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More Democracy Or More Authoritarianism?

The lacklustre performance of the political parties in actively opposing the Musharraf-backed incumbent government has been a cause of great concern in those circles of the civil society which had hoped that an effectively strong public pressure would act as a powerful deterrent to the authoritarian longings of the rulers.
It clearly has not happened. Whatever pressure that has been built on the visibly unconcerned regime has come either from the embattled and battling media or from the democracies abroad. Not till the Chairperson of the PPP Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto entered the arena after the break-down of her behind-the-scene talks, was there any visible sign of any meaningful street challenge to the state power being exercised with no-holds-barred absolutism by the Musharraf Administration. The PPP was slow to organize itself for a show of popular defiance, because it was seen till the 9th of November 2007 as a ‘party-in-parleys’. By the time it woke up to the challenge, its activists were beginning to find themselves behind the bar in increasing numbers. The long march was successful only in the sense that it created a worldwide media hype. It also helped in ‘balancing’ the impression that the masses have been totally depoliticised, or are so disenchanted with the quality and the character of their political leadership that they simply are in no mood to offer their backs, heads, arms and legs to the fully ‘unleashed’ savagery of the baton-wielding power of the state.
A massive and impressive show of popular discontent and street power has yet to come. And till that happens, the power of the state is going to feel secure in the belief that not a Herculean effort is required to ward off the challenge of fire-breathing oratory.
Democracy in its truest sense cannot run in the absence of populist public pressure of reasonable strength. Autocratic and authoritarian systems prosper when they feel secure in the knowledge that they cannot be confronted.
I personally believe that it is in the best interests of President Pervez Musharraf too, to be made aware of the presence of an effective popular challenge to those of his policies which are recognized as counterproductive. Ironically such a challenge when at last rose, rose not from the ranks of the political parties, but the white-collared legal community – not known for its willingness to invite the wrath of the baton-wielding state power. Both the Bar and the Bench seemed to suddenly explode into an open and active defiance of authoritarianism. This happened in March this year. And at this point of time, most of the Bench that reached out for defiant independence finds itself besieged and marginalized.
As far as the Bar is concerned it is virtually in a state of war with the government.
The number of lawyers who have ended up either in hospitals or jails is larger than of all the political activists combined, before of course the recent crackdown on the PPP.
What does this scenario spell for the country?
More democracy?
Or More authoritarianism?
Depends largely on the capability of General Pervez Musharraf to get away with his extra-constitutional and illegal moves – as well as on the willingness of our political community to do some soul-searching and self-appraisal.
People need to be led.

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