The price of democracy

It may sound clichéd, but words of Abraham Lincoln “that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth’’ were spoken to honour the soldiers of the war, who had sacrificed their lives to raise the mast of democracy; and its resonance has been left with us to form a baseline to structure the future of our country.

Around the world, democracy has remained a target of military dictatorships, monarchies and worst of all totalitarian regimes. Two years ago on July 15, 2016, a faction of the Turkish armed forces made an unsuccessful attempt to overthrow the democratically-elected government of Recep Tayyip Erdogan, but the people stormed the streets to fail the coup d’état, which left 250 people dead and 2,000 wounded by evening when the government had taken complete control of the situation. Such practices aren’t new to in the world, democracy is targeted using a different tactic.

It should be trite to reiterate that adventurism has always claimed lives of those who stand for democracy around the world. Recently in southern Mexico, a candidate for the local legislature, Emigdio Lopez, was in last hours of his campaign when he was assassinated along with his four political aides. These assassinations were part of a wave that claimed 145 lives ahead of the elections held in early July. Arrests have been made, but the hands behind these murders remain to be identified. Their plan was to create an atmosphere of fear so as to deter revolutionists who are out for a change, mobilising the voters to exercise their constitutional right to vote to choose the best for their country. As the big day arrived on the 1st of July there were tens of thousands of Mexicans out of their homes to cast their votes peacefully in long queues at the polling stations by overcoming the fear of bullets.

Pakistan has struggled to witness the democratic governments completing their tenures though, it is now awaiting the third peaceful transition of power this month. In Pakistan, democracy has often found smooth sailing difficult. Recent days have witnessed a rise in terrorist attacks on politicians who are upholding the cause of democracy. The TTP and the Islamic State are said to be behind these heinous attacks ahead of the general elections. The series of attacks, with the taking place first earlier this month in North Waziristan at the office of Pakistan Movement for Justice’s candidate, Malik Aurangzeb Khan, contesting for NA-48, left 10 people injured. It is clear that some anti-state elements are trying to sabotage the election campaign, but so far they have failed to dampen the spirit of voters. The recent threats to leaders of political parties, including Imran Khan, have failed also failed to deter them from following the path of democracy and to slow down their election campaigns around the country.

On 12th of July, Balochistan Awami Party (BAP) office in Khuzdar came under gunfire before a bomb explosion, which injured two locals. On 13 July, a motor cavalcade of Akram Khan Durrani, former chief minister of Khyber-Pakhtunwa, came under attack in Bannu. Durrani survived, but the attack left five people dead and 37 others wounded. A week before, a motorbike bomb exploded at an election gathering of Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal’s candidate, Shein Malik, in PK–89, in the same city. Later, a suicide attack in an election rally of BAP in Mastung, Balochistan, killed Siraj Raisani of BAP. The attack left another 148 people dead and 186 severely wounded.

A few days ago Haroon Bilour, the son of Bashir Ahmed Bilour, had been killed in a suicide bomb attack in PK-78 in K-P during an election campaign. He was contesting as a candidate of the Awami Nation Party (ANP). The attack claimed 20 other lives also. Bashir Ahmed Bilour was assassinated in a suicide bomb attack in 2012 at a meeting of ANP workers.

These unusual terrorist attacks on political leaders remind us of the sacrifices the people of Pakistan have made for democracy. It reminds us of the Bhutto family’s sacrifice. Z A Bhutto was hanged by dictator Ziaul Haq. Bhutto’s party describes the execution of Bhutto as judicial murder. Later, his daughter Benazir Bhutto fought tirelessly for democracy. She also fell to the bullet of an assassin. One brother of her was killed and the other died in allegedly mysterious circumstances. Her son, Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, is contesting this time under the slogan of ‘democracy above all.’

But the past tragic incidents and those of the present have failed to deter the common people from following the democratic path. On July 25 they turned up in large numbers at polling stations to exercise their constitutional right to vote and show to the world that Pakistan is a peaceful democratic state and they are enthusiastically interested in seeing the third successive peaceful transition of power in the country.

Published in The Express Tribune, July 26th, 2018.

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