The wild swing between true democracy and true caliphate

The wild swing between true democracy and true caliphate

Haroon Riaz

5:50 PM | December 13, 2014


If you were struggling to achieve true democracy, you would assume that you would stand for nothing less than the achievement of principles of fundamental rights, individual freedom and a representative form of government.

However, what if you were not able to achieve all this by winning an election? Would you abandon these principles?  

You cannot blame most people in Pakistan for being cynical about democracy. They have been brought up believing that the Islamic Caliphate is the best system of governance. They have never consciously explored the possibility that the reason why Pakistan is a republic is that democracy is a superior system of government.

However, not everyone is so confused and clearly sees the evils of freedom that democracy can provide for. This is why these clear minded individuals oppose democracy in “all forms and manifestations”, in the words of the most democratic dictator in the history of Pakistan. These individuals, who have very little tolerance for nonsense, want nothing less than Shariah for Pakistan.

Curiously, Pakistanis torn between democracy and Shariah would find people supporting both secularism and a Taliban-like Caliphate as extremists.

While their contentment with the middle-of-the-road Islamic Republic solution seems to be the best choice for Pakistani people, it involves a number of problems. The unquestionable Islamic Republic that is supposed to ensure the safety of its infidel subjects is not so safe for them under the watchful eye of the law after all.

Which brings us to the cycle of complete refusal to apply the most rudimentary logic when it comes to questioning the Islamic provisions in the law and the constitution.

So when you see this pattern of behavior among many young PTI supporters, it is not hard to read the thought process behind it. Infatuated with their Caliph-like Messiah figure, they are not willing to accept any form of democracy that does not offer their leader as the head of state.

So while they are on the right track of protesting against an authoritarian government that violates the constitution, you cannot be sure if they are addressing the root of the problem. Unless the right Messiah is heading an elected government, democracy would not be fit as a system of governance for many among them.

I love Batman and Moses stories too, but unless we clear up our delusions about Messianic politics, we are never going to get what we are pretending to pursue. The definition of True Democracy in the minds of this confused political group is as elusive and cryptic as the expression “True Islam.”

Conveniently, their version of True Democracy only requires an honest leader at the top and fair elections, though I really admire the protesting circles for raising voice against unconstitutional state violence following the PAT Model Town incident. No one is denying the pursuit of these virtues. However, most people would shy away from the idea that True Democracy can only guarantee fundamental rights with the separation of Church and State. 

They shy away from the idea that a theocratic republic is not going to nurture democratic values, but would actually be everything contrary to it. So it’s no surprise that in the face of unfavorable election results, you would hear the old adage, or rather myth, that the likes of our military establishment and their autocratic predecessors popularized in India. Democracy and liberty are not fit for the people of this region. 

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