Athar Osama August 3rd, 2007
By: Athar Osama
Just over an year ago, Pakistan’s two democratically elected Prime Ministers of the last decade–Ms. Benazir Bhutto and Mian Nawaz Sharif–signed a Charter of Democracy (Please take a few minutes to read the text of the document below) in London vowing to wage a joint struggle against military dictatorship in Pakistan. The Charter–a document, though with its own faults and failings, is perhaps one of the finest Charters of anything ever developed by Pakistani politicians, and thus deserves to be studied in its entirey and digested–was welcomed, albeit with some bit of skepticism by most political observers and perhaps even the general public in Pakistan. After all, it was these very leaders who were atleast partially responsible for giving the Army an opportunity to step into politics. At the time of the signing of the Charter they had argued, and many took their words on face value, that they have become wiser today than they were yesterday and that they deserved a second (third?) chance to bring real and meaningful democracy back to Pakistan’s politics.
Like many others, I too, was willing to give them a third chance, if only because there was no other alternative. However, deep down in my heart, I was very skeptical of how comprehensive and thorough their “education” in democratic values has been. True, adversity is a great teacher but our politicians have repeatedly shown a tendency not to learn from their own mistakes and Nawaz and Benazir were probably no exceptions. I was concerned that this alliance between these leaders was only temporary in the sense that once either of them came to power, he or she will forget all the lofty democratic values expressed in this Charter. Transplanting meaningful and stable democracy in Pakistan requires not only that our learders learn how to handle the “power” of the government (”absolute power corrupts absolutely!”) but also that they learn how to sit on the opposition benches and engage constructively, critically, and meaningfully with the government. Above all, it requires a certain temperament that will only come when our leaders will truly understand what democracy really is–as a system–and develop the right democratic values to sustain and nourish it.
Of course I was totally wrong in predicting that either of the two leaders are likely to renege on the demands of the Charter once they got back into power for little did I know that I would be writing an obituary of the Charter of Democracy even before elections would be held in Pakistan.