Pakistan, India and the value of democracy

September 12, 2010

gilani kayaniOf the many comments I heard in Pakistan, one question particularly flummoxed me. Was democracy really the right system for South Asia?  It came, unsurprisingly, from someone sympathetic to the military, and was couched in a comparison between Pakistan and India.

What had India achieved, he asked, with its long years of near-uninterrupted democracy, to reduce the gap between rich and poor?  What of the Maoist rebellion eating away at its heartland? Its desperate poverty? The human rights abuses from Kashmir to Manipur, when Indian forces were called in to quell separatist revolts? Maybe, he said, democracy was just not suited to countries like India and Pakistan.

The question surprised me, in part because I had never really been forced before to defend democracy, possibly because in the West we take it so much for granted that we have forgotten why it matters. It also surprised me for the sheer conviction of the sentiment.

In Pakistan, this is not a mere academic debate. Just last week, Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani said there was no threat to democracy and the army had no intention of taking power. Yet the very fact he had to say so at all spoke of deep disquiet in the country over the civilian government’s handling of Pakistan’s floods, which with it has brought new mutterings of an eventual return to military rule.

“Why the prime minister needed to hammer this point home once again could be anybody’s guess,” the Daily Times said in an editorial. “The diminishing returns of a corrupt and incompetent democracy are leading to the inescapable suspicion that something is in the air, in the possible shape of an anti-democratic intervention.”

To be clear, there is no sign of an imminent military coup. The army neither wants to, nor needs to take power, since it already calls the shots on the issues that matter to it — foreign and security policy.  But equally, the army’s lead role in flood relief has  increased its clout and encouraged misgivings about the value of democracy which could act as a slow-burning fuse if the civilian government is not able to improve its performance. And according to some, it is a slow-burning fuse lit by the military itself — or by what Dawn columnist Cyril Almedia calls the 800-pound gorilla of Pakistani politics, the army.

Democracy must deliver or else, seems to be the refrain currently gripping Pakistan. So far, however, few have spelled out the value of democracy, nor for that matter said precisely what they mean by  “or else”.

To return to the original question then, what has democracy brought to India in terms of reducing the gap between rich and poor that has been more effective than in frequently non-democratic Pakistan? (Let’s leave aside for the moment questions of global standing, or of Pakistan’s problems with Islamist militants which deserve a separate discussion).

One answer, perhaps, lies in the attitude of one of the Indian system’s fiercest critics, Arundathi Roy. In this lengthy piece about Indian poverty, Maoism and the country’s marginalised tribal people, she lays bare many of the failings of India that are frequently cited by Pakistanis when they compare themselves to their much bigger and ostensibly more successful neighbour.  

Her conclusion, however, is that the fault lies not with democracy itself, but in a lack of democracy. The Indian system, she argues, had been hijacked by economic liberalisation which handed power to big corporate interests, including mining companies seeking to operate in the country’s forested, jungle interiors which are home to India’s tribal people.  And whatever you might think of her argument, her answer lies in what she sees as a more just and democratic representation of the needs of the people, one she believes is possible in India.

“Here in India, even in the midst of all the violence and greed, there is still immense hope. If anyone can do it, we can do it.” she writes.  ”The first step towards re-imagining a world gone terribly wrong would be to stop the annihilation of those who have a different imagination—an imagination that is outside of capitalism as well as communism. An imagination which has an altogether different understanding of what constitutes happiness and fulfilment.”

In other words, as I should have said to the Pakistani who asked me whether democracy was suited to South Asia, you should not conflate capitalism with democracy. True, capitalism and democracy developed hand-in-hand in the West, but at the very least I could have argued that the inadequacies of one are not identical to the failings of the other.

Pakistan, probably more than India, has an acute historical sense of itself as a country set up to promote social and economic justice.  Its ideological father, the poet-philosopher Muhammad Iqbal, was convinced that social democracy would never work in a Hindu-dominated caste-based India and that only in a separate Muslim nation could the egalitarian principles of Islam be put into practice.

“It is clear to my mind that if Hinduism accepts social democracy, it must cease to be Hinduism,” he wrote in a letter to Pakistan’s founder, Muhammad Ali Jinnah, in 1937. “For Islam, the acceptance of social democracy in some suitable form and consistent with the legal principles of Islam is not a revolution but a return to the original purity of Islam.”

His ideas, however, were rooted in the idealism of the early 20th century, when sweeping change from communism to fascism was promoted to build a fairer society.  Consider, for example, the following comments he made in a letter in 1933 in answer to a query from a scholar about Islamic economics. ”I would suggest that you should make careful study of the ideas of Mussolini,” he wrote. ”The essence of  Islamic Economics is to render the growth of large capitals impossible. Mussolini and Hitler think in the same way. Bolshevism has gone to the extreme of abolishing capitalism altogether.  In all aspects of life, Islam always takes the middle course.”

He was not alone in admiring the Italian dictator Benito Mussolini – even British wartime leader Winston Churchill once spoke warmly of him. But while the horrors of World War Two convinced western Europe to abandon grand plans and get on with the muddled and sometimes unsatisfying  business of democracy, Pakistan has retained a tendency to look for an all-encompassing solution to its problems.  Sometimes that has meant looking to military rule; at others to a strict interpretation of Islam.

For now, it is muddling through with democracy – not the pristine one envisaged by Iqbal – but an altogether messier one led by an accidental and unpopular president, Asif Ali Zardari.  It is unclear now how long that democracy will survive.  What did strike me, however, from the question on whether democracy is suited to South Asia, is how shallow its roots are.

(File photo of army chief, General Ashfaq Pervez Kayani saluting Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani)

83 comments

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” Democracy is the worst form of government except for all those others that have been tried. ” Churchill

I have yet to hear the many critics of democracy, Indian democracy in particular, offer an alternative.

Posted by DaraIndia | Report as abusive

“It is clear to my mind that if Hinduism accepts social democracy, it must cease to be Hinduism,”

as a matter of fact this situation of social democracy is far more worse in Pakistan where every non-muslim is treated as an animal to be slaughtered.

Whereas in India hindus as they are getting modern education and with new generation being incharge the social democracy is getting firmer. The new laws in making of making land owner as stake holder in industrial projects will have a very lasting effect and will cut roots of all maoism in time to come. Only trouble is the population and muslim leaders rigidly holding onto religion when they should be holding onto fellow muslims and should be trying to improve their lives through child birth control measures and therefore contribute to the nation. And people in India not even think about any other system than democracy. Ask any Indian what he thinks of politics and he will show his anger in full force to u but ask him if wants any alternative to democracy, he wont be able to even imagine it. Indians are very passionate of their democracy however muddy or messy it is.

Whatever thoughts Jinnah had for both India and Pakistan, had both gone horribly wrong. Good for India but Bad for Pakistan (at least in current situation).

Posted by 777xxx777 | Report as abusive

[...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by pragmatic_desi and Rohit Pradhan, Bloody Democracy. Bloody Democracy said: Pakistan, India and the value of democracy http://bit.ly/b4eYhx [...]

Democracy in India does not compare with that in the developed Western nations. It has its own unique flavor. I can compare the roads in India to those in the developed West. In Indian roads one sees pedestrians, bicycles, bullock carts, cows, old trucks, motor bikes, cars, beggars and everything is on a slow move with constant honks filling the background. In Western roads, one finds clean and spotless quality with honks seldom heard, modern vehicles going much faster. Both are transportation systems. But they appear vastly different.

What matters is the exercise. India has not achieved full maturity in democracy. It will probably take a couple of centuries to get to that level. But the exercise cannot be given up because it does not resemble that in developed nations which have dabbled with it for more than two hundred years.

For democracy to thrive, all one needs is wisdom. One does not have to be literate or elitist. The poor man in India has enough political wisdom to throw out candidates. Through a persistent exercise, Indian democracy has reached a somewhat elementary school level from kindergarten. Until about twenty years ago, one family and one political party dominated the Indian political scene. It was much like Pakistan being under military rule and a preference for it by Pakistanis for lack of alternatives.

I’d say that the Nehru dynasty simply mothered Indian democracy until it could crawl and move on its own. Now there are regional parties that have taken on the stage at the center and coalition governments have become the norm. In the 1970s, regional parties had no clout at the center. At the state level, dynastic politics still continues. But with more economic progress, this should change.

India has vast variation in terms of development on one side and utter backwardness on the other. The Maoist issue has arisen mostly due to political neglect and utter backwardness in those states. Like Arundhati Roy says, the barrel of the gun will not subdue it. But it is all part of the overall mosaic.

Democracy in India has gained some kind of momentum. No one can take away people’s right anymore. Many oppressed communities like Dalits and Muslims have realized the power of voter blocks. They vote en masse and politicians want their votes.

In Pakistan, cold war geo-politics wiped out the roots of democracy. The US always prefers dictators in other countries for quick returns. Its business like attitude has destroyed many small countries. Pakistan became a victim of American geo-politics. The US encouraged and supported Pakistani military generals, showered them with state of the art weapons, turned a blind eye to their regional ambitions and never helped democracy take root. A military that had become blood thirsty will never allow any other system to take its power away.

Pakistan has the same type of people as India does. If India managed to keep its democratic system alive all the way through, Pakistanis are fully capable of the same. It is just that they were in the wrong place at the wrong time. Sixty years later, one cannot simply plug in democracy there and expect it to mature fast. The foundations for that have been destroyed. Though Pakistan sports a democratic government, it is its military that is the real power.

Corruption is a big menace in Indian politics. But we have not given up on our democracy. It definitely has become better compared to before. We’ll run along this road filled with bullock carts, cows, bicycles, pedestrians, beggars, luxury cars, auto rikshaws, buses and old trucks. We know there are many pot holes everywhere. But with time, things will improve.

A shoddy democracy is better than no democracy at all.

Posted by KPSingh01 | Report as abusive

@Singh,

Your piece on democracy is spot on. Democracy provides a vehicle and a process framework by which legitimate issues that are important to the people can be addressed in an official and transparent manner.

Democracy is not perfect by any means, anywhere, it is also prone to hijacking by special interests, corporations, the elite and so forth, a cabal of filthy few at the top, but still, it is the best that we have, in terms of stable and fair governance, where the people have to vote and thereby are engaged in the process directly.

In a trillion years, I choose democracy over communism, theocracy, tyranny or military junta rule. There truly is no comparision, despite concurrent issues and interests and despite the wealth of all parties involved, one can always rise above, if they apply effort, campaign, organize and bring out the voters.

Right now, democracy, whatever form it is hijacked in Pakistan by the ruling interests, and the people are left to choose from these corrupt institutions and lack the depth and education to generate their own political strength or awakening from within.

The only way the people from Pakistan can rise above, is if they educate themselves and take a few steps back from the state propaganda and take many more steps back from the religious propaganda, that they have structered their lives around.

As far as democracy goes, Pakistan does not have even a shoddy democracy, it is something far less than that even, it just has a facade that the ruling elites like to call democracy, just to maintain some form of public legitimacy in the larger international forum.

Pakistan at the end of the day, is a military junta, that uses religion to keep its grip on the people, any public show of democracy there is just a side experiment to keep westerners happy, so the money keeps coming in.

Posted by G-W | Report as abusive

[...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by pragmatic_desi, Rohit Pradhan, Atin Bhattacharya, Beth Misenhimer, N.James and others. N.James said: RT @pragmatic_d: @Retributions @primary_red http://is.gd/f75Hq [...]

KPSingh Says :Pakistan has the same kind of people as India has.

This is not right. India is majority Hindus. Pakistan has driven out, converted, killed the 24% hindus at the time of partition and is now completely Muslim. Hindus are very different from muslims and one can see the results of that in their respective countries.

Posted by rrdas | Report as abusive

rrdas: “This is not right. India is majority Hindus. Pakistan has driven out, converted, killed the 24% hindus at the time of partition and is now completely Muslim. Hindus are very different from muslims and one can see the results of that in their respective countries.”

The same blood runs in the veins of all people of the sub-continent, whether they converted or not. Culturally there are lot of similarities and democracy relies more on culture than religion. Islamic radicalism has wreaked havoc in Pakistan. But Pakistan is trying to come out of it on its own. It has a lot of priority tasks to complete before even deciding which system of governance is best. Without economy, no system will work. During the 1980s there was a conscious effort to make Pakistan more Middle Eastern culture than Indian. And Middle Eastern cultures have mostly autocracy. It is the Indian aspect in Pakistanis that have kept their country alive even today. It all depends on what they choose for their future. If they try to distance themselves more from their Indian roots, they will fall into the hands of radicalism. For India’s vast diversity, democracy is the only way to run the country. Any other method of governance would have led to more civil wars and splintering up of the country. If Pakistan has to stay together as one nation, they need to embrace democracy wholeheartedly. Their military has only built the infrastructure for destruction. If they rely on their military in the long term, Pakistan may not exist as one nation for too long.

Posted by KPSingh01 | Report as abusive

“What of the Maoist rebellion eating away at its heartland? Its desperate poverty? The human rights abuses from Kashmir to Manipur, when Indian forces were called in to quell separatist revolts? ”

Are these problems of democracy? If India were theocratic or autocratic or communist or under military rule or a dictatorship, would these have not been there?

No matter what system one follows there will always be inequality.

My question still remains for all who criticize this system – what is a better alternative and how and where have all the problems of all the people been solved? Please lead us to Utopia and Camelot.

Posted by DaraIndia | Report as abusive

I agree with KP Singh on both his points, that democracy is the best system for India, and also that Indian democracy has yet to mature.

I don’t think I need to argue about the first one. The second point is close to my heart. I don’t believe that a democracy can truly exist until we accept the right of individuals to express themselves. Anything that a person does, as long as it does not harm another person, should be protected.

India is unfortunately not at that stage yet. If the actions of a person are disagreeable to someone (especially someone with goons), then the person can be made to apologise. Whether it’s somebody taking offence at Richard Gere kissing Shilpa Shetty, or somebody else taking offence at Salman Rushdie’s Satanic Verses and getting it banned, or someone taking offence at Salman Khan’s statements on 26/11 and getting him to apologise, India seems to be a childish society.

People make statements all the time in Western countries. Others may criticise them as equal individuals. But there is no threat to anyone’s freedom of speech, no pressure to backtrack or apologise, definitely not under threat of mob violence. I believe this is the big lesson India needs to learn – to let people have their freedom of expression.

Regards,
Ganesh Prasad

Posted by prasadgc | Report as abusive

rrdas said:

> Hindus are very different from muslims and one can see the results of that in their respective countries.

This may be a convincing argument to you, but I would urge you to consider the philosophy of Sartre (http://bit.ly/b6aqeR).

Individuals *always* have the choice to act differently in future from the way they acted in the past. Therefore, you cannot label a person as such-and-such for the purpose of predicting their future actions. For example, a person may have made cowardly choices in 99 previous occasions, but cannot be called a “coward” for that reason. When the 100th occasion comes up, it is a fresh choice that the person makes, and they may choose to act bravely this time. Therefore labels are meaningless.

Sartre’s philosophy resonates with me, and so I cannot agree with your blanket statement.

Regards,
Ganesh Prasad

Posted by prasadgc | Report as abusive

KP Singh : Same blood runs…

That sounds more like a hindi film dialogue(cant be a Pakistani film for sure. It is not blood that matters. It is the kind of upbringing which will determine a culture. The fact that pakistan has eliminated any trace of any culture from any part of the world other than radical Islam speaks for itself.

As long as Pakistan does not recognise the rights of all humans no system can survive. They are answerable for the millions of Hindus who have been massacared in that country and continue to be forcefully converted.

Posted by rrdas | Report as abusive

@Ganesh
” I believe this is the big lesson India needs to learn – to let people have their freedom of expression”

More precisely the PEOPLE of India have to learn the ordinary common people.

As long as societies continued to be based out on religion the differences will continue and division of the country will get deeper and deeper. Trouble with ALL religions is that every religion preaches: “I am the best rest all are worst”. So unless we learn to respect others we cannot get respect for ourselves. And before lecturing anyone else (Pakistan, Bangladesh, Mynammar, etc) we first need to free our own societies from clutches of religion and the goons of religion who call themselves the protector of religion.

People often say politicians are bad and they do vote politics and all and in namke of religion they mae people fight and stuff like that. But tell me why the common people get blinded if someone says, “ohh your religion is in danger”…on one hand people call religion divine and on other hand it can be put in danger so easily????????? In a democracy politics is always for votes (thats why its called democracy) be it US, UK, Europe or any other democracy, so vote politics is not concern. Concern is that what kind of politics gets the votes. That is where the problem lies with India and Pakistan; more so with India. In one of the other blogs a person said that parties should care for minorities and all. Why ONLY caring for minorities? Why not caring for everyone? This inferiority complex sentiment of caring for minorities have been exploited by ALL political parties in India over last 60 years WITHOUT any real good for ‘minority’. Then why continue to have such an attitude and play right into hands of the ones who want to exploit. And that gentleman very correctly got to root of it. Why not mix and join the mainstream so as that no one is exploited. It is the votes that change the politics of any nation.

And all this can be changed by only and only by modern education. I see a lot of guys here say education is not needed and what not. I am more than sad reading such comments. At the time of Mauryan Empire (or may be even before that) in India we had Taxila university which was kind of Harvard of that time. And Chandragupta Maurya was one of the best students from Taxila. If people at that time realised the importance of education so much then why give up on that realisation now. Instead of pushing for massive educational reforms we say its not needed…I dont even want to laugh at such comments. I dont know what the poor of India would have done without elites like Nehru, Patel, Tilak, Shastri, Rajiv, Vajpayee. I dont know what ‘Blacks’ in America would have done without elites like Lincoln and Martin Luther King.

So instead of giving up on education we need to push harder and deeper for educational reforms to make this democracy work, progress and prosper.

Posted by 777xxx777 | Report as abusive

Iqbal said, “It is clear to my mind that if Hinduism accepts social democracy, it must cease to be Hinduism.”

In much the same spirit, Karl Marx believed that under Capitalism, the plight of workers would get progressively worse until they were eventually forced to revolt.

Both were wrong. In the Western capitalist democracies, the condition of the workers became better with time, not worse, and revolution was averted.

In India, the power of caste is slowly (painfully slowly) being eroded. In urban areas, caste is no longer as powerful a determinant of one’s prospects. In another two generations, caste may wither away altogether. This is a blistering pace of change considering that the caste system has existed for centuries.

Iqbal was progressive in his ideas. I daresay he would be happier with the social direction (if not the status) of India than with Pakistan today.

Regards,
Ganesh Prasad

Posted by prasadgc | Report as abusive

>>What did strike me, however, from the question on whether democracy is suited to South Asia, is how shallow its roots are

Dear Myra, your biases are showing yet again. To take the stupid thoughts of an Pak army supporter who cannot represent more than 5% of Pak pop so close to 9m people and transfer the same without even any anecdotal evidence to the vast 1.2bn pop of India.

Democracy even its current immature form has much deeper roots in India and we a)love it b) are not exchanging it for anything and c) would appreciate it if u could limit ur comments to things that u understand.

Posted by nvrforgetmbai | Report as abusive

Ganesh Prasad where are the 24% hindus who existed in Pakistan at the time of independence? Should they not be punished for the genocide committed by the people and the state. Is the same not happenning also in Kashmir. where the Kashmiri Pandits had no option but to leave.

Also your example of a coward holds no ground. If that was the case then we should release all criminals, terrorists, rapists etc. because they may do some good some day and hence the labelling will not hold ground. You need to punish those who commit a crime and reward those who act honestly.

Also, please give me e.g.’s from muslim countries where other religions, cultures, nationalities are thriving. And a rare case is not good enough as exceptions do not prove the rule. But if you take the case of USA, UK, India, other religions are thriving including ISLAM.

Posted by rrdas | Report as abusive

Myra,

I would say that it is not the roots of democracy in India that are shallow but it is your thought process, Myra, that is extremely shallow. Show me even a single soul in India that says it does not want democracy. Even the separatists want democracy (separate democracy although) but we all in India each and every single soul wants democracy. Problem of India is NOT democracy but the over population and hence fierce fight for scarce resources. It is the economics that’s the trouble and NOT the democracy. As I said before also that may be Indians hate their politicians and bureaucracy but u ask anyone here if he/she wants anything else then u will c the passion for democracy Indians have.

May be you should try reading some ancient history about India when often kings were chosen not because they were sons and daughters of kings (as with the most part of history of west) but kings and queens were chosen on basis of their abilities to SERVE the people. When even a ‘shudra’ (considered the lowest caste in ancient India) could become the best student of Taxila (compare to Harward of modern times) and go on to rule the entire nation and win the love people (Chandragupt Maurya). People here always had one notion of democracy that loyalty has to be to kingdom and not to king and if king is not loyal to kingdom then throw him out (several examples of such incidents in Indian history).

So roots of democracy in this region are far more deeper than a ignorant person like yourself can ever imagine. Yes there are problems but is there a place on earth where there are no problems. Or are 60 years enough for nations to mature. I think NOT. So it will be good if you can keep your shallow thoughts to yourself.

Posted by 777xxx777 | Report as abusive

Ganesh,

I was surprised to c that ‘coward’ example from a mature person like yourself. Any law in this world can be made effective by LABELING people that do wrong things as criminals and punishing them accordingly.

And it is the Actions that DEFINE men. So yes if a person acted cowardly for 99 times then he will and should be labeled coward. As a matter of fact in particular case of cowardness the best way to cure it is by LABELING the guy as Coward and telling him its a bad thing and since everyone wants to be good so this labeling will actually help to motivate him to be brave.

The whole system and notion of good and bad runs around this labeling of people on basis of their past actions.

I guess u need to talk to a lawyer to understand this labeling thing. :)

Posted by 777xxx777 | Report as abusive

>>Also, please give me e.g.’s from muslim countries where other religions, cultures, nationalities are thriving

Indonesia.

I think rrdas sets too low a bar. D we want our country to descend into the kind of mess Pak is in? Do we want to be the Hindu version of Pakistan? Do we want daily bomb blasts? Do we want people to talk about how x is more hindu than y. So y deserves to die.

Hopefully not. I always believed that India should be a nation where all its citizens can practice their religion without fear/favor from the govt. That was the vision of our founding fathers for our country and that should hold on.

Which is why riots in Delhi, Guj or Orissa are a matter of national shame.

Posted by nvrforgetmbai | Report as abusive

rrdas and 777xxx777:

The “coward” example seems to have upset you. It is the most common example used to illustrate Sartre’s philosophy. You either agree with it or you don’t. I agree with it.

Regards,
Ganesh Prasad

Posted by prasadgc | Report as abusive

777xxx777 said:

> I guess u need to talk to a lawyer to understand this labeling thing.

When a criminal is convicted, that is based on the crime(s) committed, not on the label that is given to the person. Labels would be inadmissible as evidence :-).

I think you’ve misunderstood my point (and Sartre’s philosophy). I’m not saying, for example, that a thief should not be punished for committing a theft. I’m objecting to the “once a thief, always a thief” school of thought. rrdas made this kind of extrapolation, and I disagree with it. People and societies can and do change, because individuals *always* have the choice to do so.

Regards,
Ganesh Prasad

Posted by prasadgc | Report as abusive

rrdas,

You have reduced the whole thing to Hindu versus Muslim equation. By doing that, you have taken off in a direction far removed from the topic under discussion. First of all, you should try to define what the term “Hindu” means. One can defined very easily who a Muslim is. There are certain requirements to be called a Muslim. It is very clearly defined. In my opinion, “Hindu” simply refers to the denizen of the sub-continent. I have read somewhere that in Saudi Arabia, Indian Muslims are referred to as “Hindus”. It is not a religious term. That is why one does not find a founder or a defined holy book or structure in Hindu religions. This is both strength and weakness. And these aspects belong to a discussion on religion. The discussion here is about democracy.

For democracy to work, the following are essential:

1. Secularism and efforts to spread secularism
2. Equality in rights to all citizens
3. Power to law and order and respect towards them.
4. Peaceful and diplomatic methods to voice concerns, and protests
5. Independence of media and press

The above have nothing to do with religion, police brutality etc.

In the case of India, an attempt has been made in all the above avenues and India has not achieved one hundred percent accomplishment in all of these. And I can say that no country in the world has accomplished yet.

If you take the case of Pakistan, they were defined by a religion. Secularism in a theological state is an oxymoron. If they were all 100% Muslims, may be they can talk about other aspects of the above requirements. Pakistan does have somewhat a free press now, after Musharraf opened up the gates. In both India and Pakistan, law and order situation is shaky and in Pakistan it is worse. There are more guns involved with ordinary citizens there than in India.

Many people assume that a democratic country means everyone is sitting down and meditating. Democracy is only a method to elect a government. Other than that there is military, rules, judiciary, issues, policies and so on. These acts are run by the government elected by the people. Once election is over, the elected representatives run the country. Their deficiencies, experience, dedication etc matter a lot in the path a country takes. People always ask how in a country claiming to be democratic, one sees military brutally cracking down on citizens of some states. Well, the latter has nothing to do with democracy. It is a law and order issue and whether democracy or not, any system would have dealt with it the same way. It is just that democracy provides an air of higher ideals while others do not. One has to see what works best for a society. The first priority is welfare and sound economy. And these two can be achieved only if the population is willing to go with it. In India, democracy seems to work because the public in general like it. In China, they have a different system that seems to work. So long as there is money and wealth, people seem to tag along. The system of governance in a region or nation depends on the culture of that region. Indian culture is diverse and democracy works well for such a system. Pakistan too is diverse, but is defined by religious ideology which places more restrictions on democratic methods of governance. But it can work there too if they try to be tolerant and more accommodating. Their rulers have pushed that country in the opposite direction. This is for their own convinience.

Posted by KPSingh01 | Report as abusive

Actually it is the proponents of the Muslim faith who have reduced it to a muslims v/s hindus, muslims v/s jews, muslims v/s christians etc. There is no point in denying this and trying to hide this fact. How often have you heard of people of other faiths constantly at war with each other. Other than muslims of course.

There is no term as Hindu in any of the scriptures. The real term is “Sanatan Dharma”. Your knowledge of the religion followed by the masses in India is completely incorrect. We have a founder and we have holy books. But as this is a discussion on religion we will not get into it.

Democracy or not is not a vital issue. The vital issue is whether in any form of government are the muslim countries willing to give any rights to any citizen of any other faith. The answer is an unequivocal no. Thats why so many followers of the Sanatan Dharma or commonly called Hindus have evaporated from Pakistan. From 24% in 1950 hindus have been reduced to below 2%. Now ask yourself how the population of muslims in other countries have only increased.

Pakistan should be made accountable for this genocide.

Posted by rrdas | Report as abusive

keyword here is TOLERANCE and hence progress of human race within the larger framework of mother nature. Dont mix it with religion and if religion comes in way then let go off the religion. If there was any perfect religion then why so many of them have sprung off? The perfection is not in religion it is in TOLERANCE and FRIENDSHIP.

Posted by 777xxx777 | Report as abusive

rrdas: “Actually it is the proponents of the Muslim faith who have reduced it to a muslims v/s hindus, muslims v/s jews, muslims v/s christians etc. There is no point in denying this and trying to hide this fact. How often have you heard of people of other faiths constantly at war with each other. Other than muslims of course.”

Did you read about the objection raised towards building a mosque in the site where the Twin towers were demolished? How about “Quran” burning episode? Cartoons of prophet Muhammad? These are provocations done by non-Muslims too. The point is this – radical elements are there in all religious groups. Given an opportunity, they’d like to run everything and exercise their power. Roman Catholic Church literally ruled all of Europe during its dark age. Even kings needed permission from the Pope on whom to marry. Spanish Inquisition was brutal. If you dig into history, you will find people from different religions inflicting pain on others. For my community, the bombing of our Akal Takht by Indian military is tantamount to the same desecration on Hindu holy sites done by past Muslim Sultans. Indira Gandhi had many other options to flush out militants from the Golden Temple and she sent in the military on Baisaki day to kill not only militants, but also many pilgrims. Anti-Sikh riots in Delhi following her assassination does not bode well for secular democratic traditions as well. The point is this – those who have never sinned should cast the first stone. And unfortunately, there is none. So there is no point in pointing fingers at others. Treat them with respect and regard and the feelings will be reciprocated. Deeds of the past should not be used to define the future course. People always preach that those who do not know history are prone to repeat the same mistakes. It is not knowing history that matters. What matters is the circumstances that led to such situations in the past. Anything can be projected as a terrible thing and any terrible thing can be buried in the annals of history. Let us not even go there. Sanathana Dharma that you are proudly proclaiming does have scriptures like Manu Smrithi which openly prescribes caste discrimination. Let us not open the can of worms.

In this analysis, treat India and Pakistan as mere nations. Then one can look at the circumstances that led each country in a different path.

Posted by KPSingh01 | Report as abusive

rrdas,

In Mumbai, Shiv Sena leaders are instigating violence against people from other states. This is an out and out “Hindu” organization. But it sees everything from a “Marathi” Hindu perspective. If Hindus are so tolerant, explain why Shiv Sena is against its own co-religionists? You will understand that all this is political in nature. People want to gain mileage using religion, language, ethnicity etc. By getting emotional, you fall into their trap and they exploit you. A lot of people convert to local religions for convinience sake. I don’t think most were persecuted in Pakistan. Taliban is a different thing. I think many Hindus there simply converted to Islam. This is much like many Hindus in Western countries slowly losing their original identity and merging with local culture and religion. It is a matter of practical convinience when surrounded by local majority. In the Caribbean countries, many Indian immigrants have moved on and even their names appear distorted. Time changes everything. Many who came into Hindu India, slowly began to get absorbed into Hindu culture and became Hindus. The Kushanas, the Scythians and many ancient warring tribes settled down in India and became Hindus. Greek settlers became Buddhists in North West Pakistan and Afghanistan. Their descendents became Muslims. It is all right to merge with local customs. With time, these things happen. This does not mean everyone was put under the sword.

Posted by KPSingh01 | Report as abusive

rrdas: “As long as Pakistan does not recognise the rights of all humans no system can survive. They are answerable for the millions of Hindus who have been massacared in that country and continue to be forcefully converted”

Do not forget that you are living in a glass house.

Posted by KPSingh01 | Report as abusive

@rrdas

I do not want to discuss religion as I do not want to go down into all the dirty ugly stuff in there. Not even your Sanatan Dharma is pious. No religion for that fact is. Thats not the point we are discussing. What we say is that democracy should work for India and Pakistan as it has for rest of the world if only we could shed away our hard core religious stands be it hindus, muslims, sikhs, christians, jews, anyone. Religions are not pure, Human race can be. This is a land where even the human is given the chance to become the God. And we certainly do not want to go down the same road as Pakistan. Their Islamic nation might be great but our Secularism is far greater and by making comparisons we are just degrading ourselves. As KP said history is taught not to preach revenges but to learn from past mistakes so that mistakes are not repeated.

Posted by 777xxx777 | Report as abusive

It is interesting to observe that not one Pakistani has commented on this topic. The whole discussion has been between Indians? Is it because democracy is a boring or useless topic in Pakistan? If there is an article about Pak military, one finds many Pakistanis contributing. This is just an observation.

Posted by KPSingh01 | Report as abusive

Democracy, in countries like India & Pakistan will remain flawed, as long as it lacks the support of a strong law & order machinery. That’s the basic difference between democracies in the western/developed world and in developing countries like India. In the west, there’s accountability for one’s actions, irrespective of one’s social or financial standing while in India, one can get away with a lot of things if you are connected and/or have money. If India aspires to elevate it’s democracy to the level of western countries, it needs to strengthen it’s law & order & provide justice & real security to it’s citizens.

Posted by Mortal1 | Report as abusive

Radical elements are expected in all religious groups. But Pakistan is a radical country. To justify yourself you will give stray e.g.’s of violence in other religious groups / political parties like the Shiv Sena. But you will never have the guts to talk about the ethnic cleansing that takes place in Pakistan and other Islamic countires. You will not talk about the millions of hindus who were forced to leave Kashmir. You will not talk how the other religious groups have taken resort to violence only to hit back against these very radical groups.

Why isnt the average american/european hitting out at hindus / Blacks / Communists / Buddhists / Jews / . When cartoons of Mohammed are drawn you will run to their defence. But when an M F Hussain draws nude figures of hindu goddess’ it is expression of art.

Can you quote from the Manu samhita which talks about caste discrimination? No hindu scriptures run down people. In fact the Bhagavad Gita says that a saintly man respects even a dog on the street. 5th chapter 18th verse.

You think Hindus simply converted to Islam. Go to Pakistan and find out. The Ahmadis are slaughtered for nothing. Religious extremists have hurled bombs at Shia congregations, mosques and processions in the past week and over 130 deaths have been reported. Claiming that Shias are heretics, leaders of the dominant Sunni sect are out to purge the country of their presence. Read all about religious discrimination in Pakistan. Even today Hindus or non muslim (whatever is left of them) have to apy a tax for not being a muslim. And you say that hindus just converted. You obviously are blind to what the newspaper say and what is below is just a sample of what is happening in Pakistan.

http://www.dnaindia.com/world/report_57- pakistani-hindus-convert-to-islam-under- pressure_1388695

http://www.jihadwatch.org/2010/04/pakist an-hindu-girl-abducted-forced-to-convert -to-islam.html

http://www.chakranews.com/a-new-wave-of- pakistani-hindus-and-sikhs-fleeing-to-in dia/460

The point is no system will succeed in Pakistan be it democracy or otherwise unless and until the thinking that Islam is only good and all that that is non islam is bad does not change.

Posted by rrdas | Report as abusive

A highly amusing article from Myra. Indians aren’t going to apologize for being democratic or being a Hindu-majority nation.

Posted by trickey | Report as abusive

rrdas: “The point is no system will succeed in Pakistan be it democracy or otherwise unless and until the thinking that Islam is only good and all that that is non islam is bad does not change.”

BTW, I am not a Hindu. I am a Sikh. I belong to a minority religious group in India. I do not have to defend your religious beliefs. I see myself as an Indian. This does not mean I am going to turn a blind eye to the atrocities committed in the name of religion everywhere. Our community has suffered persecution at the hands of both Hindus and Muslims. Therefore your passionate arguments resemble the pot calling the kettle black. You have no idea how we felt right after Operation Blue Star or when the “giant tree fell to shake the earth.” I can go on and on. The point is one can make a huge list of atrocities done by various groups in the sub-continent and it will lead to no end. The best thing is to go forward. You did not do anything for the Pundits in Kashmir, did you? What is your contribution towards the welfare of minorities in India? From your words I get the feeling that you believe you own the country and we are living at your mercy. You need to come out of that mentality if you want our country to progress as a strong democracy. India is not owned by Hindu religious majority. It is a secular nation, meant for all citizens – Muslims, Sikhs, Jews, Christians, Zoarashtrians, Vaishnavaites, Shaivetes, atheists, Jains, Buddhists, Dalits and so on. You do not own the country. If you have gripes with Pakistan on Hindu demographic change, go there and find out what happened. Get references and campaign for the welfare of Hindus in Pakistan. We are talking about democracy here and not religion.

Posted by KPSingh01 | Report as abusive

rrdas,

You raise an uncomfortable topic that needs to be addressed (i.e., double-standards) but it is off-topic for the current discussion (the relevance of democracy in South Asia). Hold the thought until a more suitable article comes up.

Regards,
Ganesh Prasad

Posted by prasadgc | Report as abusive

Well i would say that secularism is one step ahead of democracy and democracies should be secular in my opinion. Democracy means freedom and voice to all. Secularism is freedom to practice any faith or not to practice any faith at all but still respecting all. But trouble with each religion (not only Islam) is that each religion in some form or the other says that, “I am the best and rest are worst”. This is what, when exploited and hard cored by few leaders, leads to trouble. So better is to give respect and get it back. Respect and knowledge are the only two things in this world that can be acquired by giving. Respect and knowledge are the main pillars of democracy in any part of the world. So while India and Pakistan both have knowledge component the respect-for-all component is still lacking.

And some gentleman above said India and Pakistan democracy is fragile because of law and order. I would say to that gentleman that law and order situation in India is far better than what it was in USA after USA’s 60 years of independence. So I would say that please either research well or keep your insensitive thoughts to yourself. Problem in India is not democracy but the lack of it. Voice for all is what is lacking but progress is being made in right direction albeit painfully slowly.

Biggest surprise is why not a single Pakistani is participating in this discussion. This is more alarming than comforting that democracy is not a matter to be discussed for people of Pakistan.

Posted by 777xxx777 | Report as abusive

India has been secular since inception. Tolerant? Mostly, but not always.
Tolerance is not a one-way street in India, like it is in Europe. Hindus are quite capable of responding to religious bigotry with astonishing brutality. This fact seems to be more annoying to the pseudo-secular crowd than anything else.

Posted by trickey | Report as abusive

@trickey
“Hindus are quite capable of responding to religious bigotry with astonishing brutality”

Should they not be? Should u remain quit when someone gets into your house and kills your mothers and daughters and u should remain quit just like a fool in name of tolerance. Does tolerance means losing the right to self defence? And u should concentrate more on word ‘responding’ in ur statement. Hindus rarely pre-empt brutality. As I say respect can be earned by only giving more and more so its time everyone learns this.

Posted by 007XXX | Report as abusive

Not again — Reuters site gone bad again…

007XXX and 777xxx777 are both my ids on reuters forced by some bug in reuters site.

Posted by 007XXX | Report as abusive

Alright between all the serious discussion here is a hilarious video:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nI-iQQGj9 Ng

“Baad mein bhookhe marte logon ke dukhon ka eelam nahin aur bomb ki baatein karte hain; aei Pakistan yeh tere politician to bekaar ki baatein karte hain”

ENJOY!!

I guess this is why Pakistan will never be able to realise dreams of Jinaah. This muslim vs everyone else propaganda by pakistan authorities has taken them nowhere but in a deep hole of poverty and disease. When will the fools wake up.

Posted by 007XXX | Report as abusive

http://indiatoday.intoday.in/site/Story/ 112547/Top%20Stories/curfew-extended-to- all-major-towns-of-kashmir.html

Curfew extended to all major towns of Kashmir

This is what Indian democracy has given to Kashmir? India’s democracy is coward and failed.

Posted by Umairpk | Report as abusive

Democracy relies on manplation by the dominant,if it is not so show me that place.Salman Khan need not have apologized and no body would have been worse off may be,may be few tickets sold less but he ensured that he got more people by his statement to Pak media.Pak pro is rich in hr stuff,see David Colman Hadley and so many guys who regularly gate crash into Indian does are result of this bonding going on for last 60 years between Pak and US army.50 percent of US aid to Pakistan goes to this group and if you fumigate Pentagon you will find them crawling out of wood work

Posted by uncouthwath | Report as abusive

Umairpk,

Hmmmm, problems in a few areas mean the whole India’s democracy is failed. It seems u r getting those fits of hatred again. Please c the link that i (007xxx) posted above and tell me do you in all your good senses support such kind of hatred? Does Islam means such type of killing and hatred. Almost all your muslim leaders can think of is Kill, Kill and more Kill. Kill Jews (only Allah knows why so much hatred against jews), Kill Christians, Kill Hindu, Kill Sikhs, Kill Parsi, Kill Indian, Kill American, Kill English, Kill European and when no one else is left to kill then start fighting among yourself with Shia vs Sunni…where has so much hatred taken you all. Because of you all the most people in world today count Islam synonymous to violence, whereas reality is far from this. You guys have not done good to Islam but only brought bad name to it by all this hatred. And unfortunately this hatred is a government policy in Pakistan and hence the current dire situation of Pakistan.

Umair, I think you should c that Fozia Khan’s speech once more.

And kashmiris should be thankful that India has not done to its side of kashmir same as what pakistan has done to its kashmir. India still has laws in place that says that no outsider can buy lands (greatest asset of kashmiris) in J&K state. Unlike pakistan India has not allowed people from other parts to settle in Kashmir whereas Pakistan has penetrated a large amount of Punjabis in their side of kashmir all in name of destroying India and expanding Islamic empire.

Posted by 777xxx777 | Report as abusive

And tell me what has Pakistan democracy given to its people dying in floods by denying aid from someone who is willing to do more than what any of you can ever imagine?

Passion for Kashmir has blinded your democracy towards the internal problems you have..that is not so in case of India. India realise its internal problems and never denies it and constantly works towards best solution that we believe will be in everyone’s interest.

Posted by 777xxx777 | Report as abusive

Altaf Hussain inviting wistfully the men on the horseback to come and
have a go at the governance and yes MQM will be there to support them.
Now, the PML-Q has also started syncing with this thought.Not only
MQM, PML-Q but also PTI has invited military to intervene. Army has no
plans to stage the coup, and the chief of army staff is not really
interested in becoming president or any sort of administrator. He is
surely interested in having a good name and restoring the image of
army, and he is also interested in having a better and soft public
image and likes to mingle with public, but he is not of any
adventurous sort. He is totally democratic minded person. But i
strongly suggest that heads of these parties are very much neurotic
and could do better with a little therapy. They are not being rational or

reasonable, and the fear is getting better of them. They all need a
thorough checkup, extensive medication, and a Frankensteinian messing
with their stiff heads. These so called democratic leaders are clearly
banging at windmills of their own when they make public appearances,
and especially in time of crisis, they just loose it. Being a nation
we must denounce such jugglers and jokers they are not only harmful
for the democracy but seriously damaging for the country.

Posted by AkhtarMemon | Report as abusive

Umairpk: “This is what Indian democracy has given to Kashmir? India’s democracy is coward and failed.”

Democracy has nothing to do with law and order situation. When people riot and throw stones, one does not set up ballot boxes. Kashmiris are throwing stones because they feel trapped. Tourism has been killed. There are no jobs. there is frustration at all levels. And security system is brutal. It is not only brutal in Kashmir. It is brutal all across Asia, Middle East, Africa, and South East Asia. India does not have a monopoly on it. Unfortunately, the Congress led government is quite inept in making bold decisions. Man Mohan Singh is a good economist. But not a good administrator. His powers are limited by his party bosses. But this does not mean that we drop democracy and switch to authoritarian rule. Kashmir shows what authoritarian system will lead to. The rest of India is not under such daily curfews and security personnel at every street corner. India should make bold decisions in regards to Kashmir and no one has the balls to make such decisions right now.

I think Kashmir’s time has come. India has no choice but to make some bold decisions.

Umair, however, I will not deride democracy. In the long run, it is the best system for India. I don’t know about Pakistan, but for India, this is the only system that can work.

Posted by KPSingh01 | Report as abusive

@777xxx777

I agree with you, Pakistan has been steadily purifying itself of Kaffirs and other islamic sects, until they have extremely little numbers, to get them to the point where they have no political or public voice whatso ever. Unfortunate, but Sunni’s rich or poor are not compromising, nor sharing or compassionate, only their way, is the only way to live, while everbody else can leave, convert or be killed, that is how it looks to any outsiders, over the decades, simply put. Not all Sunnis are this way, but overall, the country of Pakistan has been expanding Sunni Empire, Kashmir is the next place where they want expansion. They will fail democracy on purpose and never let it take foot, but many of their leaders will continue to pretend and lie that they do, while they condemn India as being unislamic for India defending its right to maintain security.

@Umair,

What would you do with rock chuckers? What if Balochi rock chuckers were pelting bricks @ pak rangers and soldiers in Balochistan, in large numbers?…..Hmmmmm I wonder what you Faujis…..would do….let me guess…pull them over and invite them over for some tasty lamb Kebab, over to your house right?….I think not!..Pakistan Army is legendary for quashing civilian movements, Pakistan would smash the heck out of Balochi’s to keep them shut…or even just to keep security and law and order…..

Why is India not allowed to keep law and order? Why does India have not right to protect herself from anyone and anything?

Why is Pakistan the only country allowed to protect itself? Why do pakistani’s condone illegal behavior like throwing rocks and bricks at Police and Army? Why are the police and army supposed to sit down and be pacifists while they get bricked?

Kashmiri’s will quit suffering, once Pakistan quits fomenting trouble in Kashmir.

Kashmiri’s can have freedom, if Pakistani Army vacates Kashmir and removes all settlers, India will reciprocate in kind. Why should India leave and not Pakistan?

No Pakistani here wants to entertain fairness, only double standard for muslims only, ie kashmir, thanks for being fair, compromising and reasonable with Kaffirs, as usual.

India will not budge one millimetre on Kashmir, as long as Pakistan keeps fomenting trouble and one day, when the Shxt piles up so high, Pakistan is going to get splattered with the brown stuff.

Posted by G-W | Report as abusive

When the discussion started on democracy, Pakistanis went silent. For a while Indians were arguing with each other about Hindu versus Muslim issues. Then one Pakistani comes up with his favorite item – Kashmir. Immediately the discussion has switched over to the same beaten path. Let us not solve Kashmir here. The topic is about whether democracy is the right kind of governing system for India and Pakistan. Let us get back to it.

If anyone wants to ride on the Kashmir/Bangladesh/Genocide/ Mumbai attacks/ LeT/ Taliban/ China/Afghanistan/Indian consulates/ floods/ David Cameron/US/War on terror/Nuke/Poverty/BJP/Jinnah issues, go back to the old articles and pick up the mud from there. There is plenty of it left in those articles.

Posted by KPSingh01 | Report as abusive

I agree Singh,

Let’s move away from the Kashmir discussion. Pakistani’s like to use the Kashmir discussion as a diversion and use the Kashmir discussion as a toilet for all of their troubles.

My response to Kashmir will always be, if you throw one brick, expect a 100 more bricks to come back at right at you, if you want to discuss Kashmir openly in a sophisticated and analytical manner.

Let’s move on with the blog.

Umair,

no more Kashmir discussions, unless you are willing to advocate that Pakistan vacates Kashmir completely.

Posted by G-W | Report as abusive

@G-W
“Pakistan has killed any democracy in PoK, to keep its grip on the Kashmiri land”

Not only in PoK but all of pakistan. PA has killed democracy in all of Pakistan. Compare the actions of Pakistan government at times of current floods with those of Indian government at time of Bhuj Earthquake and picture will be clear. In a nation where almost all common people embrace violence then how can u expect democracy in that country.

On other hand Indian democracy has its own set of troubles as deep as Indian Ocean. Biggest is the population and utter arrogance by muslim leaders by defining child birth control measures as unislamic whereas even Bangladesh and Pakistan have both controlled their population better than India. And second Indian intelligence is a bunch of fools who never know what pakistani agencies are upto and how they are able to have cells in India. There has to be complete crackdown on traitors without looking at their religion and this crackdown should be supported by community leaders. But ALAS, India, from times immemorial, had a tendency to breed traitors. I am still not able to understand how the hell mumbai attacks can be carried out without local public’s support and why a crackdown on traitors was not done by Congress. May be all to please ‘minority’. Thats the trouble that a section of ‘minority’ in India gets pleased by being a traitor and still not being punished because it is ‘minority’. BTW Rehmat if you are following this article please comment how should ‘minority’ community traitors be dealt within India so as to safeguard the democracy? For traitors of ‘majority’ community I am absolutely clear, put a bullet between their two eyes. As someone above said that India is perfectly capable of unimaginable brutality. So in case of traitors put that capability to use so that no one dares it again; look at China for example. Next is corruption. For corruption my understanding is that corruption is given rise out of financial insecurity, financial insecurity is because of less progress, less progress is because of large population, so it seems like a case of demand and supply where demand is tremendously larger than supply and those in power exploit this situation. So population control should put somewhat break on corruption as well. Last I feel is Uniform Civil Code and its a must to achieve population control and social democracy. Why a muslim woman is forced to live in polygamy whereas hindu woman enjoy rights which are far more humane. Answers to this and other social issues is UCC. After these we can talk of other financial reforms as time demands. What do you think guys?

Posted by 007XXX | Report as abusive

President Zardari is trying to continue to work for promotion of the
democratic culture in the country. PPP Government seems committed to
implementing the mandate of people by ensuring that all
national decisions are taken with complete consensus which is commendable.Present PPP led

government is in coalition and it takes all allied parties in to
confidence over all issues. Consensus is made on every matter which is
beauty of democracy. President never tried to retain power which
Musharraf had. PPP has support of people and it strongly believes on
democratic norms.

Posted by sadiarzv | Report as abusive

Saw this video in NY times:

http://thelede.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/09  /15/pakistan-debates-what-a-lynching-me ans/?hp

These kinds of mob lynching goes on all across South Asia. If democracy really needs to spread and thrive, law and order situation has to improve. Citizens are becoming used to taking law into their own hands. This is dangerous. I have come across reports where old women have been lynched to death in suspicion of witch craft.

Posted by KPSingh01 | Report as abusive

Myra,
It is though right that democracy has failed to deliver to the poor and downtroddens in India, but it is again not the fault of democracy , but the fault lies with the people who cheat poor people in the name of democracy, who have been sold to corporate mafia, illegal mining, deforestation and anti social elements in the society . The fault lies with the corrupt and immoral leadership of India not with the democracy . We have inehrited a system which prevent entry of good and decent people in politics, and so far no attempt has been made to reform the system because this system suits the policians .

Posted by manishindia | Report as abusive

@manishindia
“We have inehrited a system which prevent entry of good and decent people in politics”

Quite right. First it were the English and when the congress and party saw how easy it is to exploit the downtrodden they just grabbed power from English but did not give India any independence. If we compare our freedom struggle to that of America’s we may start thinking that Congress probably never wanted any independence for India all it wanted was ‘Satta’. So the state of India remains that of ‘Gulami’, at that time it was ‘Gora Sahab’ and now it is ‘Apna Sahab’, but we continue to be slaves. Lack of Democracy still prevails.

Someone above said corruption is everywhere. Agreed but does in England a hawaldar (or whatever the corresponding rank it is there) stops a bike rider for no fault and asks him for a 20 pound note and threatens to put him in jail for not obliging. NO absolutely NOT. Democracy is in England as well as India then why so much difference in corruption levels even in very basic walks of life? There is no definite answer to this but in my personal opinion i feel its not that hawaldaar’s fault for asking for a Rs. 20 note as we all know how much hawaldaars are paid. No one is born saint and neither should be expect anyone to be. Lets live in a practical world. All this is because there is, as i said before, a huge difference in demand and supply. So if we can, in next 20 years or so, control the population time bomb, then may be even if very small but we will see a reduction in corruption as well. That’s my personal opinion, whether right or wrong is open to debate.

Posted by 007XXX | Report as abusive

007xxx: “There should be one law for all that is based on modern values which eradicates Babylonian believes like caste systems and polygamy. ”

Agreed that I misunderstood your earlier point. Also agree that polygamy as a legal system does not suit the modern world. But it is going to be impossible to make universal laws in a democratic society. This is because everyone votes for his or her values. And mass votes count for politicians. If Muslims votes begin to have weight, then no politician is going to mess with their values. If all Sikhs are told that wearing turban and not trimming beards is not modern, then they will revolt. If you tell the Tamils that Hindi should be the only official language and that they should take that up even if they do not use it, there will be revolt. And no central party, including the Congress or the BJP has any foothold in that place. And their votes count as well. We have evolved into a coalition style government at the center.

What India has reached now is a somewhat mature state where more autonomy can be granted to the states. It was not forced on anyone. It has simply evolved up to that stage. I’d let states to have more freedom that allows them to define their own economic structure, industry and trade policies and compete with each other. Some states will thrive and some will fall. But India has reached that state. Going this way will also eliminate or minimize secessionist movements. The central union can have the key aspects of judiciary, security, foreign policy, currency, water resources etc and allow the states to handle their education, commerce, transportation etc. No state should be allowed to drift into quasi-dictatorships. India is ready for a federal system. I’d even suggest dividing the states even more into smaller units.

Uniform civil code in a federal structure will now be confined to smaller states. If there are Muslim majority states, they will have their laws and when their denizens emigrate out to other states, different laws take effect. Sikhs can have their own state. Tamils theirs. Only all issues between states will need to be managed through the federal government. India cannot survive as a democracy or a nation with uniform codes of law. It is too diverse for such purposes. Such codes always affect one community or the other.

Posted by KPSingh01 | Report as abusive

007xxx, KP Singh,
There is a traditional saying among hindus that for nation building , persons with strong characters are required, unfortunately , in India , the power was usurped by dubious people like Nehru. Immediately after partition, somebody asked Nehru and his cronies , that congress party was against 2-nations theory, even their leader great Mahatma went to the extent that he will accept partition only after his death ,it is a very famous Nehru quote : we are very tired after a long freedom struggle, we can not wait any longer to get the power.

In short, Nehru was very busy with his women and alcohol, neither he nor any of his cronies had any time to think of India’s future . In the name of democracy the successors of nehru and his cronies are continue to mislead the nation ,today even sports and culture are victims of corruption and nepotism. The whole world is laughing at us at the loot in the name of common wealth games .

Posted by manishindia | Report as abusive

Saudi Monarchy vs Indian Democracy

My next challenge will be to compare these two opposite systems, one based on Islamic sharia and other modeled on western democracy. Lets look at key economic and social indicators. While I have been to Saudi Arabia but not visited India. Anyone who have been to both countries? Can this be a good comparison and lets see how the systems have progressed. But please do not drag the issue that Saudi Monarchy is closed, backward etc. These days they send their kids to best schools in USA, and universities back in Saudi Arabia are attaining ever higher standards to match western educational standards. And current King Abdullah is seen as modern putting Saudi Arabia on the world map as a global player and emerging diplomatic power side by side as an economic/military power.
Why is India severely lacking in clout despite all its potential, size, population, resources and democracy when compared to Saudi Arabia.

Posted by Umairpk | Report as abusive

Why is India severely lacking in clout despite all its potential, size, population, resources and democracy when compared to Saudi Arabia?

Is it because of a corrupt, arrogant, power driven, interests/lobbyists bureaucracy, civil ervice that does not deliver? Bribery, nepotism, mediocrity, favouratism, all bear hallmarks of a (failed) democracy. So much value of ‘colourful’ diverse ‘democracy’.

Just few days back in Pakistan, the assets of politicians in National/provincials assemblies were declared. In Islamabad, MNAs (members of National Assembly) drive the latest SUVs, Land Cruisers and fill up gas tanks and blow it every day. They are the richest and people in their constituencies suffer each day going without electricity, clean water, hospital facilites, proper education. Pakistani democracy does not deliver either. And Sharia is wrongly potrayed as Taliban beheading women in stadiums and crowds cheering on, ‘strict enforcement’strict interpretation of Islam.
So far strict enforcement of democracy has not given ordinary people anything either.
Maybe its time to look into Sharia law with seriousness. and understand what it is.

Posted by Umairpk | Report as abusive

A friend of mine, who has lived & travelled extensively in the middle east, once told me that there are 4 levels of “justice” in Saudi Arabia, Emirates & other arabic nations. Level 1 is reserved for the arab elite, Level 2 is for the arab commoners, Level 3 is for non-Arabic muslims & Level 4 is for non-Arab non-muslims.

Posted by Mortal1 | Report as abusive

@Umair,

Sharia is not the answer, Pakistan needs good governance, something called “Responsible Government” and civilian laws need to be amended and Pakistan also needs a taxman, something like the IRS, in the U.S. to collect on behalf of the government and jail corrupt elites who evade taxes, while the poor scrape by.

Unfortunately, in Pakistan, the elites, do not want a proper functioning democracy because more than half of them would end up jail and be imprisoned for years for tax evasion, money laundering, accepting bribes, you name it and it is marginally better in India, but not a hell of a lot better.

Sharia will not work, it will only drive these things underground. What you need is proper responsible governance that is ultimately responsible to the people, and responsible to the constitution and you need a judiciary with teeth, above all, you need an army responsible to the civilian government.

If your civilians are too corrupt, it is best that you invite the British back to mentor the next generation of youth and pass new laws tieing the salaries of politicians to performance and how well they deliver.

If you really want to light a fire on corrupt politicians AND corrupt army people, just send a hound of rabid tax auditors after them, tax auditors that are heavily incentivized to root out corruption, watch those corrupt politicians beg for forgiveness, as they stand trial for tax evasion.

In most western countries, which also happen to be democracies, the corruption is also there, but not nearly to the extent is in Pakistan and India.

I think India is moving along in the right direction with Democracy. In time, corruption will decrease, but it will take much time to change the eastern culture mindsets.

Posted by G-W | Report as abusive

Umair, you said:

“In Islamabad, MNAs (members of National Assembly) drive the latest SUVs, Land Cruisers and fill up gas tanks and blow it every day. They are the richest and people in their constituencies suffer each day going without electricity, clean water, hospital facilites, proper education. Pakistani democracy does not deliver either.”

–>Umair, why don’t you have the poorest constituencies’ residents get together and make a large cardboard GM Hummer or a Cadillac Escalade, paint it, and make it look authentic and take outside of the legislature and make a style statement with a sign saying “Will Members of Legislative Assembly take pay cut? to give us electricity, clean water and education and pay to park our poor man SUV?” you can put your own spin on it….

Guarantee..it will turn heads and shame them and start a discussion.

Posted by G-W | Report as abusive

@Umair,

You are sorely mistaken if you think India is not educating their youth. Most of silicon valley, and throughout many western intellectual institutions, their are countless talented Indians.

My own cousin has a PHd in advanced microcircuit design and is employed by one of the leading computer companies in the U.S. There are an army of guys like him, brilliant, talented and ready to work hard.

Posted by G-W | Report as abusive

Umairpk said:

> Why is India severely lacking in clout despite all its potential, size, population, resources and democracy when compared to Saudi Arabia.

Even if it is true, this is a point-in-time observation as of today. It’s coloured by many factors, resources (oil) and population being very significant ones. It’s relatively easy to move the economies of small countries and achieve prosperity in a single generation (e.g., Singapore) and much harder to do it in large countries. Like in physics, larger countries have greater inertia. It’s also harder to push *down* large countries (the US continues along in spite of severe economic shocks), while countries like Iceland can have their bubble burst in a matter of months.

My response to your question would be – Watch this space. In twenty years’ time, who knows? My bet is that Saudi Arabia will progress in the direction of greater individual freedom, and India will progress in the direction of greater individual prosperity.

Regards,
Ganesh Prasad

Posted by prasadgc | Report as abusive

I may be mistaken, but from Myra’s report about the Pakistani person who asked the original question and also Umair’s question about India and Saudi Arabia, I can’t help thinking this is a new form of denial.

If people can’t handle the idea that India is making progress (and it is now less feasible to employ terrorism as a tool to stop that progress), then denial that this progress is even taking place is perhaps the only option left — i.e., create an alternate reality that is more “acceptable” and spend one’s time discussing why it is so. I.e., instead of acknowledging the enormous progress India has made, just focus on what has not yet been done and ask why it has not happened.

Is “Democracy doesn’t work in South Asia” therefore the new mantra in Pakistan just like “We were stabbed in the back” became the mantra in Germany after World War I — mass psychosis masquerading as well-known fact? In both cases, an entire populace is unable to face up to unpleasant facts and begins to perpetuate a more palatable belief. Unfortunately for them, it doesn’t change reality.

Guys, a word of advice. Intellectual honesty is the ability to see the world as it is and not as we want it to be. If Pakistanis are intellectually honest, they should be willing to accept that India is in fact making progress and that the fastest progress has taken place in the last decade or so. There is a rational reason for it (economic liberalisation), and this tool is available to anyone else willing to embark on the same journey. Further, democracy is the only antidote to the distortions and uneven distribution that tend to accompany such rapid growth. In the long run, democracy evens out the odds.

I visit India every year or every alternate year and I’m amazed at the progress that is taking place. What about the role of democracy? The fact that the BJP-led government was thrown out in 2004 (http://bit.ly/92dm8C) stands testament to Indian democracy forcing more *equitable* growth. Rural areas and poor people had not benefited from India’s growth thus far, and they spoke at the ballot box. The incoming Congress government then had to steer resources towards these sectors (even if some of it was more style than substance). So India is bumbling along in a messy way, as a democracy necessarily must, but it is making progress, and the fruits of that progress are being shared. Where that sharing isn’t quite equitable, we inevitably see strife like the Maoist uprising. The medicine is more democracy, not less.

These are the lessons that need to be learnt, not that Sharia is superior to democracy.

Remember,

Sharia + oil = Saudi Arabia
Sharia without oil = Afghanistan under the Taliban

Hint: It’s probably nothing to do with Sharia

Regards,
Ganesh Prasad

Posted by prasadgc | Report as abusive

Ganesh

The argument is not that which one is inferior or superior between sharia and democracy. I am just refering to alternatives to democracy. And the example of Saudi Arabia was given to make it understood that there are other prosperous countries flourishing without democracy. Democracy in Pakistan means looting public wealth, even Pakistan’s cricketers now induldge in match fixing because a ‘democratic’ government led by Mr. 10% is in place in Pakistan. Democracy is harmful for public health I would say, eradicate democracy like its a disease. For me, only an honest system would work where the well being of people is top priority. As opposed to democracy where the objective is to fool the voter, get in power and enjoy the riches.

Posted by Umairpk | Report as abusive

Pakistan’s choice of governance should not be done in reference to India. Both countries have gone in different directions. In both countries the system of governance has evolved based on what works. For India, it is a democratic tradition. This was the land ruled by landlords, princes and kings. Democracy is a new thing and the country has adopted it well. This is because it suits the diverse population well. In Pakistan, its priorities have been messed up by its willful participation in cold war alliance to make quick gains. India deliberately declined to get involved in it at the start. Once Pakistan offered itself as a staging ground for cold war battles, it had no time for democratic exercise. Americans preferred dictators and generals for quick execution of their priorities. In return they gave the generals enough international support, weapons and money. Pakistan’s democracy would have survived and done well. But the US simply cut off the roots at the beginning. Its support for democracy in Pakistan is simply a window wash. They always preferred to work with Generals in Pakistan and it has placed Pakistan in an irreversible path. Like Umair says, democracy may not work well for Pakistan. They will have to find a system that works for them. If it is Sharia, well so long as it works for them, it should be all right. For India, there is no alternative to democracy. I do not see anything superior or inferior with the different systems. Whatever works is fine.

Posted by KPSingh01 | Report as abusive

Umair,

I can see that pakistan’s democracy has given nothing absolutely to common man and your anger is more than justified. But u need to understand that there is a big difference between Sharia and Democracy. Comparing Sharia with Democracy is like comparing apples with oranges. Neither apple is superior and nor is orange. One can like both or none. Thats not correct. Sharia is a law system and a democracy is a form of governance that decides what laws to be enforced. Any kind of governance be it Monarchy, communism, democracy or any other needs law and honest and strict law enforcement. Keyword here is ENFORCEMENT. Picture this: Assume u have Sharia in Pakistan and then obviously u will have enforcement agencies like Police and Army and so on. Suppose a man does a murder and caught red handed by policeman. Now what if policeman takes bribe from criminal and does NOT book him under Sharia. What will Sharia do then. Be it any law system this situation will always arise. So problem is not with law but with law enforcement. And Deep down problem is with economic and social structure of any nation. Saudi has huge reserves of oil and thats why people in general are well to do there and hence very low corruption but that has got nothing to do with Sharia law. And if u really want Sharia u can have it INSIDE democracy as well just as a law system but believe me without honest and strict enforcement even Sharia will be useless.

We in India never want a law system that says Eye for an Eye. NEVER. As for financial rules they keep changing and evolving with time. Economics changes every second with only one principal remaining constant: The law of Demand and Supply. Rest everything in economics and finance keeps changing. So making it fixed wont work at least not for India as India from times immemorial have been a core capitalist country and so it will remain, even with all its ills, we still love its benefits. And capitalism can survive and thrive only and only in democratic form of governance with continuously evolving laws and judicial system.

“For me, only an honest system would work where the well being of people is top priority”

Once in 12th standard I asked my physics teacher that he keeps saying “Ideally this law of physics says this and that and that law of physics ideally leads to this” so, “Sir what is this Ideally that u often keep talking of?” and pat came the reply from my teacher, “IDEALLY is that which DOES NOT EXIST”. So point is you can NEVER have a perfect system. There is no system 100% good or 100% bad. Its all in between. All world is BETWEEN sky and earth. Any system that looks good on surface may not be good inside. So democracy says that yes all is not well but thats how it is supposed to be. Democracy does not aim for perfection instead it aims for opportunity for all. So that ones who grab opportunity do well and lazy ones get laid behind. Its correct that democracy should not mean that a few get all riches but at the same time caring for all should not mean that poor gets the free lunch all the time. And I guess Islam very rightly states that one should not give alms to poor (as opposite to hinduism that foolishly says ‘Daan’ is divine) instead give the poor some work so that he can EARN his livelihood. So even Islam talks of opportunity for all and that is what democracy aims to achieve.

For example look at the case of Bihar state in India. At the time when Lalu family were ruling Bihar it was complete mess no law and order no investment no agriculture nothing. Most of Biharis had to leave their homeland and go out in search of work and did low paid labour jobs far away from their homes and families. And Now when it is Nitish in the CM chair things have changed drastically. First there is quite a lot more honest and stricter law and order ENFORCEMENT. He did not change any laws but just enforced the existing ones with strictness and honesty. Because of better law and order situation there is quite a lot of investment in Bihar. Now a days Biharis seldom leave their land and go out and as a matter of fact there is now shortage of labour in other states of India. All this INSIDE democracy and without changing any laws.

But yes in case of Pakistan I perfectly agree with you that democracy (or rather more correctly put it is the LEADERS) have failed to deliver. But then as u said once that may be Pakistan can become tomorrow’s Japan so its never too late to start reforms and movements. Youth in Pakistan should wage another stayagrah or something, some kind of revolution. That says stop fighting and wasting resources over India just sign a peace deal with India and move on to build the nation. Think over it.

Posted by 777xxx777 | Report as abusive

Umair,

Agreed that in democracy leaders call the shot but it is the common people that have to put pressure on leaders. If common, well-educated, and young people like yourself keep saying “Kashmir banega Pakistan, even if it takes 10000 yeras” then tell me is it not a lot more easier for your leaders to fool you? This Kashmir obsession has made your leaders’ intentions of fooling the masses of pakistan a very very easy job. How can leaders go on fooling the people if people say, “Kashmir or No Kashmir, we want development, peace and progress”??

So think about it deep inside your heart with an ice cool head of course.

Posted by 777xxx777 | Report as abusive

Umair,

Agreed that in democracy leaders call the shot but it is the common people that have to put pressure on leaders. If common, well-educated, and young people like yourself keep saying “Kashmir banega Pakistan, even if it takes 10000 yeras” then tell me is it not a lot more easier for your leaders to fool you? This Kashmir obsession has made your leaders’ intentions of fooling the masses of pakistan a very very easy job. How can leaders go on fooling the people if people say, “Kashmir or No Kashmir, we want development, peace and progress”??

So think about it deep inside your heart with an ice cool head of course.

Posted by 777xxx777 | Report as abusive

I can see that Pakistanis perhaps associate corruption with democracy, which is why there is disillusionment with democracy itself. It doesn’t have to be that way. It’s a long and hard journey (and India isn’t very far ahead on this measure), but at least Indians seem to understand that democracy is in fact an antidote to corruption. The Right to Information Act (http://bit.ly/3pptFb) is as powerful an instrument as regular elections in getting the administration to be accountable to the people it claims to represent. Let’s not give up on democracy. It’s in fact our only hope.

Regards,
Ganesh Prasad

Posted by prasadgc | Report as abusive

@Prasad, the millions of youth now don’t know anything but democracy in India.

Yes, they know of the rampant corruption, but the new generation of youth, all that they know is democracy and their children will inherit a better, more stable and efficient and generations thereafter.

India WILL blow past Pakistan and C-hina in this regard. C-hina is fully aware of India’s potential to form a new S. Asian E-conomic U-nion with Pakistan, Sri-Lanka, Bangladesh and other satellites around India.

Together, all of these countries can have the largest w-ork force and this will go hand in hand with democracy and wealth will be provided for all.

I find it short sighted when guys like Umair don’t see the huge opportunities for p-eace and co–peration between the S. Asian countries, if they form an e-conomic u-nion, this would form the largest w-ork f-orce in the world to rival C-hina’s and bring p-eace and p-rosperity to all S. Asian countries, because they will all progress and all of their squabbles will be addresed by keeping people e-mployed and busy, and turning them into c-onsumers.

Silly Pakistani’s just don’t understand and get the merits of democracy, democracy gives rise to many other great things when the people p-rosper and get a voice and when they do, the corruption becomes inherently displaced.

Umair, just enjoys the perks and prestige of being associated to military punjabi families and the freebees and they get, why would he advocate for democracy?, while his clan is already doing so well, it would mean giving up a lot and sharing with others there and implementing Sharia will keep people stupid enough, where they won’t question or want anything more than they already have.

Posted by G-W | Report as abusive

Reuters Moderators:

I posted yesterday and saw my post up there. Now it is not. Could you please explain?

Thank you.
Rehmat

Posted by rehmat | Report as abusive

Reuters: I am trying to write post one more time. Hopefully it works.

Umair:
You said: “If laws of sharia are studied in detail and looked at, it will turn out to be a perfect system with no other alternative to solve governance problems.”
****Umair, each place will have its own suitable political system. Sharia vs democracy is a debate for Muslim majority Pakistan, not for Muslim minority.
You said: “What the subcontinent needs reforms, Muslims in India should get atonomy.”
*** Umair, reforms will be specific to each country. Thanks for your concern but autonomy to Muslims is a wrong demand. As it happened in 1947, thousands would be dead again. I am sorry to be blunt but A Pakistani Muslim would be a spectator to that. Moreover, Quaid E Azam MA Jinnah suggested federal polity with provincial autonomy before partition and was rejected resulting in Pakistan. That experiment clearly did not work (Bangladesh). Throwing Indian Muslims, which are so diverse in nature, in one bag would do the same. Those dynamics are invisible in India. Reforms are needed but co-existence formula should not be discarded.

You said: “Saudi Monarchy vs Indian Democracy”
*** Perhaps better example will be to compare SA with Muslim majority Turkey, each ruled by sharia and democracy.
“Islamic sharia (Suadi Arabia) vs and democracy in Turkey”
Until 2003 there were just 9 Universities in Saudi Arabia, which with King Abdullah’s efforts are ~20 now. Look at the gender gap in Saudi Arabia. Muslim majority democratic Turkey is more progressive on this front which has more than 50 research institutes and organizations and is much open to either gender. In terms of education/research, India is way ahead of Saudi monarchy.
Democracy matures with time. Current problem of democracy is that it is not “fully democratic” yet. We have started enjoying freedom but responsibilities and accountability part is missing. It is time to reform not reject democracy, where it is in place.

Posted by rehmat | Report as abusive

Umairpk posted: “Why is India severely lacking in clout despite all its potential, size, population, resources and democracy when compared to Saudi Arabia.”
***It is true that India does not have the clout it should have. Most who have clout have been in the USA camp for long time. India was in the opposite side with the USSR. Post cold war, Indian economic liberalization and a huge mall for the West has shifted that.

It is slow but Umairk posted: “Why is India severely lacking in clout despite all its potential, size, population, resources and democracy when compared to Saudi Arabia.”
***It is true that India does not have the clout it should have. Most who have clout have been in the USA camp for long time. India was in the opposite side with the USSR. Post cold war, Indian economic liberalization and a huge mall for the West has shifted that.

It is slow but happening. India has managed to avoid puppet tag so far— one must give credit to Indian democratic system.

Posted by rehmat | Report as abusive

@Rehmat,

Democracy, despite its faults, is by far, the best system, which can allow all religions, all religious sects, all peoples in a nation to have a voice through official means, provided people choose to get involved in the political process.

Democracy, coupled with socially concious capitalism is even better, as people are elevated to a better way of living, because they work, have a better sense of dignity about themselves and don’t have time all day to ponder religious turf wars with other peoples and sects.

If you notice, unemployment is unusually high in many Islamic nations and this has lead to too many people with too much time on their hands.

Everybody needs to work, pay off a mortgage and live a democratic life, this creates the most productive, happy an usefull people, despite that it comes with some inherent problems as well, generally speaking democracy and socially concious capitalism takes care of 99% of the people quite well, for the most part and some do slip through the cracks.

Many muslims gravitate to western countries like Canada, US or Europe because there are jobs, a better way of life, free health care, publically funded social programs, good governance, good education, good roads, security safety and a better way of life for one’s children. Some immigrants succeed very well and even become quite rich, starting their own businesses.

Those muslims who are waiting years to get into western countries are not seeking Sharia, but seeking a better way of life. They are seeking democracy. The old Sharia way of life cannot in a million years, give them what democracy gives. Guys like Umair will debate that, but he is guy is living a privileged existence, compared to his countrymen. Having the rest of the poor follow Sharia is a greatway to keep them contained, pre-occupied with the ferocious politics of religion in matters like Kashmir, it greatly reduces scrutiny of the ruling elite class. Unfortunately the elite in Pakistan are walking on a very thin line as they cannot say officially either way whether they embrace Sharia or not, either way produces trouble in Pakistan. Pakistan adopts Sharia, it goes backwards and the religious nuts will try to displace Islamabad and Rawalpindi…and should Pakistan choose not to adopt Sharia…it will mean direct war between the Pakistan elite and Pakistani Clerical establishment. In a democracy, no one group can keep anybody hostage in such a manner.

More muslim countries should seek democracy, as this will create the greatest happiness for all, through the various things that democracy brings.

I think the best will be a democracy with some Islamic ideals, but it should not be called Sharia.

Posted by G-W | Report as abusive

@Rehmat,

BTW, one more thing, i believe democracy creates the happiest individuals. Happy individuals create overall, more productive, happy, creative, moderate and forward thinking societies.

Posted by G-W | Report as abusive

The advantage to a democratic system is that it is open to amendments. And it is driven by popular demand. In other words, changes happen based on what the public wants and not what the leaders want. Sometimes those changes do not appear forward. In India, reservation quotas, labor laws etc are quite backward looking. It is frustrating to see these privileges getting abused and empowered. But the poor can make their voices heard by throwing out a government that is too focused on the well-to-do. The BJP led coalition government aggressively went after getting rid off old government owned companies. This sector had a huge work force (way beyond what is needed) and was inefficient in every aspect. BJP led government did the right thing by encouraging voluntary retirement. They did not have the time to look at the poor. The next election they were replaced by the Congress led coalition. Now BJP has toned down its Hindutva policy, retired many old leaders and is trying to give a new look. Democracy forces politicians to change their colors. About twenty years ago, politicians never talked of any economic issues. Now politicians are bringing in economic issues to the fore and are discussing them seriously. A lot has changed.
One cannot expect fast changes. Changes have to be slow and have to undergo evolution. That is the only it will help democracy adjust itself according to the underlying culture.

The problem with a Sharia like system is that it is not amenable to changes. God said it and that is it. With changing times, the system begins to look archaic. There are lot of progressive Muslims who would like to see changes according to the times and the Sharia law will not allow for that. Progressive thinkers are then held in fear of punishment. Fear is used as the means to control a population. This is not a healthy thing for humans. Europe went into dark ages because of control by a rigid Roman Catholic theocracy. At some point it got out of it. Humans cannot be held under age old laws forever. Sharia is deeply linked with religion. The way modern Muslim theocracies manage to keep their people aligned is by creating enemies out of other communities – non-Muslims, Westerners, Communists, Shias and so on. Thus conflict is necessary to keep the people united and motivated. Fear and phobia of others is an essential ingredient to sustain exclusiveness. This begins to build a wall around a nation that is run by such a system. Such a system can survive if it is independent in terms of resources. There is no country in this world today that is self sufficient in all aspects. Interactions with others is essential and that brings in questions on why one should live in a certain way prescribed by God, while others do not have to. Sharia like system badly needs an enemy to keep itself going.

If you look at the history of Pakistan, one can see clearly that they have relied on an enemy state to keep their diverse ethnic groups stay united under an Islamic banner. Any attempts to diffuse that phobia is thwarted immediately by the powers within. That is the danger of relying on a theocratic system. It needs “others” to justify its hold on power. In a democracy, secularism is a necessary ingredient. Though one cannot become 100% secular, at least in a democratic system, it becomes the goal. One can question it and fight it in such a system. In the case of a Sharia system, such question is dealt with by harsh punishments.

Religion is meant for uplifting one’s inner spirit. Its function as an administrative system is questionable today. It might have worked in the past. But it is not suitable for the modern world which has reached its height in science and technology. There is vast information available that raises questions in people. Sharia systems will struggle to contain the people from seeking answers to those questions. And it will lead to conflicts as a solution.

Posted by KPSingh01 | Report as abusive

@Singh,

You have touched on some good points here. You said that a sharia like system uses an enemy to keep itself going, that is very true with Pakistan as a whole, its clerical and military establishment cannot hold political unity within Pakistan, unless India is created to be an enemy, eternally at any cost, it does not matter whether it is Kashmir, or even a flood, India is always blamed for every trouble in Pakistan or any other outside enemy, if not India, it maybe Israel or the U.S.

Sharia, like many other types of totalitarian or authoritian and theocratic institutions gravely and direly fail to address the rights and happiness of the individual and this will lead to spritual deadening of one within…you will never have a renaissance or any sort of intellectual awakenings, and this deadened state will never give rise to great thinking and great creation that human beings are capable of. In the end it leads to stagnation…there is no forward motion, just a static way of looking and perceiving the world….so what is the goal of this way of being…nothing will ever be created ever, nothing advanced. While the sheer rigidness of it all may ensure morality in most people, it will not make them happy, it will force them to not deal with inner feelings, hide from them, live in fear or reprisal or punishment if they speak out and in the end, lead to eventual psychological dysfuntionalies, anxiety and deep anger and resentment and the only outlet for all of this is….yes you guessed right….this is focussed towards enemies like India, Israel or the U.S. or other outsiders……and an uncompromising blind rage is created!…kind of like some people who want and need an enemy like India, to give meaning, focus and purpose to their world and belief.

In the end it leads to a mindset, where the believers feel that they are in a perpetual state of war with outsiders and non-believers.

Posted by G-W | Report as abusive

BTW Singh,

I know a lot of good, staunch muslims and I don’t believe most muslims are uncompromising, militant, nor extremists.

Most muslism do not ascribe to militant thinking and militants in muslim countries never win votes, so that tells us that most muslims are not militant, nor extremist in their views.

Muslims that choose Sharia, it would not be right to call them militant or extremist either. Sharia may be good for some, but not good for all.

Posted by G-W | Report as abusive

G-W,

I think Pakistanis like Umair put democracy down for different reasons – India has adopted it and has become good at it. Therefore, their pride prevents them from acknowledging that is a real accomplishment by a country they’d like to view as an adversary at all costs. If India adopted democracy and is going strong with it, then it is not suitable for Pakistan. This is because Pakistan is always superior in all aspects. What else is available? Well Pakistan was founded on the basis of religion. Therefore Sharia becomes a better system. If they had sincerely tried democracy for a few decades then they will have the necessary experience to know if is good or bad. They never had a proper democracy. Therefore their analysis of democracy as a useless system stems not from experience, but from a false pride. If India gained economically they will not fail to point at its poor masses, Maoist rising etc. Their psyche simply does not allow them to acknowledge anything good about India and its accomplishments. Pakistan’s military is superior. Their nukes are superior. They are superior. They talk from this view point. Unfortunately they know that the reality is different. Most Indians do not seek such an acknowledgment from others. We are as we are. Pakistan is paying the price for adopting Sharia system from the time of Zia Ul Haq. Umair knows in his heart that Sharia is like prison from hell – no music, compulsory prayers, women covered from head to toe and not allowed to study, drive and play submissive role. In Saudi Arabia, school girls were let burn to their deaths when fire spread in their school. The Mullahs declared that they cannot expose themselves during their escape and let them burn instead. Sharia might be a great system for Muslim men. But definitely Muslim women would not desire such a system as their value and freedom get utterly restricted. In today’s world where there is plenty of awareness of the outside world, the contrast will be felt strongly and deeply.

Posted by KPSingh01 | Report as abusive

In engineering 1st year we are taught a subject called “metallurgy”. There is a topic in that on “Alloys”. An alloy is a mixture of metals in different proportions. Metals are extracted from earth and are nature made. Each metal has some good and bad. Like nickel has low tensile strength but do not rust while on other hand iron has very high tensile strength but easily rust. So mixing iron and nickel in correct proportion gives us steel, an iron alloy that has very high tensile strength and yet do not rust.

You guys must have got my idea by now. Yes we should have a system that gets in best of all worlds. And democracy tries to achieve same. Key is to mix things in correct proportions. In democracy it may take hundreds of years to find right mix but democracy DOES ALLOW to mix and match and find right combination for good governance as per prevailing times. So democracy is a larger framework wherein people can work out what is best. It may be sharia for pakistan and may be capitalism for India. So we need democracy to find the good for ALL.

Posted by 777xxx777 | Report as abusive

Guys,

At the end of the day, Pakistan’s problem is poor governance and militantism.

Unfortunately, the different political streams, all vying for power, don’t care what is truly best for the people and the nation as a whole.

Everybody is busy pointing fingers and there is a lack of courage and a lack of moral will to do the right thing in Pakistan.

The present course will continue and Pakistani’s will continue getting dragged through the mud.

Posted by G-W | Report as abusive

Unlike that in the West, in India political, economic and social emancipation is happening simultaneously. This confuses the western observers. Indian democracy is in its adolescence but it’s vibrant and real.

The nation building project in Pakistan is stunted while that in India is free flowing, inclusive absorbtive, experimentative, and often messy. In the end, democracy without good governance is of little value. Comparing dictatorships with democracies is like comparing apples with oranges.

Posted by NPegasus | Report as abusive

Gentle men, let us hail democracy the best thing long term to give freedom to people. The devolution process in Democracy is now separating Scotland from the union, the mother of modern democracies.
Let us wish every country democracies so that people eventually gain freedom from the centeralised world diovided in countries.
Rex Minor

Posted by pakistan | Report as abusive

[...] is no easy answer to that argument. But having been forced to think about the nature of democracy after being hit by the full force of the political debate in  Pakistan when I went there to cover [...]

Democracy does not mean the Govt. of illetrates, by the illetrates and for the illetrates! These are the words of the former legal advisor to the declassified former dictator.
Democracy means equal chances for all in education. employment and human rights. The one thing should be the free education for all. Let us not discuss other features of the democracy, which some western nations have acquired over centuries, which is now part of their culture.
Rex Minor

Posted by pakistan | Report as abusive

[...] struggling to work out its identity, and the role of Islam, not just since independence in 1947, but even before, when the idea of a separate nation for South Asian Muslims was first raised.  Tackling the many [...]

[...] Pakistan, India and the value of democracy [...]

Most of the communities in India (such as Bengali), are succumbed in ‘Culture of Poverty’(a theory introduced by an American anthropologist Oscar Lewis), irrespective of class or economic strata, lives in pavement or apartment. Nobody is at all ashamed of the deep-rooted corruption, decaying general quality of life, worst Politico-administrative system, weak mother language, continuous absorption of common space (mental as well as physical, both). We are becoming fathers & mothers only by self-procreation, mindlessly & blindfold. Simply depriving their(the children) fundamental rights of a decent, caring society, fearless & dignified living. Do not ever look for any other positive alternative behaviour (values) to perform human way of parenthood, i.e. deliberately co-parenting of those children those are born out of ignorance, real poverty. All of us are being driven only by the very animal instinct. If the Bengali people ever be able to bring that genuine freedom (from vicious cycle of ‘poverty’) in their own life/attitude, involve themselves in ‘Production of Space’(Henri Lefebvre), at least initiate a movement by heart, decent & dedicated Politics will definitely come up.
- Siddhartha Bandyopadhyay, 16/4, Girish Banerjee Lane, Howrah-711101.

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