Democracy is a form of government that is just about one hundred years old, and in many countries, much younger. There was no democracy in any of the British, French, Spanish, or Dutch colonies. When the Brits left their crown colony and India and Pakistan were created in 1947, after long suffering and a terrible freedom fight, democracy could finally be introduced. Yet, for long periods after that time, Pakistan has had military rule. Today, though, I believe that time belongs to the past, unrealistic to imagine for future rule of the land – even now when many think that Imran Khan’s ‘Naya Pakistan’ is slower than hoped in implementing election promises. But then, to show results in politics, indeed in democracies, always take time. If a ship in deep waters, in deep financial trouble, and the course has to change, that can only happen slowly, steadily, systematically and over time.

Besides, not even leaders know exactly how to do it. It is only after you open the cupboard that you find what is in it, of good things and bad things. In Pakistan’s case, there were a lot of things hidden in the cupboard, which the new leaders are sorting out; some things to be thrown and replaced by new things, and some old things to be kept, too. Pakistan still has to borrow much more money than what is sustainable, and it is under the thumb of IMF and the World Bank. I was impressed that Pakistan put up a fight with those financial institutions of the West, which were created after WWII and the end of the colonial era. I also agree with many mainstream Pakistani politicians who have finally become critical of those financial institutions, even those who are otherwise Western-oriented and conservative. But then, the problem remains that there isn’t yet anything or anyone to replace those institutions fully, even if some alternative help can come from the Chinese or the Arabs.

Let me say that I cannot see any other way than what the current government is trying to do, and it is up to good communication officers to explain to the people that things are on the right track, assuming they indeed are. It is essential that support is maintained for the government through its full parliamentary term. The results should be a better economy for the land, and a better everyday life for ordinary people, the backbone of any country, who are not yet reaping the fruits, as they had expected. They need better pay, better education and better health services. And they also need greater say in all spheres of work and life. Labour unions are essential and all kinds of interest organizations. If the liberal middle class wants to do anything good for ordinary people, they must support the working classes in this process. They must not just work for their own betterment; they must show solidarity with those lower on the ladder – those who today suffer most because of electricity shortages, higher petrol prices and inflation in so many fields.

I began my article today by reminding us that democracy is just about one hundred years old even in those countries which have had it longest, with New Zealand having been first, with universal suffrage since 1993. In Sweden, the parliament voted for women’s right to vote in 1918, and they keep celebrating it this year and until 2021, since that marks a hundred years since they held the first elections where women could participate, and poor men, too. Half a year ago, when the first seminars were held to celebrate Sweden’s democracy, Professor Emeritus Sören Holmberg, renowned election specialist, gave a pessimistic prediction; he said that he was not sure democracy would last for another one hundred years. Since he and all of us will be gone by that time, we will not be around to answer for such predictions. What he said, though, we have a duty to prove wrong – in Sweden, Pakistan and everywhere else. In Sweden people are still active in voting; over 87 percent took part in the last general elections in September 2018, but fewer are members of political parties than before. In Pakistan, voter turnout was only about 56 percent in the general elections in July 2018. There is indeed a good distance to go to get more people to vote, and many more must be active members of political parties and groups, not only before elections but throughout. They must feel they can influence all the time.

Every summer, mainstream politicians attend a whole week of political debate in Almedalen in Visby on the summer holiday island of Gotland on the south-eastern coast of Sweden. Yesterday, the newly elected leader of the Liberal Party spoke. She is Nyamko Sabuni (50), a Burundian-born Swede, who came to her new homeland after some refugee time in Tanzania, along with her parents, a left-wing politician father from Zaire (now DRC), a Christian, and a Muslim mother. Yes, she is Afro-Swedish, and she used that term herself, ‘afro-svensk’. She speaks with distinct Swedish accent.

In the election campaign for leadership she was up against Erik Ullenhag (46), who was on leave from his post as ambassador to Jordan, and Johan Pehrson (51), another experienced politician, who now has become leader of the party in parliament. All of them have served as cabinet ministers earlier. Sabuni won convincingly over the two men she was up against.

In Almedalen in Visby yesterday evening, the large audience welcomed her warmly. She spoke with confidence and enthusiasm. It doesn’t take many minutes before all have forgotten that she has another ethnic heritage than most Swedes, well, about eighty percent of the people since about twenty percent are immigrants. Sabuni is not a leftist politician; she is a centrist, even sometimes quite conservative. But she has pointed out that she wants Muslims to be more feminist. She thinks Sweden has come close to overstretching itself taking a bit too many immigrants; now, it is time to focus on better integration politicians so that many more than Sabuni herself can take the travel she has taken, to reach mainstream society and more, become a leader, first as a member of parliament, then as a minister, and now as a party leader. She and her indigenous Swedish husband, and her immigrant parents, must be proud of what she has done – and of what Sweden made it possible for her to do. Congratulations!

Today is the 4th of July, which is America’s national day. Let me say another ‘Congratulations’ to all Americans, including those of Asian, Latino, African, and other geographic, cultural, religious and gender backgrounds. President Barak Obama took the country many steps ahead – and now Sabuni follows suit in Sweden.

In America, Europe, Asia, including Pakistan, we must keep working for renewing and expanding democracy, indeed in this time when populist and other groups and movements develop. In Pakistan, I was impressed by the way people turned around status quo at last elections. Now, we must support the system so that many results can be achieved to show that nothing is better than democracy.