Political tolerance vital to flourish democracy


Being considered a popular form of government in the world, democracy derives its strength from the masses, who had a strong say in policies and decision-making of governments while accepting each other’s criticism for bringing about improvement in the system.
Therefore, democracy is more than just a set of government institutions as it largely depends on political tolerance, values, mindset, practices and norms inevitable for socioeconomic growth and human development. It is rightly said by the former US President Abraham Lincoln, “democracy is the government of the people, by the people, and for the people.”
Talking to APP, Professor Dr A.H. Hilali, former Chairman, Political Science Department, University of Peshawar said that in democracy, people elect their representatives to govern them through a parliamentary form of government for five years and take decisions for their well-being.
In the ancient times, he said many forms of governments’ including monarchy, aristocracy, colonialism and dictatorship were practiced in the world but all these systems were gradually replaced following the introduction of democratic form of government in ancient Greece.
Dr. Hilali said the notion of democracy is basically stemmed after the treaty of Westphalia (1648) and it became socially more favorable after the French Revolution in 1789, adding that political philosophers like Rousseau also advocated about democracy as the most justifiable form of government to address the people’s issues based on political tolerance and acceptability of each others’ mandates.
He said until the mid-20th-century, democracy did not achieve smooth sailing and had to compete with the challenges of nazism, fascism and totalitarianism till the end of the World War II. Eventually, after 1945, the norms of democracy became more famous across the world including the Subcontinent.
He said democracy had also introduced in Pakistan and India after achieving independence from British in August 1947, however, this system could not flourish in the former due to unavailability of constitution and untimely deaths of the father of the nation and first governor general of Pakistan, Quaid-i-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah on September 11, 1948 and first Prime Minister of Pakistan, Nawabzada Liauqat Ali Khan on October 16, 1951.
Professor Hilali said democracy was derailed several times in the country after political parties did not accept each other’s’ mandates due to political intolerance and agitation by overthrowing political governments.
He said, “Pakistan has a long history of political intolerance where losing parties and candidates leveled serious rigging elections against winners which either led to premature dissolution of the national and provincial assemblies or midterm election besides derailment of democracy four times.”
He recalled that the government of Prime Minister Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto was overthrown after the nine religious-political parties of the joint opposition from the platform of Pakistan National Alliance (PNA) had launched mass agitation movement due to political intolerance besides claiming electoral fraud and riggings allegations during the general elections of March 7, 1977.
“The PNA had started agitation movement after it bagged only 36 seats and PPP secured landslide victory with 155 seats,” he said, adding that one seat was won by the PML (Qayyum) and eight seats were clinched by the independent candidates in the total 200 seats of the Parliament during 1977 general elections.
In spite of strong denial of the rigging allegations by the PPP, he said, the PNA’s agitation movement sparked riots and unrest in the country after massive demonstrations and violent anti-Bhutto protests.
Dr Hiali said that bar associations and civil society also came on the streets against the alleged electoral fraud allegations and denounced the post-election policy of repressions. “The law and order situation and rioting had caused &765 million loss to the country’s economy while exports slashed by 35 percent,” he said, adding democracy was derailed for the third time in the country on July 5, 1977.
As a result of political intolerance, he said the elected governments of PPP and PMLN had been dismissed on allegations of corruption, poor governance, mismanagement and rigging elections during 1988-1999 and its negative outcome emerged before us as of October 12, 1999 martial law.
He said in 2014 sit-in staged by the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf Chairman, Imran Khan and Pakistan Awami Tehreek (PAT) Chairman, Dr. Tahirul Qadri accused PML-N for making rigging in 2013 general election was another example of political intolerance and accepting not each other’s’ mandates.
The PTI and PAT’s allegations against Nawaz Sharif government were rejected by a high-powered commission led by former Chief Justice of Pakistan, Nasirul Mulk who declared that the 2013 polls were organized and conducted fairly and in accordance with law. The Commission had also ruled that PTI’s request for a probe was not justified.
Former Advocate General KP, Esa Khan said that articles 8-28 of Chapter-I of 1973 Constitution protect the rights and dignity of all citizens of Pakistan. Besides freedom of speech, movement, assembly and expression, he said, “no citizen would be subjected to any form of torture, derogatory remarks and abusive languages on the basis of political affiliations, race, religion and caste.”
The PML-N KP Spokesperson and member provincial assembly, Ikhtiar Wali Khan accused the PTI leadership for the growing political intolerance in the society. He said heckling of Federal Minister for Information and Broadcasting Marriyum Aurangzeb at a coffee shop in London by the PTI supporters was evidence of it.
He praised the manner in which Marriyum Aurangzeb has dealt with the harassment from the PTI supporters shows her grace, adding her honorable conduct had exposed the ugly face of the intolerant blind followers.
Ikhtair Wali said the people of Pakistan still remember who was involved and behind chanting of slogans and passing of derogatory remarks against the PML-N leadership at the holy mosque of Masjid-e-Nabawai (SAW).
The speakers said that it was high time that all parties including the PTI should train and educate their supporters about the importance of political maturity.
Similarly, strengthening of democratic culture in the country is not possible to flourish without tolerating each other.