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In search of a political party!

Are Muslim societies incapacitated to produce democratic politics?
12:00 AM Feb 11, 2024 IST | Mehmood ur Rashid
in search of a political party
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Elections is one thing, and elections in Pakistan is another. The country is in a political suspension; people’s verdict wrestles with the Establishment’s decision.

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There are two ends to any exercise of elections in Pakistan, one from below and another from high above. When the voter turn out is less, it is easier for the masters sitting above to play with the numbers. This time Imran Khan gave them difficult figures, so time needed to do maths.

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How a country rots, Pakistan is a fit case. How democracy, political parties, and efficient institutions are a gift of God for any country, just look at Pakistan. The crises in this country also reflect how brazen the global powers are when it comes to install a pliable regime.

Equally, how shameful the power elite becomes to retain control in a country. And it shows that the two can go to any extent, even if that means dismembering a county. But everything left aside, Pakistan’s electoral politics has become a laughing stock. Even ridiculous may have a strain of sanity in it.

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Is Pakistan, as a country, not fit for politics? Is democracy inherently in a state of clash with the kind of state Pakistan has emerged over the decades? Is this a country, or a power clique? Is this a piece of land where the external powers and the internal forces have permanently divided the stakes between themselves? Is this a country at all?

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For the moment, if one can turn the gaze away from Pakistan - its political parties, its military, its feudal lords, and its religious organisations; there is a deeper question staring in the eye.

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Are Muslim societies incapacitated to produce a democratic politics? Barring a country or two, the entire Muslim world is a barren land in terms of democratic politics. The Arab world is a real desert when it comes to democracy. The King, the prince and the royal family in all that is to the power in Saudi Arabia and other Sheikhdoms.

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From outside there is an impregnable ring called the United States of America. From Petroleum to holy precincts, everything belongs to the two. The devastation in Iraq, Syria, and Libya is a chilling reminder of what it means to any of the Arab-Muslim countries if the scheme is slightly disturbed. Look at Egypt. How the Army within, and the superpower without, sealed everything close for a democratic transition of power. Now Pakistan seems to move towards an Egypt like situation.

Give everything to Army, and forget all. Some other countries like Iran may have loosened the grip of external forces, but internally there are curbs on democracy. First the limits are set by a particular section of the society, the religious elite, and then democracy is allowed to go for an evening walk. It is like swimming pool politics; your limits are well set, and the water can any moment be drained off. Similar is now the case of Afghanistan under Taliban.

Like the rest of the world, why Muslim societies and Muslim countries couldn’t raise democratic structures? Why elections cannot happen in Muslim countries? There must be reasons for that, and there are.

Democratic politics, as we know today, is a western contribution. Well before the end of colonial period, the democratic politics started taking roots in the colonised countries. After these countries became free, political parties took the baton of democratic politics into their hands, and moved on.

The actual instrument of democratic politics in any society is a political party. Unfortunately Muslim societies could not throw up good, effective and democratic parties. Take the example of Pakistan. Pakistan was a political feat of a party called Muslim League under the leadership of Jinnah. But after the birth of this country, the party couldn’t last too long.

In fact, it looked like disparate elements, with vast stakes in the British India, had gathered around this party to ensure safety of their stakes. The rallying cry that brought people together was a sense of existential crisis of a minority as against a majority that was separated by religion. After this existential question was answered, the power elite in Pakistan was no longer in need of a political party. The Army came in, and politics went out.

Till today, this country is without a political party that could become the centre of power, and lay the foundations of a democratic politics. All the political parties in the fray have normalised the practice of making rotten compromises. There is no shame in sleeping with the Establishment, and there are no qualms in stirring the religious sensibilities.

Both are loathe to democratic politics. Muslim societies generally understand democratic politics as antithetical to Islam. And armies of the Muslim countries know that their interests and democratic politics are permanent enemies.

A Muslim country, like Pakistan, needs a political party that keeps Army away without any violent clash. Also, desists from religious rhetoric, refuses to peddle the narrative of religious organisations. Winning or not winning an election isn’t the actual contest.

Bottomline: In Pakistan even the mainstream media makes Imam Mahdi and return of the Jesus part of political discourse. From bloggers to preachers all create a sensation around this. In such an atmosphere can a genuine dialogue on democratic politics take root.

f you really want a democratic political party in a Muslim society, one that questions army as an institution, and also questions the religious narrative, carry your own cross!

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