There has been a lot of theorizing about the post-Musharraf future for Pakistan. Many fear chaos and a fundamentalist takeover of the country. To your Blogger these views are a load of pessimistic tosh promoted by the current regime to frighten the West..
There are others who dislike Musharraf but loathe Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif even more. To them my message is to stop fretting and relax.
There are those who insist that the illiterate masses of Pakistan are unable to cope with democracy. Most of these people are members of the rich elite who disparage the very idea of passing control of the country to the majority. It is time they hushed up, for their views have been followed for most of the past sixty years.
To my mind the concept of a free society consists of a lot more than just holding ‘free and fair elections’.
Just take the example of the pre-1997 British colony of Hong Kong. Obviously there was no ‘Democracy’ in Hong Kong, ruled as it was by a Governor presiding over a 14-member Executive Council during the 1970s and 1980s. And despite the absence of direct elections, British Hong Kong was one of the freest societies in all of Asia (I know because I lived there for a while).
It was free society for two simple reasons – it had an independent judiciary implementing an impartial rule of law and a completely free press that held every individual accountable.
So try and imagine a future scenario with Benazir Bhutto in power and Asif Zardari trying to, once more, rake in a few million dollars from a government deal (the same could, of course, easily apply to the Sharif brothers). The moment the word of the ‘deal’ got out (in Pakistan few things can remain concealed for too long), it would be reported in the press and discussed ad nauseum on television talk shows with audiences of millions. This would then be followed by a suo moto judicial hearing and the guilty party would soon find themselves in deep trouble.
Am I being unduly optimistic? No, the world, my friends, has suddenly changed. Hope is finally in the air.
So I would implore you all to look at the bigger picture rather than simply focus on individuals and their past records. We should all struggle for two causes: the judiciary and the press.
It will not be an easy battle as the entrenched Establishment (the higher-ranking military, bureaucracy and the rich elite) will resist change every step of the way. Right now there is a rare wind of change in Pakistan and we must not allow it to fail.
While all of the Pakistan’s problems cannot be solved by installing an independent judiciary and a free press, at least it will help bring an end to the mega-kleptocracy that has blighted our country and its people for the past five decades.