Pakistan is in the news once again. As has been often, for wrong reasons. Pervez Musharraf, fearing an impending verdict from Supreme Court against his dictatorial role, imposed emergency, suspended constitution and gagged press and fundamental rights.
People have not forgotten, in spite of Pakistani rulers’ constant efforts, and sustained undemocratic practices, that this country was demanded and created to make it an Islamic country. It has been the yearning of the majority of Pakistanis to make it a truly and exemplary Islamic country. Had they succeeded in achieving their objective, it could have been shown to the world as how an Islamic democratic country works in the present times. But what did the world see? During last 60 years dictator after dictator was seen strutting across the political stage throwing to winds all civilized democratic norms. In Pakistan, sadly speaking, dictatorship was the rule and democracy exception. The unfortunate people of that country were never allowed to be benefited from the fruits of democratic governance by vested interests and their henchmen. This sorry state of affairs, seen in the perspective of lack of democracy in a majority of Muslim countries, has prompted some political observers to say that perhaps Muslims are genetically unfit for democracy.
Contrast this dismal Pakistani scenario with Indian scene, where a very vibrant democracy, no doubt with shortcomings, is at work. Freedom of expression, independent media, independent political parties and elections at scheduled times are the hallmark of Indian political system. Can’t the Pakistanis learn a lesson from this?
Islam was the first religion to stress the principle of governance by Shura or governance based on mutual consultation of people at a time when the world was infested with monarchies and hegemonies.
It was quite possible for Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings of Allah be with him) to appoint his successor but he intentionally left this matter to the good sense of believers. They, after free and open discussion and consultation, elected Abu Bakr as the first Caliph. Omar, the second Caliph, was nominated by Abu Bakr, on the basis of consensus which existed in society and everybody agreed to it as he was the best person available to shoulder the onerous responsibility. At the end of his ten and a half years long eventful tenure, Caliph Omar set up a council of six most eminent Companions to elect from among themselves the best person as Caliph. In this manner the third Caliph Usman was elected. After his death there was an environment of chaos and disorder. However Caliph Ali, the fourth and the last Rightly Guided Caliph, was elected with near consensus. Amir Muaviya took advantage of the chaotic situation, and most unfortunately, set a parallel caliphate. Caliph Ali’s end saw the end of Rightly Guided Caliphate and beginning of monarchy and rule of clan after clan. Up to now the Islamic world has not come out of this vicious circle.
Democracy made many strides in the West which influenced and strengthened the already existing basic democratic trends in Islamic political thinking. Unfortunately irresponsible rulers like Nasser, Hafiz al-Asad and now Musharraf have done great harm to development of true democratic Islamic governance in Muslim countries.
Musharraf’s recent move is a very bad omen for Pakistan’s future. It has set the clock back and opened doors of confrontation and instability in that already beleaguered country. It is yet to be seen whether the Pak judiciary, political parties, media and opinion makers take Musharraf’s challenge lying down or fight their case against repression and authoritarianism. India is not in a position to play any meaningful role to help its unfortunate neighbour.