget that
the present system has been achieved through a collective struggle against
dictatorship. The political parties were not alone in this struggle, it
also included the civil society, the lawyers and the media. We were all
united in a historic movement that paved the way for democracy in Pakistan
and made the restoration of deposed judges possible. Therefore, we all
have a stake in the continuity of the present system.
It may not be perfect, but at the very least it is
democratic. However, it can also be said that despite this change many of
the expectations from system are yet to be fulfilled. The 17th Amendment
still lingers as an ugly reminder of the Musharraf era and we are yet to
implement the Charter of Democracy. There is also growing frustration over
the law and order situation, the erratic load shedding, and a catalogue of
crises both internal and external. Some might say that better governance
could have resulted in more ‘visible’ changes that democracy can bring
to a common man’s life.
But does that mean we should start floating formulas
and conspiracy theories that seek to destabilize the system? Would it not
be better if we focus our energies on exerting pressure on the political
leadership to do more in delivering on their commitments? We can
criticize. We can disagree. We can even point out their mistakes. We can
urge them to improve their governance. We can propose alternatives that
offer better solutions to the problems that face the common man. We can do
all that and more because we have democracy. We also have a vibrant and
fearless media. Our judiciary is independent. These are positive outcomes
of a successful and historic movement.
In other words, the present system is the result of
our “collective efforts” and therefore should be protected. It would
not be wise to allow ourselves to be pulled into the vicious circle of
conspiracies and intrigues that are being floated through these minus and
As a television journalist I often speak to various
political leaders. A few days ago I spoke to Nawaz Sharif, and he seemed
very clear that those floating such conspiracies do not mean well for
democracy. “I do not believe in the minus one formula,” he told me.
This may have surprised many political observers who expect him to take a
more radical stand against Zardari. They argue that his stance is not only
hurting his popularity, but also giving his party labels like ‘friendly
opposition’. Maybe they have a point, but as a visionary leader Nawaz
Sharif can see beyond this short-term view. He realizes this is not the
time to play popular politics, and today Pakistan needs stability more
than anything else.
Our brave armed forces are engaged in a battle
against extremism and we cannot afford further political instability. In
my view, Nawaz Sharif’s stance represents the sort of positive politics
that Pakistan needs at this time when leaders have to look beyond their
own political gain and put national interest before their own. However, as
he continued to speak I could also sense some disappointment in his voice
too, particularly when he spoke about the Charter of Democracy that he had
signed with Benazir Bhutto. He still maintains that implementations of CoD
is the correct way forward.
I also had the opportunity of speaking with President
Zardari a few days back, although our conversation was brief, but having
known him before and after he became president, I know that he has also
expressed his commitment to the Charter of Democracy more than once. As a
leader of Pakistan’s largest political party he also understands that
expectations from his government are at an all time high and people expect
this democratic government to deliver not just for its own sake but also
for the sake of democracy.
Destiny has placed this responsibility on both these
leaders to ensure that democracy delivers for Pakistan. They lead
Pakistan’s biggest political parties, and owe to the nation to make it
happen. I am confident that they understand this reality, and that’s why
despite the hiccups, they have maintained some form of contact. They are
expected to meet again in the coming days, and this meeting can determine
the future of democracy in Pakistan. But this time they both know that
just a meeting would not be enough, and people would expect a break
through. They can seize this opportunity to resume their journey towards a
building a national agenda that is aimed at addressing the challenges
The Charter of Democracy provides an ideal starting
point for this journey to begin but more would have to be done to show the
people that democracy can really improve the quality of their lives. It
should be seen to be resolving the challenges that face them on a daily
basis. We all know what these challenges are and I will not repeat them
here. But I will talk about opportunities. People also expect democracy to
create opportunities for better education, employment and healthcare.
A recent survey by British Council suggests that our
youngsters feel despondent. Such feelings should not be allowed to simmer.
Despondency must be replaced with hope. This hope can come from a culture
of positive politics. The PPP and PML-N, as the two largest parties can
lead the way for this positive political culture. That is the only way in
which the “formula mongers” can be silenced.
Javed Malik is a television journalist and Executive Director of The World Forum. He can be reached on JavedMalik78@yahoo.com