Spearhead Opinion – 14.10.2016

“Pakistan is being run as a monarchy in the guise of democracy — the nation is being duped in the name of democracy while bad governance is presented as good governance — people should carefully assess the situation and prudently use their right to vote while electing their representatives”

Chief Justice Anwar Zaheer Jamali quoted in The Express Tribune October 14.2016

judgmentThe Chief Justice of Pakistan made these remarks while hearing the petition against the construction of the Orange Line Metro Train Project in Lahore. The petitioner a well known architect and environmentalist had stated that the project endangered several heritage sites of Lahore. No one would oppose a project that is undeniably for the public good and the Chief Justice would be the last person to do so. The problem is the rough shod manner in which decision making is done and implementation ordered without consultation, without transparency and without a full disclosure and discussion on the implications and consequences–the total disregard for the consensus that should and must be the hall mark of democracy. Even monarchies today have to consider the impact of the availability of information and the awareness that this has brought about. There is no way that democracy can be a guise for monarchy.

If a democratically elected government wants to behave like a monarchy while projecting democracy then it is certainly fooling the people and taking them for a ride. It is then inevitable that good governance will take a bad seat and bad governance will be passed off as good governance. Governance requires institutionalized decision making to ensure input from all quarters, it requires credible and competent teams to be seen and heard and it requires a comprehensive effort to be made to take every stake holder on board so that once public resources are expended there is no doubt in any one’s mind that what is being done is good and sound and in the interest of the country and the people. When this is not the norm then bad governance kicks in and no amount of smooth talking can pass this off as good governance—in fact the whole process then becomes deceitful. Since the people are the real stake holders in a democracy they are the ones being duped — in today’s information savvy world this state does not last long.

Democracy exists and functions under a democratically elected government. The people who vote and bring in the government expect the elected representatives to be leaders. Unfortunately positions of authority and people elected to positions of governance do not automatically become leaders. When leadership is absent then authority is used to exercise raw power and autocracy– that is when democracy can become a despotic monarchy. Leadership is exercised by humility and a desire to serve — this leads to a development of trust between the leader and the led or in this case the elected leaders and the people. If this trust is absent then no amount of effort can bring about credibility and without credibility the government can never be trusted to do the right thing. In fact even when the intentions are noble the actions are always viewed with suspicion and distrust. So the Chief Justice has given advice that needs to be heeded by those casting votes — carefully assess the situation and use the right to vote prudently. The advice is timely because there is time to assess the situation and there is time to change track towards true democracy — by empowering the people and not by enfeebling them by the exercise of power and authority.