Pakistan’s people have been unable to see the fruitful results of democracy as it has sporadically been overthrown by the army. Pakistan needs an accountable and participatory democracy that delivers for the people, writes Asim Nawaz Abbassi, 27, a Correspondent from Islamabad, Pakistan.
Democracy is a most basic and beautiful form of government, but there is an “if” associated with it, and that “if” is “accountability”.
The generals and the feudal lords who dominate governance in Pakistan think of democracy as an unnecessary thing. But the good news is the people of Pakistan have been gaining political maturity. Indications suggest they are tired of authoritarian rulers; they like democracy and they intend to keep it.
Democracy is well defined by Lincoln as “government of the people, by the people, for the people”. It is a unique and better form of government in which common people above a certain age have the right to accept as well as deny a person from being the ruler of a particular country.
The ultimate destination of democracy is to uphold and promote the dignity and fundamental rights of the individual, to achieve social justice, to foster economic and social development of a community, to strengthen cohesion of a society, and to build an enabling environment for international peace. But all this can be achieved only if democracy is kept accountable.
We are living in a world in which nothing can go smoothly if it is out of the eyesight of an authority or in simple words, if it is not kept accountable. However, one thing must be clear before relating accountability with democracy. Most of us take accountability as punishment for not doing something in a right direction. But in its real definition, accountability is willingness to accept responsibility for one’s actions. In simple words, preventing something from going wrong is accountability.
Governments that are truly accountable can more effectively prevent corruption, which involves the use of positions of power or privilege for personal enrichment. Indeed, corruption is possible in all systems of government, and democracies are not immune from it. Still, democracies have several advantages in dealing with corruption.
There are two basic ingredients of democracy that makes it better than any other form of government. First is the government formed by the democratic process is by the chosen representatives of the people. Second is that these representatives are accountable to the people for their performance.
Elected representatives in a democracy have a direct relationship with the country’s citizens. Their votes encourage the winner to act honestly in representing the people’s will. Indeed, the various laws, constitutional provisions, and internal regulations found in democracies reflect the idea that those who work for the government, whether appointed, elected, or hired, owe a high level of accountability to the public.
Democracy, however, cannot give its fruitful results without accountability. No government, therefore, is a democracy unless it implements political, administrative and market accountability.
Under political accountability, every political actor must be held accountable by other organs of the state, like parliament and the judiciary. Under administrative accountability, all government servants, civil as well as military must be held accountable. Under market accountability, the state must ensure that the market provides convenience and choices to its citizens.
We are talking about democracy and accountability, so it is also necessary to talk about the system that is often seen when democracy is absent – autocracy or dictatorship, which are more or less similar to each other.
Autocracies and dictatorships differ from democracies in their economic and political performances. In democracies, political leaders are accountable to the general public or the electorate. Periodic elections make it possible to reward or punish them for their actions at the voting booth. In autocracies, leaders escape this general scrutiny, and usually rely on a military apparatus or on the support from key groups to sustain their rule.
It should be cleared from this point that any form of rule other than democracy has many drawbacks that can never be overcome.
Dictators have nothing to do with what people are thinking. Instead they only see things in a broader way. They tackle major issues of a state, without going into the heart of the problems of the masses.
On the other hand, democracy, if kept accountable and participatory, will certainly deliver what it should. It enables an accountable and legitimate government. It ensures that people can choose their own leaders and put a check and balance on them.
It is my firm belief that democracy is the best form of government. It is accountable, because people have the right to elect and choose their leaders. People have a right to participate in the decision making. Above all, people have the right to remove the government if they are not satisfied.
Photo credit: Pakistan elections online
Asim Nawaz Abbassi is a youth activist, writer, and a political activist from Pakistan.
Opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of the Commonwealth Youth Programme. Articles are published in a spirit of dialogue, respect and understanding. If you disagree, why not submit a response?
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