Shahnaz Khan In my article, which was published inTheNationon October 29 aboutDemocracy and Pakistan, I made the statement: The only road to democracy goes through economic equity and parity. But before we embark on this road, it is important to define economic equity and parity. Does it mean that everyone owns equal material assets? So, for example, if a master decides to share 50 percent of his wealth with his slave, or if under a totalitarian regime or a monarchy there is equitable distribution of material resources and citizens have equal access to basic human needs like education, healthcare and job opportunities, but they do not have any control on the source of wealth, will that create economic parity? Religion proclaims charity is the way to create economic justice. Can charity lead to human dignity and equality? And even if the love of God, or rather fear of hell cajoles, men to part with a portion of their riches, can a giving and receiving hand ever shake on equal terms? Maybe, it will be an improvement over the current situation, but can all of the above scenarios truly lead to a democratic society where people have an equal say in decision making? I would like to submit that the essence of economic parity is not equality of ownership of material assets, but rather equitable jurisdiction over the sources and means of generation of wealth, as well as its distribution and use. Can anyone deny that the supremacy of a nation in the world arena is determined by the magnitude of its control over the world resources? And that most wars have been fought to this end? And that the war on terror is another link in this chain? And that this leads to exploitation of the poor nations by the rich ones? And that no amount of aid or charity to poor countries can equalise the balance of power in the world affairs? So, if it is true at the international level, why are we averse to acknowledging that the same dynamics work at the national and individual level? In Pakistani context, those who control the land, industry and natural resources also dominate the countrys economics leading to their hegemony over the socio-political system; a self-perpetuating, vicious and sinful cycle where generations of people are stuck in this quicksand. The dream of a true democratic and just society can only come true by breaking this cycle. Therefore, to recap what I have said so far is: Economic equity is not possible till people have equitable jurisdiction over the natural and manmade resources and means of wealth generation, as well as its distribution and usage. In Pakistani context, it means restructuring the current system of land, industrial and natural resource ownership; an idea bound to enrage some and send shivers down some spines. So, there is a dire need for a public debate about the pros and cons of various economic systems, which is capitalism and socialism, while some people will add the Islamic economic systems. Perhaps, this debate belongs to the experts in economics, but it will be meaningless unless people from all strata and spheres of life actively participate in it. Those who currently hold the purse strings have no incentive to have an open and honest dialogue to bring out the injustice of the prevailing system and so will do their best to prevent this discourse from happening in public. The quest is not for a perfect system, since that is only possible if those implementing it are perfect, but a best possible equitable system. And who will claim that the current system, where some have been forced to sell their children due to hunger while others have amassed billions, is even close to that? Actually, in a way, this debate has already been started by those who have felt and recognised the deviousness and inequity of the prevailing capitalist system, and are sick and tired of being at the receiving end of this injustice. I am talking about protests and demonstrations against the World Trade Organisation, globalisation and free market economy in the past few years and now leading to the Arab Spring, Occupy Wall Street Movement and massive demonstrations in many countries against the immoral and atrocious ascendancy of the rich over the poor. These are expressions of peoples anger and frustration against this tyranny. This proves that it is not just a problem in Pakistan, but all over the world, including the so-called developed and 'rich countries where fruits of capitalism and prosperity are supposed to 'trickledown to the poor, who are expected to be thankful for the crumbs thrown towards them after a major portion has been gobbled up by a few at the top. The only way for the poor to win and end this oppression in Pakistan and worldwide, is to forget their ethnic, linguistic, religious and regional differences, and join hands and resources to achieve the goal of demanding and getting their rights. They have to be equipped with knowledge, and have to become politically conscious and active and get organised. And those who have the knowledge and resources, and believe in this cause, have to support such efforts. More and more people are becoming disillusioned and disenchanted with capitalism; they are looking for alternative systems.Once there is consensus on the kind of equitable system, the next step is to find a way to implement it in its true spirit and form. However, this will not be easybecause the opposing forces are too strong and those who are benefiting from the current exploitation of the poor will not let go of their powers so easily. The odds are in their favour, as they are much more resourceful, sophisticated and conniving, and experts in obfuscating the issue. This is where public resolve and determination will be tested. History is witness that rights are never given, but always demanded and forcibly extracted or snatched. This is how slavery was abolished, apartheid ended in South Africa, women got whatever rights they have now, civil rights movement was successful, dictators have been overthrown and mighty have fallen. So, the only way to overcome this hurdle is to develop enough impetus and momentum through the combined will of people. That is, 'if there are people with a will The writer is a freelance columnist. Email: shahnazk@gmail.com