The masses are ‘citizens’ and not ‘subjects’, they could be ‘sincerely’ but not ‘obediently’ anymore
There was a need to democratize not only the institutional structures but also the political culture. The academia has a significant role to play in this regard and evolution of popular means of mass communication could be of great assistance. The greatest challenge in this transformation process has been the deep-rooted insecurities infused by centuries of foreign rule. Questioning the elders in the basic social unit of family is considered a “sin”. On the same pattern questioning a ruling authority had also been an unacceptable practice for centuries. The academicians trained in the colonial traditions continued with the old practices. India did better than its twin state Pakistan in getting rid of its feudalistic structures though the transformation process has been equally challenging for them. Pakistan couldn’t eliminate the political influence of the feudal setup, it rather became strengthened with the development of industrial and business elite gaining political power. The relationship between an electoral candidate and the voters was a rather “patron-client” relationship. The adherence to the authority of benevolent despots was imbedded in the national psyche. If a rich person spends his money on your daughter’s wedding, helps your son get a job, gives you ration for a month or grains for a season, he is your benefactor and patron. It is perfectly justified if in return you have to stay unconditionally obedient to him. The way for decades in a democratic state, we kept on teaching the pattern of application where we begged as somebody’s obediently, our votes were cast to show our obedience to the ruling elite. The way “divine right theory” was used in Europe to give a religious certification to the royal rule, our local religious leaders also continued to strengthen the image of our local despots in an apparently democratic structure. Their benevolence was acknowledged through titles like “maibaap” (the giver), “Hazoor e Ala” (the highly prestigious) and the commoners presented themselves as “fidvi”, somebody ready to sacrifice for the sake of the mighty lord because for generations the local lord has been the benefactor who gave grains and food and now built roads or got the street bulb fixed. Since just like the despotic rules, education was not the priority of democratic governments either. The masses who didn’t have access to knowledge and political awareness, continued to give their unconditional obedience to their lords without understanding that the so called favors given actually were out of their own tax money.
Democracy therefore didn’t develop in Pakistan in its true essence because though the structures were there, but we lacked a democratic culture to support them. Elections 2018 have been a catalyst of evolution towards true democratic values, though still a lot more is to be done. The media, whatever grievances we have with them, have aided the transformation towards challenging the norms of the authority that could previously not be challenged. There have been many incidents reported where candidates who had been in rule have been publicly questioned by their constituents about their previous performance. A mere superiority of status is not good enough to subjugate the criticism. Many “electables” have not been elected and references to kinship or racial superiority have been rejected. Even exploitation of the religious factor for commanding obedience has not worked everywhere. Though there’s still a lot to be done through an education revolution to break the last shackles of a subject mindset and the use/misuse of religion, but the winds of change towards true democracy have started blowing. Any government-to-be needs to understand that it must deliver to be able to return to the constituencies after five years and is constantly watched by a vigilant media. The demeanor of the political leaders must be of ‘representatives’ rather being ‘rulers’. Despots, no matter how benevolent they may be, will not be acceptable for long. A political reform, an administrative policy or a day off, are not to be begged for, they can be demanded or simply asked for as a right. The masses are ‘citizens’ and not ‘subjects’, they could be ‘sincerely’ but not ‘obediently’ anymore.
Published in Daily Times, July 28th 2018.