State vs democracy

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  • The society in Pakistan at the moment presents a dismal political divide

Contemporary Pakistan rarely witnesses intellectual debates. One such debate is the state vs democracy debate. Pakistan has never seen such deep rooted polarisation in its society since before the country’s inception.

The society in Pakistan at the moment presents a dismal political divide. The stark contrast between the flouters of liberalism and the self-proclaimed standard bearers of conservatism is sheer. It was the Panama Papers debate that revealed this cleavage. The nation has since been either anti-institutions and pro-Nawaz or anti-Nawaz and pro-state. The question, however, is; why is no one pro-Pakistan? Why is no one willing to adopt that lens to view whatever is happening?

The Pakistani Knights Templars of democracy feel that it is them who must be viewed as intellectuals when it is exactly them who are not only confused themselves but spread confusion as well. To begin with, liberal democracy is an ideology. A man made system and subsequently has its flaws. If it were as sound as it is touted to be then why did Greece fail and continuous to do so over and over again? 17.5 million households in the United States were food insecure, one in six people face hunger and 41 million people face hunger in the world’s ‘greatest’ democracy.

On the other hand, the World Bank calculated that China successfully lifted 500 million people out of extreme poverty and the peoples’ republic currently has two percent of its population below the poverty line, with an economic trajectory that allows one to predict that it is possible to completely eradicate poverty in the country by 2020.

The US is democratic, China is communist, but it is the Chinese that have actually created more welfare for the people. Free speech and liberalism is all well and good, but as very aptly put by Maslow, basic needs such as food are more important and come before on his triangle before psychological needs and self-fulfillment needs.

The US is democratic, China is communist, but it is the Chinese that have actually created more welfare for the people

The question is not whether Pakistan has transitioned to enough democracy or not. The question is whether Pakistan’s policy makers and the establishment are driving it towards a trajectory that enables the state to achieve its national interest goals. Contrary to popular belief, national interest is not to be judged on the bases of what is pro a certain politician or anti state institutions.

National interest is the reason of the state. It is the state’s goals pertaining to military, economy or cultural. The aim of having those goals is to enhance the collective welfare of the people by securing the state internally and externally. That security may come in economic, military or both terms, in an intertwined manner. Therefore, national interest is not following an ideology rather it is those goals which once achieved will consequently increase the welfare of the people.

It follows from that, one must not harken for an ideology or a system, and one must be fluid in terms of accepting and changing the system as and when required. A certain system that suits Pakistan today may not suit it a century later. Once that happens, Pakistan shall still remain but the system must change. Pakistanis must be loyal to the state and not to politicians and ideologies. The state is here to stay. Ideologies and systems are tools that vary according to the given circumstances and must be used to elevate the status of people’s lives. They must not be worshipped. It is the state that is ‘God’s march on earth’.

Similarly, once this is understood, the Nawaz and anti-establishment narrative becomes clear. Nawaz was ousted for failing to satisfy the court regarding his source of income. Someone of that demeanor must not be allowed to ascend to the state’s top office. His ouster is not detrimental to the state. Only because the society adheres to corruption as an acceptable social practice does not mean that it should be allowed to take deeper roots. It must still be curbed.

However, the society must also allow space for a healthy debate. For now, the liberals themselves act as radicals. By being a liberal, you insinuate that you have the ability to accept an idea that is opposing to your own perception but in reality liberals do exactly what the conservatives do. Both try to impose their ideas down the other side’s throats. Both are equally guilty and equally detrimental for the society’s intellectual growth. Both have equally contributed to consistently shrinking debating space in the society.

Nawaz’s stance has created confusion in the society and increased political polarisation. It is the society that must now fight back. A group of people can transform into a nation if each member of the society put’s the nation’s collective interest above personal interest and above personal likes and dislikes. It is time for the people to start understanding what is happening in terms of what will increase of decrease collective welfare. Long live Pakistan!