Taimur Shaique Hussain It may not be entirely wrong to propound the theory that the average Pakistani may generally be rather unconcerned and indifferent to whether our government represents a democracy or otherwise, provided his life and livelihood are preserved and protected. While our champions of democracy incessantly drum upon having restored the peoples government to the people, a large cross-section of their electorate remains busy reminiscing fondly about the days spent under a so-called dictatorial regime. After all, that time period happened to be the one witnessing lesser inflation and greater GDP growth rate; lesser devaluation and greater industrial growth; lesser loadshedding and greater access to employment; lesser oil prices and greater returns on the stock bourse; lesser import bills and greater expatriate remittances; and lesser unruliness. Democracy in Pakistan does seem to appear the best revenge. However, it seems that the best revenge is directed by the government against an unsuspecting and quixotic 170 million people duped into electing representatives, who would later sell out to the US and bring about a situation akin to infighting and a civil war in our northern areas While certainly not criticising democracy per se, I suggest we explore the concept in greater detail. Is Pakistan ready and prepared for democracy? Does democracy appear a Western concept thoughtlessly superimposed upon Pakistan? Dont we need to shed off the half-baked solutions imported, as a result of donors stipulations and covenants, and rely more on homegrown solutions that address more squarely the issues faced by our average, everyday people? To start off, mere holding of periodic elections in quick succession in no way implies that a country has a truly democratic government. For instance, elections were being held regularly under Hosni Mubaraks regime in Egypt; however, there always existed large schisms of discontent, anger, and frustration among the populace. Through rigging and non-transparency, Mubarak continued to reign supreme for no less than 30 years, although he enjoyed no real support from the electorate. No wonder it took only a few days of protests by his people to overturn an autocratic government so openly backed by a power as mighty as the US Similarities could perhaps be drawn between the uprising in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, and Bahrain, and the increasing shows of discontent, such as the long march, civil society strife, and the momentous processions that forced the government to back off with regard to the reinstatement of the Chief Justice. The disillusionment among the youth, women, professionals, civil society, and marginalised sections of our people can probably not be illustrated better than this incident. Not to mention that over the ensuing period, the undercurrent of sentiment appears to have reached a boiling point. Our election day turnout during the previous elections was no more than 46 percent of the registered voters. Add to this, the tens of millions, who did not even bother to register themselves, and the percentage of actual voters among all those who were eligible may fall to a dismal 37 percent to 40 percent. Given the sympathy vote, as a result of Mohtarma Benazir Bhuttos tragic assassination and given the boycott of elections by parties, such as the PTI, our self-stated democracy appears to have sprung out of a very minor minority that actually bothered to step out and vote. Since about 60 percent of the eligible voters never did turn up, they were perhaps indicating none of the above as their first choice To revert to history, had we been a truly democratic nation, our leaders would have considered allowing East Pakistan to form the government, having based their decision on sheer poll numbers. However, even back then in 1971, we insisted on our own rule, which flew in the face of all democratic tenets, and ultimately led to the dismemberment of Pakistan. The majority of Pakistanis realise the factual status of democracy in our country. However, few are willing to call a spade a spade. Our ruling parties have repeatedly hijacked elections on polling day thereby hijacking not only the entire nation, but also the democratic process along with it. As a political statesperson recently remarked: Democracy shall only show its mettle in Pakistan, if the three main constituents function freely and in a transparent manner. These critical pillars are: (i) an independent judiciary, (ii) a free media, and (iii) a stand alone Election Commission. Unfortunately, Pakistan has yet to develop an autonomous Election Commission. Not only election for elections sake, but also a free, fair, and transparent electoral process is integral and essential in order for a country to graduate to true democracy. Please allow the scribe to raise the stakes a wee bit. The ruling party itself does not appear to be run democratically and the nation continues to wonder how it makes the people of our country believe that it has succeeded in returning us to democracy. Let me draw your attention to the piece of paper that had been produced under the attire of a signed, dated will to allow the husband to lead the party as Co-Chairperson. Names of children were changed to reflect the Bhutto identity in order that succession may be rendered easy in future. If the process were more transparent and democratic, perhaps several other deserving members would have emerged as the partys central leader, but they had initially been completely sidelined. It appears that the ruling party itself had been hijacked and transformed from a democratic group to a family cult During his recent address to a large, vociferous gathering at the Iqra University, in Karachi, Imran Khan answered in detail several questions about the present day so-called democratic government in our motherland, Pakistan. The core message of this essay has been culled from his responses, which pinpointed the widespread misperception that Pakistan is being governed democratically. It is time for us to realise that we live, as subjects of a regime with leanings towards autocracy. Indeed, our leaders have only brought about an eyewash and a sham under the garb of governance by the people and for the people. The writer is a freelance columnist. Email: taimurtsh@gmail.com