By Fayaz Ganie
The countries forming the South Asian firmament should have been preemptive to start from the right places, in the right direction and towards real destiny. Preemptive they were not, on time they started not and they are not even initiating the delayed but much needed action for gaining that which must have been gained so for. Their lackadaisical, disinterested, partial, most of the times preferential towards the interests of a particular group and inefficient attitude is the reason why they are lagging behind in all the areas of public importance. The situation is such that at times one is forced to think that were they better under the colonial rule!
Nevertheless, optimism demands not to give up hope. They need to work now; to complete what has been left incomplete for far too long, start afresh where no headway has been made and identify and move on the roads which have not been identified yet and treading on which would make the accomplishment of their objectives possible and easier.
The that question arises now is which are the areas, and ends, from where to work, what should be the master key to unlock all the chains and what should be the best grand strategy. The simple answer to these questions, and many more, is to make radical changes in the way governance is conducted in these countries. The present style of working and form of these governments leave the excluded in a state of more exclusion. This excluded section, which amazingly is the majority, is never tried to be included in the programs and policies of the governments in the real sense. Their interests are readily sacrificed at will by the elites fully supported by the governments.
Thankfully, most of these countries are democracies as indicated by their official names viz- Republic of India, Islam Republic of Pakistan, People’s Republic of Bangladesh, Federal Democratic Republic of Nepal, Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka and Republic of Maldives. Bhutan only is the country where the world ‘democratic’ or ‘republic’ is not used in her official name(Kingdom of Bhutan) but even in this country people vote to elect the government. In each country, therefore, the actual sovereignty springs from the people. However, this sovereignty has been relegated to the status of right to vote only and even this right is violated by manipulation of the democratic institutions.
The inherent faults and flaws that lie in these governments make them equivalent or worse than the non-democratic forms of governance. Here, the primary consideration of the rulers is to seek, gain and remain in power; everything else is subordinate to this. The political executive is so disarrayed and disorganized that any false prestige gives them pleasure and contentment, they forget their election manifestos the very extent they occupy the cozy chairs in the annals of governance. The bureaucracy is so rigid and inflexible that it muzzles every voice that tries to make it dynamic, flexible, in the interests of the ruled and answerable.
The offices of political executive and bureaucracy have been turned into a sort of hereditary entitlements where it is the same and same dynasties and clans which are there to rule; no other people or persons are allowed to occupy them. If the few are allowed, they are kept in positions subordinate to the privileged class. At the time of elections, if any change at all is made it is made in the substitution of one set of elites by the other and rest remains the same.
In most of the cases , the elites who lose power at the time of elections, change parties to regain power without bothering to wait till the next election. This way of exploitation of this form of government has emboldened these politicians so much that even the existence of the masses is of no value for them ;as if they are divinely ordained to rule and occupy the posts of government and this is the story from the outset, and in every one of these countries.
It is here these politicians and bureaucrats are reluctant in resolution and solution of their external conflicts and internal problems and establishment of peace. Without these issues, conflicts and problems they have nothing to offer to their voters, they have nothing to promise. Their track record is so untidy and unsatisfactory that without these problems they will surely lose their power and seats or there would be revolution and coups in these countries to topple them. The lack of peace gives them ample opportunity to avoid accountability. As already said they have made the maintenance and management of these internal and external problems as investments towards their political and bureaucratic careers.
In India, the importance of the people has been relegated to the background. We know in advance that it would be one or the other of the two major political parties that will be heading t governments ; no other party or coalition has been able to survive against these two parities. And, what these two parties do is just to play with the emotions of the electorate and rest is known. They engineer conflicts and issues and internal problem and chaotic circumstances in their favor. All the attempts to bring electoral reforms and restructuring democratic institutions fall flat against the power and influence of these two powerful parties. Plus, it is disheartening to see when the masses fall prey to the gimmicks and blackmail of these parties again and again. It is this public apathy toward their own interests which is appalling and gives the rulers all the opportunities to keep exploiting.
In Pakistan, more or less, the same is the case. Bangladesh, Nepal and other countries of this region present a somewhat similar story. There also the excluded remain excluded and all the plum and pie is eaten by the creamy layer. Attending the real issues of the majority is their last consideration, if at all, that is a consideration. In all the countries there are hereditary and dynastic governments only the guises are different in actual practice. The elections and electoral practices are just tools to given these governments a semblance democratic color.
Devoid of these faults, flaws and fallacies considering the demographic, regional and cultural constitution and diversity of these countries, democracy is the best practicable government in these countries. It is this government only which could attend to the needs and necessities of all the regions and people of these countries. It is democracy only which could deliver the services of governments to all without discrimination and preference. It is this form of government where emancipation of all the people is possible and where all the ills faced by the people can be removed. But, the indifference of the ruling classes towards real democracy prevents the region from ushering an era of real democratic governments.
Thus, the urgent need is to make these governments real democracies. The democratic institutions should be made resistant to any manipulation. There should be brought structural, operational and functional readjustment and refurbishments in the in these institutions. The electoral processes and procedures need to be devised in such a way were governments would be formed only when a party or coalition gets more than fifty percent of votes. The elections may become a bit costly but the democracy will gain much traction and acceptance. The political parties should be banned in using external issues and internal issues in such a way where they are found to be fanning these issues during the election times to gain electoral mileage. They should in no case be allowed to disturb the peace of the region. It is possible in peace only where all the problems faced by this region, mentioned in the foregoing pages, could be effectively dealt with and it is lack of the peace, and threats to peace, which have prevented this region from moving up towards the horizons and summits of development and progress.
The rulers of the present times should realize that the governments which work in the real interests of the ruled last for long. Their journeys surely are tough, they sweat more, they seem not succeeding in the beginning and these rulers remain susceptible to fall with every succeeding step but when sincere intent is followed by dedicated action the public cannot remain oblivious about the feats so achieved.
History is replete with the examples where many non-democratic rulers delivered such governance which many democracies cannot dream as yet. Their real services to the ruled are there to remain as long as there will remain the human species and their way of governing is worth emulating. Material may give some gains, it may give lifelong power but the real government is the one which is remembered for the services it has delivered and is delivering. The governments of this region may also be remembered for their good deeds but only when they act as the conditions of the majority of the men of this region demand otherwise they are mere adjuncts to the great list of tyrannies that have ruled in the past. It is better is to be remembered for the good.
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