Resilience of Pakistani People Against Dictatorships

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By Aasma Farhad
Foundations of Pakistan lie in democracy. Democracy here means rule of the people. Like other successful democracies the power of administration is determined at the grass root level through electorate. It then moves upward in the administrative hierarchical structure and is then dispensed off downwards. Other state institutions including defense, judiciary and bureaucracy complement democracy. Though there have been incidents where one or more institutions conspired to help establish dictatorships but public resilience at large have been too overpowering to let dictatorships flourish unchecked. Consequently three of the four military backed dictators had to step down in the face of growing internal pressures. Public rejection to one man rule is what is quite uncommon in other third world countries like Nepal, Iran and China, where democracy remains a relatively new concept. Although a country defined by an over ruling sense of religious nationalism than by geographical boundaries, Pakistan unlike Saudi Arabia or Iran lacks monolithic majority of any single sect. A country created for the political sovereignty of subcontinent’s Muslims, the society remains divided into many different religious factions within a larger Muslim community. There are Shias alongside Sunnis and then Sunnis are further categorized into Deobandis and Barelvis. Individuals further have a strong political sense of identity with their castes and baradaris. There are many small factions of the society and non-Muslim minorities as well. With such diverse ethnicities and religious pluralism, Pakistan’s survival lies in democracy. Democracy therefore, in Pakistan is as much a necessity as it is a challenge. This month second consecutive democratic government has successfully ended up its tenure of five years and handed over its power to a care taker government. This is a great achievement for a country where military and civilian governments have been playing musical chairs for almost half a century. But where democracies could not be successful in the past, dictatorships too were not that easy. Autocrats, whether elected democratically or backed by military had always faced resilience from Pakistani people at large. That is part of the reason why the army refrained from interfering in states affairs all this time during the unpopular rein of the last government. The story of Pakistan, land and people, is that of defiance to autocracy. Historically speaking, the sense of independence and resilience to any absolute power among the people of the subcontinent remains unmatched till date. When monarchy was the only way of governance in 14th and 15th centuries, the people of the subcontinent enjoyed small state autonomies. With exceptions like Ashoka, Akbar and Aurangzeb, none of the rulers including their immediate successors could maintain autocratic rule. Even those who did establish their autocracies had to promulgate democratic practices like pluralism and freedom of expression. The fact that the British succeeded in establishing a colonial rule was because of the absence of a strong central authority. By the time British arrived, the whole subcontinent was divided into small independent states. None of the emperors was tactful enough to overpower the growing defiance of the independent states. Though local rulers gave in to the British treachery they were never comfortable with growing British autocracy. Consequently, British had to face a massive retaliation at the grass root level in 1857. In fact most fprceful rebellion that the British had to face during the war of independence was in Oudh, East India Company’s longtime ally. The War of Independence also known as the Sepoys Mutiny was a strong armed defiance of unorganized individuals against a totalitarian authority. Although the rebellion failed to oust the colonial rule completely it caused heavy losses to the company and forced it to make major administrative changes....
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