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The alternative to the slow boat of democracy in Pakistan is failure

By Omar Ali

While the Zia-ul-Haq narrative promoted jihadist militias and covert foreign adventures, Pervez Musharraf’s regime led to open rebellion in Balochistan, an independent Islamic emirate in FATA, a nationwide terrorist problem and new compromises with the same corrupt politicians. And were Ashfaq Parvez Kayani to take over tomorrow, he will end up with the same compromises and the same old faces.

Before a democratic government can stabilise, the middle classes, schooled in the Pakistan Military Academy narrative, start aching for another saviour on horseback, but none exists.

In the current crisis in Pakistan, there has been some comment over what might work better for the country’s development — a “democratic” model or an “authoritarian” one. These categories may be misleading. Generalised arguments about “authoritarian regimes” and “democracies” hide far too many details under the hijab. There is vigorous debate about the shortcomings (real and imagined) of modern capitalist democracy and there is no reason to think that it is the final system under which mankind will live forever. But in the last 100 years, most absolute or dictatorial regimes have all either broken down, or seen capitalist development and evolved into some sort of democracy. The question then is not about democracy versus authoritarianism. It is about whether an “under-developed” state, such as Pakistan, can “develop” as a capitalist democracy without going through a fascist phase.

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