Dr S. M. Rahman A very ironic situation prevails in our political predicament (military vs. civilian rule - an alternating paradigm) which baffles as to who governs better, the military dictators or the civilian leaders, wearing a 'democratic cloak; however, inside they are power drunk despots. They masquerade as 'elected representatives of the people, but behave as typical feudals, with a propensity to control and exercise power capriciously and typical indifference to the very people, who ritualistically exercise their 'vote, often quite naively on the empty rhetorics, juicy slogans and hyperbolic promises not to be fulfilled. An interesting situation arose when, invited to speak to a cross-section of military officers at the Fleet Club Hall, Karachi, I was covering the psycho-social problems of the country. At the end of the talk, a serving commander of Lt-Colonels rank stood up and asked a rather sensitive question: You are the Advisor to the President (I was serving in GHQ as Advisor, Psychological Operations, when Zia was the military ruler) but despite all efforts to launch propaganda against the PPP, its image has not come down in the eyes of the people and that it still lives in their hearts. Should there be elections, it is certain that this party will come into power due to the sympathy votes on account of hanging of its very popular leader - Z.A. Bhutto. So, how do you explain it? I narrated a story of a low class labourer, who was facing hard times on account of the fact that he had no job. So to console his wife, he used to urge her to wait for a few days, and that he had been promised a job very soon and then he would buy everything she wanted. The days rolled on, but the poor man went on repeating the same 'promise over and over again, but with no tangible result. Due to prolonged deprivation and debility, he died. When his wife was weeping, the womenfolk of the locality came and asked her as to why was she weeping? The husband had left nothing for her - no house, no money, nothing whatsoever. She replied after wiping her tears that while it was true that he had left nothing for her, but praising her husband nevertheless, she said after all, he was always giving her dilasa (sort of making her dream for better days to come). Saying that dilasa was a very potent weapon, which kept hopes and expectations alive in the hearts of the people. I pointed out that the PPP symbolically represented the colossal deprivations of the people at the lower rung - the silent majority. Not many political parties even did that and that PPP essentially was a dilasa party. In this backdrop, it would not be wrong to say that the military regimes have caused immense visible and invincible wounds to our polity. One example is the way Field Marshal Ayub Khan manipulated the elections through a system of 'basic democracy - making a mockery of democracy - to defeat Madar-i-Millat Mohtarma Fatima Jinnah. Had she assumed the presidential power, one can confidently say that we would not have lost the former East Pakistan. She had lived with the 'Father of the Nation, Quaid-i-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah, through thick and thin, and had internalised the norms and values of true democracy. Consequently, the 1965 and 1971 wars would have also been politically averted, and Pakistan would not have been detracted from the vision of our forebears. Besides the loss of one half of the country, the hanging of Z.A. Bhutto, General Zias total indifference to the countrys interest and futile attempt to gain popularity through transforming the society towards puritan Islam and promoting militancy across the Pak-Afghan borders, were totally against the ethos of the society and true to its builder, who adhered to liberal Islamic order, shunning theocracy. The 1973 Constitution very effectively projected the national sentiments, which was very badly mauled by the successive military rulers to suit their vested interests. Notwithstanding the grave errors, on the part of the military dictators, General Pervez Musharraf committed a great political sin by disgracing and publicly humiliating the Chief Justice and arresting over 60 judges of the Supreme Court. That was an unprecedented act, expressive of a deranged military mind, which triggered a vigorous civil movement comprising the lawyers, political parties and other segments of the society which ultimately paved the way for his ouster from the seat of power. Musharraf also made some other blunders which history would never forgive. In his over enthusiasm to please the US (covertly aimed at self-perpetuation into power), he stormed the Red Mosque through a ruthless use of military power killing innocent girls and boys, mostly orphans and a few fanatics, who were inside the mosque. This could have been averted through dialogue and negotiation, but the loyalist general had to exhibit his abhorrence of 'Islamic extremism by transforming the society into the so-called 'moderate liberalism, i.e. from one end of the continuum of General Zias misconceived notion of Islam to the other end, an apish conformity to extremist western liberalism, for which the Shah of Iran had to pay a heavy price. Pakistans ideology resides in the middle of two extremist views. Undoubtedly any ruler, who goes in tangent to the peoples aspirations, can never ensure his popularity. Furthermore, Pakistans nuclear parity with India had changed the regional dynamics. Pakistan could no longer be taken lightly and thus the Indian leaders, then Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, visit to Lahore and his address from Minar-i-Pakistan was a tacit recognition of the reality. But this was thoughtlessly squandered by General Musharrafs ill-conceived and badly executed Kargil Operation. India became not only belligerent, but it embarked on an aggressive propaganda against Pakistan, besides providing support to the separatist elements in Balochistan, and expanding its hegemonic ambitions in Afghanistan. Nevertheless, the gravest tragedy that Pakistan could face was to be pushed into the so-called war on terror, due to servile disposition of the 'commando dictator, causing colossal strategic setback to Pakistan. The story of civil governance is equally sordid and indeed a slur on the name of 'democracy. Hence, the people of Pakistan are in a dilemma as to whom to trust - the military or civil Apparently, the present governance, too, has failed to deliver even the basic amenities of life. Except for the elites, who plunder wealth, the life of the citizens is indeed very deplorable. The crisis of credibility is so acute that people have developed antipathy against the so-called democratic governance. Recently in a talk show, a very well known journalist expressed his extreme disgust for democracy and said that it was nauseating, and the remedy he suggested was frightfully horrendous - a benevolent dictator, as the need of the time. The politicians have become a symbol of greed and rapacity and the nation it seems is self-sufficient in corruption and violation of all human rights. Anarchy pervades. To quote Richard Branson, a British writer, who had said: I believe in benevolent dictatorship provided I am the dictator. That I is a myth. Let the lame democracy continue, till the voice of the people ushers in a respectable democracy. The writer is Secretary General, FRIENDS. Email: friendsfoundation@live.co.uk