Credible ballot drives democracy, in the absence of it democracy is a farce. Pakistan was created by the power of vote and only it can sustain it. The founding fathers of the country were all elected, including the founder Muhammad Ali Jinnah himself. Though periods of true democracy have been short (1947 – 1958, 1971- 1977) yet the democratic spirit of the people has survived. Khaki dictators and their turn coats have been repeatedly toppled by the people through street power but they have managed to come back again and again.
In its 70 years of existence Pakistan has managed to hold just one free and fair election in 1970 while ten of them have been rigged since then. Why is the collective wisdom and will of the people not allowed to prevail? It seems there is a status-quo strangle hold to stall a credible ballot. The electoral exercise in 1970 was both unexpected and unmanageable for the country and its rulers. The mandate was over whelming against the forces of stagnation. Post-election mismanagement resulted in the dismemberment of Quaid’s Pakistan. Bangladesh emerged as a sovereign country on the world map. My father the worker of the Pakistan Movement was devastated. It was a serious detour in his journey to freedom.
The 1973 constitution laid the basis for people’s power to prevail but it was short lived. On July 05, 1977, the first elected Prime Minister (PM) was over thrown. It did not end here. Despite the promise to hold elections within ninety days as stipulated in the constitution, Zia stretched his misrule to eleven years and two months till he was blown in mid air for his misdeeds. No institution came to the defense of the constitution. After eliminating the PM through a flawed judicial process, Zia then started to disfigure the sacred document. He amended the constitution at will, which resulted in confusion and turmoil that has continued till today.
A constitution is an agreement between the ruled and the rulers, which both sides are duty bound to follow. Unfortunately the establishment has always considered itself above this sacred document. That is why Pakistan is one of the few countries with four constitutions. It took the founding fathers nine years to frame the constitution in 1956 which was abrogated in 1958 by the first usurper who imposed his own version in 1962 which was an insulting piece of paper. While the constitution of the United States of America clearly says that ‘We the people enact the following clauses for the state institutions to follow, Khan Sahib’s document imposes itself saying, “I Field Marshal Ayub Khan hereby promulgate this constitution.” It is perhaps the most unique and most worthless legislation even imposed on a nation.
The two Khaki dictators and their tailcoats after the promulgation of the unanimous 1973 constitution have tried their best to disfigure this article of faith but it has survived. However, it has not been able to deliver a credible ballot. It has been abused ten times between 1977 to 2013 through manipulated elections and two fake referendums by Zia and Musharraf.
Quaid-e-Azam negotiated freedom from the colonial masters but it was short lived. After his death in 1948 and assassination of Liaquat Ali Khan in 1951, the colonial establishment decided to curb the will of the people. Khakis, qazis and baboos all got together to derail the democratic process which has continued unabated but with a slight twist. The two main political parties signed the Charter of Democracy (COD) mainly to confront the establishment which relied on the policy of divide and rule. Now there are two forces within the fortress of status-quo, one controlled by COD while the other by GHQ. The will of the people has been further diluted as they have to fight on two fronts. (status-quo jamhoori plus status-quo sarkari). In 1970, it was a two-way fight between “jamhooori” versus “sarkari”. The battle lines were clearly drawn which have now become fuzzy.
As a nation our journey to freedom continues for which the course of democracy has been chosen. In 1958, Ayub Khan crossed the line by imposing the strangle hold of the status-quo which we as students challenged. Yahya Khan’s gamble of free and fair election proved to be disastrous. Zia wanted to neutralise democratic gains between 1971 and 1977. He not only weakened the civilian institutions but also disfigured the constitution. Even religion was exploited for his personal gains. “Jamhoori status-quo” was also his brain child which has now turned into the democratic wing of this, evil empire. Musharraf introduced “enlightened moderation” and created his own brand of “jamhoori status-quo” led by the Chaudhris of Gujrat. The will of the people was not on their agenda.
Civil society joined the lawyers movement in hopes of rule of law and constitution. Judiciary should now live up to the nations expectations with defense of the constitution. It must be a custodian of human rights as enshrined in the document. As a voter I have stood in long queues ten times to exercise my right to vote for an honest able leadership that is needed to lead the nation in the 21st century. Instead of respecting my mandate, the forces of status-quo have repeatedly manipulated it. The laid down constitutional procedure has not been followed. There has been no check or accountability of this infringement of human rights. Election petitions are decided after the expiry of the term and no one seems concerned.
Without major electoral reforms there can be no credible ballot. In 1970 the Khakis ensured free and fair election. Now the Qazis, Khakis and Baboos can team up to deliver another meaningful electoral exercise as per the constitution shutting the doors on this evil “jamhoori status-quo” that they once created. This stranglehold on ballot will ultimately lead to bullets and bloodshed which should be avoided. Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto (ZAB) remarked that River Indus would turn red if he was assassinated, it did not at that time but it may happen now if the will of the people is continually denied. Indeed democracy is the best revenge but not without a credible ballot.