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VIEW: Burden of Proof


Pakistan’s kaleidoscopic political scenario leaves the nation hedging its bets on the possible outcome while an apparent alliance of leading political parties emerges, still holding a possible electoral boycott as a valuable bargaining chip.

Meanwhile a charter of demands devised by the APDM-ARD, may suggest revoking post November 03 2007 actions of the government, which resulted in a re-shuffled judiciary, and the cherry picked caretaker government. The governments consent to the charter will automatically set the ‘heads you win, tails i lose’ clause in motion for the President and allay oppositions’ fear of rigging to an extent. Quite possibly, it may bench the formidable opponent who has been in the game for 8 years and open the door for some of the major players whose democratic declarations are their strongest and perhaps only asset. Either that or a possible poll alliance of key parties would decide to go ahead and contest without seeking further concessions. Then, presumably, the nation can select from its two ex-‘s and for many, it will be amount to a simple coin toss between one or the other.

At this point, a complete scrutiny of the ten-year legacy left by the two leading frontrunners would not help either candidate both of whom have ruled alternately from1988-1999. History reveals two idealistic figureheads whose flawed execution of the basic tenets of democracy is hardly endearing. Past performance becomes especially relevant when former leaders vehemently project democracy as the panacea for an ailing nation. Pakistan has witnessed democracy relapse into dictatorship under the civil leadership and democratic ideals thrive, at least for a while, under autocracy.

While contrasting a haughty dismissal of the professed failures of dictatorship by leading politicians to the documented gaffes in their rendition of democracy, one observes that the most grotesque images of human rights violations, media crackdown, judicial interference, lawlessness and economic frustration from recent times are but re-runs of events featuring two democratic governments. Though two exiled leaders have returned to re-launch their interrupted careers or ‘Save Pakistan’, as they so eloquently put it, immunity only removes the stigma of corruption from paper. It does not expunge observations made by Human Rights Watch publications of the ‘harshest media crackdown since Gen Zia’ in 1995 , the ignominy of having the world’s worst records of custodial deaths, extrajudicial killings and torture according to Amnesty International in 1996; brazen attempts to silence the judiciary in 1997, the post nuclear test economic meltdown of 1998 and finally, the decision to take a shot at being ‘Amir-ul-Momineen’ - the Supreme leader of the faithful- in 1999.

Thus far, it appears that this nation has merely toyed with this universally renowned concept; why else would democracy still appear to be in an experimental stage? In the 60 years of alternating between regimes and civilian rule, promises of restoring democracy are pointless when this country has yet to experience the real thing. However, since the specter of democracy has once again been raised, the burden of proof now lies with the next Prime minister.

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