A mobocracy

2016-10-17T22:10:24+05:00 Mian Fazal Ahmad

A ‘Dharna plus’ has been announced by Pakistan Tehreek e Insaf (PTI) targeting locking of Islamabad on October 30, which apparently means shutting all activities in the Capital!

This may set an undemocratic and dangerous precedent for any future pressure group to stage similar adventures to press their demands, thus paving the way for rule of the mob in national politics. Can we afford it for future of democracy in the country?

Nonetheless, the struggle of PTI to end corruption in the country is a noble objective but the modalities to achieve it are seriously questionable. What justifies taking away the fundamental rights of the residents of Islamabad through the threatened blockage of the Capital?

‘Dharna or Sit-in’ by PTI at Islamabad for over two months in the past might have built some pressure on the Government and got support among a section of population as a political gain for the party but, in the ultimate analysis it has brought more of an image loss with a negative impact on the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf and their voters at large due to the consequent economic losses to the country.

A message of a lack of consistency in vision, sound planning, management skills and a disregard for national economic objectives has gone to the people of Pakistan.

Management experts prescribe that for the success of any objective of any movement or a venture, it must be must be specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and time based. The PTI’s dharna program lacks some fundamental elements of their objective of the ‘sit-in’ from the beginning. They need to revisit their entire program of political ventures like those hitherto planned episodes. Let us glance at some international and historical references on mob rule.

According to the dictionary; Ochlocracy  (Greek: ὀχλοκρατία, okhlokratía; Latin:  ochlocratia) or mob rule is the rule of government by mob or a mass of people, or, the intimidation of legitimate authorities. As a pejorative for majoritarianism, it is akin to the Latin phrase ‘mobile vulgus’ meaning “the fickle crowd”, from which the English term “mob” originally was derived in the 1680s.

Ochlocracy (“rule of the general populace”) is democracy (“rule of the people”) spoiled by demagoguery, “tyranny of the majority”, and the rule of passion over reason, just as oligarchy (“rule of a few”) is aristocracy (“rule of the best”) spoiled by corruption, and tyranny is monarchy spoiled by lack of virtue. Ochlocracy is synonymous in meaning and usage to the modern, informal term “mobocracy”, which emerged from a much more recent colloquial etymology.

Polybius (second century BCE) appears to have coined the term in his Histories. He uses it to name the “pathological” version of popular rule—in opposition to the good version, which he refers to as democracy. There are numerous mentions of the word “ochlos” in the Talmud (where “ochlos” refers to anything from “mob”, “populace”, to “armed guard”), as well as in Rashi, a Jewish commentary on the Bible. The word is recorded in English since 1584, derived from the French ochlocratie (1568), which stems from the original Greek okhlokratia, from okhlos (“mob”) and kratos (meaning “rule, power, strength”).

Ancient Greek political thinkers regarded ochlocracy as one of the three “bad” forms of government (tyranny, oligarchy, and ochlocracy) as opposed to the three “good” forms of government (monarchy, aristocracy, and democracy). They distinguished “good” and “bad” according to whether the government form would act in the interest of the whole community (“good”) or in the exclusive interests of a group or individual at the expense of justice (“bad”).

This (Polybian) terminology for forms of state in ancient Greek philosophy has become customary. It should be noted, however, that Aristotle termed democracy as “polity” (sometimes translated as “republic”, which confusingly is used by other Aristotle-translators for “aristocracy”, instead) while giving the name of “democracy” to ochlocracy.

An ochlocrat is one who is an advocate or partisan of ochlocracy. It also may be used as an adjective (ochlocratic or ochlocratical).

The threat of “mob rule” to a democracy is restrained by ensuring that the rule of law protects minorities or individuals against short-term demagoguery or moral panic. Although considering how laws in a democracy are established or repealed by the majority, the protection of minorities by rule of law is questionable.

In the wake of the above quoted references on the rule of mobs in a democracy, the politics of ‘dharnas plus’ as planned by PTI ought to end to gain better political mileage by PTI in the days to come. Constitutional and lawful means would certainly add to PTI’s image.

The matter of the Panama Leaks investigation are already in the judicial and parliamentary process. These trials should be given opportunity to promote the processes of law, justice and democracy in the country.

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