Bajwa Doctrine and Democracy’s Responsibility Matrix

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DR. FARRUKH SALEEM: ‘Horror vacui’ – ‘nature abhors a vacuum’. Aristotle, the father of Western philosophy, postulated that wherever vacuums would occur, ‘denser surrounding material would immediately fill the vacuum’. Nawaz Sharif, not the man but the phenomenon, represents a vacuum (a space entirely devoid of matter). Asif Ali Zardari, not the man but the phenomenon, represents another vacuum. Imran Khan, not the man but the phenomenon, represents yet another vacuum. Case in point: Nawaz Sharif, Asif Ali Zardari and Imran Khan with 29 million votes among them could not get their own man elected as the chairman Senate. Yes, Sadiq Sanjrani, an independent, representing the ‘denser material’ around the vacuums, is the new chairman Senate.

On the external front, according to the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI), a British security think-tank, “the Pakistan Army under the ‘Bajwa doctrine’ is biting back hard against threats issued by the American administration.”

On the domestic front, the Bajwa doctrine seems to be standing on four pillars: a ‘guided democracy’, the state’s monopoly on violence, rule of law and the strengthening of the federation.

Under the Bajwa doctrine, a ‘guided democracy’ could be a combination of three things. One, a governance setup where voters exercise their right to vote resulting in a government that is legitimized by ‘free and fair’ elections. Two, a governance setup where the role of the elected is circumscribed in a way that the elected have little or no impact on public policy.And three, democratic rights are to be defended but politics will not be allowed at the cost of national institutions.

Under the Bajwa doctrine, the Pakistani state must attain complete monopoly of the legitimate use of physical force over Pakistan’s 796,095 square kilometers. That means getting rid of terrorism in all its shapes and forms, plus putting an end to all forms of ‘private jihad’.

Rule of law, under the Bajwa doctrine, could mean that the ‘army will stand by the judiciary’. Here the message to Pakistan’s de facto troika, comprising the GHQ, Supreme Court and prime minister, is clear. This could also mean ‘across-the-board’ accountability. Under the Bajwa doctrine, the 18th Amendment to the constitution has in the name of ‘provincial autonomy’ actually weakened the federation.

‘Guided democracy’, as a concept, was developed by Walter Lippmann (1889-1974), the American writer, journalist and political commentator (Lippmann also came up with the concept of a ‘cold war’). In 1957, president Sukarno of Indonesia established a ‘guided democracy’ that lasted till 1966. Initially, Indonesia did quite well. Within a few years, Sukarno’s ‘guided democracy’ became an empty slogan and a euphemism for one-man rule. Dr Sheldon Wolin, professor of politics at Princeton University, equates a ‘guided democracy’ to an ‘inverted totalitarianism’.

A state’s – any state’s – raison detre is to provide personal and economic security to its citizens. The Pakistani state has lost its raison detre (raison detre is the ‘most important reason or purpose for a state to exist’).

Our civilian leading lights have failed to establish a system for the dispensation of timely justice, accountability, electricity and water. Our political elite must come up with a new governance doctrine or denser surrounding material will fill the vacuum. To be certain, under the Bajwa doctrine, the role of the organized political parties is shrinking and that of the Supreme Court and the ‘establishment’ is expanding (and the same would apply to the caretaker government and the upcoming general elections).

The writer is a columnist based in Islamabad.

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