Imam Khomeni is credited for introducing the concept of democratic Islam. When he toppled the regime of Raza Shah Pehalvi, the policeman of the Middle East, tremors were felt all over the world. Even the US could not keep the Shah in power in the 70s, despite his coercive state apparatus. Today, the Islamic Republic of Iran is the only country in the area that can look the Jewish state of Israel straight in the eye.

In 2014, the Kaptaan is struggling for a democratic Pakistan where the will of the people should prevail through a free and fair ballot. From Khomeni to Kaptaan, the struggle for democratic Islam continues. Democratic Islamic countries are on the path of a spiral development (Indonesia, Malaysia, Turkey, Bosnia, Iran, Bangladesh) whereas the rest continue to struggle. Pakistan, the first Islamic democracy of the world, is trying to regain its lost freedom. Iran, the second Islamic democracy, has never looked back after regaining its republic status.

Like Allama Iqbal, Dr. Shariati of Iran was the catalyst of a progressive democratic state. He went on to re-define “Yazidiat” in the 20th century. According to him, an unpopular, corrupt ruler could be classified as Yazid. This definition was a major blow to the Shah and other autocrats in the Islamic world. When Imam Khomeni returned to a hero’s welcome in Tehran in 1979, he opted for a democratic system of governance. Since then, elections are held on a regular basis in the republic. Though he talked about a unified democratic Islam free of the Sunni/Shia divide, the unpopular regimes in the Middle East tried to hijack the movement. The eight year long Iran-Iraq war was to contain the Iranian democratic revolution from spreading. Saddam Hussain played a key role in this conspiracy. Iran fought back bravely and was able to save its own democratic order; but its spread was slowed down. However, the Shia majority countries have never been the same since then.

The last century was eventful. Two world wars and several revolutions were the hall mark of the era. The world was divided into two main blocks: the capitalist right and the socialist red, with hardly any room for Islamic order. The nascent democratic order was run over in Pakistan and Iran. After the collapse of the caliphate in Istanbul, several artificial countries came into existence with their own trend of leadership and governance (Kingdoms, Sheikhdoms, Mulladoms, Monarchies, Autocracies, controlled/manipulated democracies, Dictatorships, Military Rules/Martial laws etc.). It is indeed strange that most Western monarchies were ceremonially retained while democratic order was introduced. But the Islamic block was torn apart at the seams to create turmoil and confusion. Iraq is an example of this destructive approach.

From the murder of Liaquat Ali Khan to the Shah of Iran’s return to power, the democratic order in the Islamic world has been chaotic. The lack of democracy is perhaps the most vital factor in the decline of the Ummah, which must be reversed. In the 21st century, there is no room for autocratic rule. People are the custodians of their lands; this is their inalienable right which cannot be denied.

The struggle for democracy in Pakistan has continued despite severe reverses in 1958, 1969, 1977, 1999. It was widely speculated that democratic order would not survive the judicial murder of Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto or the assassination of Benazir Bhutto, but it did. Zia-ul-Haq tried his level best to annul the unanimous 1973 constitution but did not succeed. Nawaz Sharif’s desire to become Amir-ul-Momineen was also stopped. Musharraf’s amendments have been totally removed. Unfortunately, the massive rigging in the 2013 elections has been a major blow for democratic gains. The Kaptaan has taken upon himself the crusade to ensure an honest ballot by which the people of Pakistan can freely choose their own leaders. Elections in 2015 will herald a new era of democracy leading to human development and growth.

Dr. Shariati’s 21st century “Yazids” who dominate the Muslim world stand fully exposed. Change is inevitable; the movement cannot be hijacked any further. What Imam Khomeni had started, the Kaptaan will see through not just for Pakistan but the entire Islamic block.

21st century Yazids will fall; they cannot contain the aspirations of millions who have suffered at their hands. The ballot is a civilized way to bring change. There is turmoil in the entire Middle East. Strange bed fellows have emerged. Israel is no longer the sole enemy. Oil money is being pumped to suppress the Palestinians. Muhammad Morsi, the elected president of Egypt, has been replaced by Sissi the ex-Army Chief. The largest Army of the Middle East has been neutralized. In Baharain the people are demanding their democratic rights. There is turmoil in Iraq, Libya and Syria. A new force by the name of ISIS has appeared on the horizon and threatens the entire region.

In Pakistan, the Kaptaan is firm on his demand for free and fair elections in 2015, followed by a true representative government. His movement is now unstoppable. While his credibility is above board, the credentials of the individuals who surround him fall into doubt. The PTI is a party of change ably led by the only untainted politician of our time. The Qadris and Hashmis are irrelevant in this crusade. Muharram always reminds us of the epic struggle at Karbala- one which still continues. The Yazids will finally fall, and ‘haq’ will prevail in the 21st century; the age of information.

n    The writer is Ex-Chairman, Pakistan Science Foundation