Democracy: a process or a culture?

11 Dec

Democracy demands governance of the people by themselves. It feeds on desire of the people, not dictated by any outside force. Through the process that may be called democratic, the leaders that arise manifest the desire of the people to be ruled by them. They become the repository of people’s faith and promise. They cannot help but expect great things from their leaders for that is their desire as well. Good governance, justice, fair play and the equality of opportunity are the fundamental ideals by which any society would want to live by. In a way, democracy fosters growth and a progressive future that is fueled by the will of the people. The exercise of such democracy takes place only when social culture imbibes democratic culture. It happens only when democracy is allowed to persist without any threat and disruption. Democracy can be, then, understood as the process that transpires and crystalizes the democratic culture amongst the people.

The flower of democracy evolves slowly and tests the patience. While it is easier said than done but the history of this world instructs that no country has had the fruit of democracy until after much sacrifice. It takes a while for democratic practices to seep in. What needs to be understood here is that democracy does not merely mean where people get to vote in and vote out their leaders. Neither is it the rule of the majority. John C. Calhoun, a luminous American political theorist, defined democracy as “diffusion of power, representation of interests, and recognition of minorities.” It is way of the government where power does not reside with the chosen few, but trickles down. No individual is cast out based on their color, creed, religion and language. The state stands for equality of opportunity and not for the preference of majority and, in the process, suppressing the minorities. For a state machinery to be framed in such democratic code requires due time and patience. Many leaders rise to the occasion only to abuse power afterwards. Such occurrences are part of the package where people get to be trained to live in a democratic culture.

Following the definition of democracy given by Calhoun, it can be safely assumed that Pakistan stands in the process of diffusion of power stage. The representation of interests and the recognition of minorities would only take place when proper diffusion would occur.

To understand the diffusion of power, it means that the power itself devolves to smaller administrative units originating from the supreme governing body. In Pakistan, the Parliament should diffuse power to provinces. These provinces in turn to divisions and districts and to tehsils. When power would devolve to lower administrative units, the state would be able to ensure its presence, virtually, in the whole country. The Center cannot control everything from one city. Its job is strictly to administer the functioning of the state and let its constituting units carry out the important tasks. This process relates to democracy in the manner that only when state would be able to make itself appear to common man, only then would it earn the trust of its citizens. The state must never be seen as something abstract. This trust bodes well for democracy to grow for without it, the populace becomes disgruntled with the current system, and consequently impatient. The devolution of power ensures that people have the access to the state whenever and wherever they need it. The proverbial ivory tower of the center have been demolished. In their place, stands erected the monument of the government, built only upon the consent of the people. Once the governing state loses this consent and confidence of the people of the state, the monument would collapse into rubble. The states that choose to ignore or, in a way, suppress their people are doomed to fail. Napoleon, Hitler and Mussolini, all of these rulers lost their powers when they failed to suppress the agitation of the people. Once the people decided to rise against the tyranny, the end to authoritarian regimes becomes predictable.


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