Tag Archives: autocracy

Democracy under threat

By: Asma Jahangir

THE masks are off and daggers drawn. Pakistan’s democratic process may once again become a part of history, leaving the world to wonder how we could so willingly poison ourselves in the belief that it would lead to better days.

Those in power have consistently let their people down — ruthlessly. But no one is being fooled. They may feel helpless in the face of manipulation by everyone trying to save their skins — the judiciary included — but as the courts have often held themselves the truth does eventually prevail.

In the meanwhile, the country is headed for another phase of political instability that may finally lead to yet another autocracy. Sense may prevail at the end, but in the process, many heads will roll and hopes will be demolished. These are sad days for Pakistan.

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Altaf Hussain: Out of touch, out of date

MQM cadres are having a tough time defending their leader’s rants, as they are in touch and engaged with the reality that Pakistan is moving towards democracy, not dictatorship. Altaf Hussain is out of touch and out of date and arguably overtaken by history.

EDITORIAL: Out of touch, out of date

Altaf Hussain needs a history lesson before he makes suspect calls for ‘revolution’ led by ‘patriotic’ military generals. It seems that there are ulterior motives disguised as the desire for cleansing corruption. History is replete with examples of revolutions, which by no means are a dinner party, as Mr Hussain is making it sound. Revolution is an act, usually violent, whereby an oppressed class or a set of classes overthrows an oppressive ruling class or a set of classes and a new order is established. In such conflicts, there is no mercy. The victors will ruthlessly crush the other side.

Revolutions of ancient times, the Middle Ages and the modern era were defined by their protagonists. These three epochs coincided roughly with slave-owning societies, feudalism and the emergence of capitalism. In ancient Rome, the slave revolt led by Spartacus, which nearly overthrew the Roman Empire, was a reflection of its time. The slaves rose against the so-called democracy of the rich and powerful, which Rome had acquired as a legacy from Greece, but which excluded slaves. It did not succeed and was brutally crushed.

In the Middle Ages, there were changes that paved the way for the Enlightenment and the Renaissance, which ushered in the modern era. Magna Carta, one of the earliest documents considered the mother of democracy in modern times, was in fact a very limited document, given the times in which it was authored. It reflected the conflict between the nobility and the monarchy. The nobility wanted to wrest absolute powers from the monarchy and transfer them to a representative body called parliament, thus circumscribing the monarch’s powers. It led the way for major changes later on, reflected in the English Revolution of the 17th century, which overthrew the monarchy. A constitutional monarchy was restored after the death of Cromwell, creating the space for parliamentary democracy to incrementally flourish and define the limitations, right and obligations of a constitutional monarchy.

The most prominent example of that era, and the one that Altaf Hussain used, is that of the French Revolution in the 18th century. It overthrew monarchy, crushed feudalism and redistributed land among the peasants. The citizen’s power became supreme, opening the way to a modern nation state and democracy. France’s subsequent tilt towards autocracy was overtaken by proletarian revolts throughout Europe in the mid-19th century. Although these revolts were suppressed, they left a deep imprint. From then on, in Europe at least, autocracy was in retreat and democracy was advancing incrementally, with the exception perhaps of Prussia and Russia. …

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