(November 2007) The turmoil in Pakistan presents somewhat of a philosophical dilemma: Is allowing a political party that espouses non-democratic rule to run in an election democracy?
The tumult over Musharraf's declaration of emergency rule overshadows a far more serious issue. His political opposition is an ever-growing militant Islamic party, sympathetic to the Taliban and al Qaeda. Is giving this party a chance to take power really democracy?
Somewhat enigmatic is Condoleezza Rice's statement, prompting Musharraf to cancel emergency rule and allow elections to proceed: 'The U.S. has made clear it does not support extra-constitutional measures, because those measures take Pakistan away from the path of democracy and civilian rule.' If the opposition wins, will that put Pakistan on a 'path of democracy and civilian rule?' Highly doubtful. So at what point should we start worrying about a militant Islamic state with nuclear weapons: when they win the election, when they have their inaugural ball, or when the missiles start flying?
We seem to hold other countries to rules of 'democracy' that we do not accept in our political system. The privilege of holding public office has been denied in this country countless of times for reasons far less egregious than having connections to terrorism.
In 2001, the nomination of Linda Chavez as Labor Secretary was withdrawn when it was revealed she paid an illegal immigrant to do housework. In 1993, the candidacies for Attorney General, Zoe Baird and Judge Kimba M. Wood, were withdrawn because of their hiring practices of nannies. The nomination of Bernard Kerik as Secretary of Homeland Security was withdrawn in 2004 because of a shady background. Richard Nixon, who was democratically elected as President in 1972, was brought down because of shady practices.
Obviously, the mere fact that one goes through a democratic process to get into office, does not necessarily make that nomination or appointment legal or acceptable. There are a plethora of legal precedents and justifications in a democracy to keep militants out of office, even by force, if necessary. (If someone deemed unqualified for the Presidency decided to move into the White House, would we not remove him by force, regardless of how many votes he got?)
The line Musharraf may have crossed is arresting lawyers, human rights activists and the like, who are not connected with his opposition. But we must differentiate between these individuals and terrorist-sympathizers. To allow militants to run for election would be a repeat of the Gaza debacle -- an experiment in 'democratic elections' that failed miserably. With a nuclear power, we can't afford the same disaster.
To call militants running in an election a democratic process, is a myopic, self-defeating interpretation of democracy, and contrary to the spirit of the Declaration of Independence: ' ... all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness ... whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government...'
It speaks of a government, obviously already in office, that has become destructive. What does this say about a party that is not yet in office and is already destructive enough that it has no qualms about massacring people in cold blood? Can giving such a party a chance to bring its destructiveness into government be called democracy? That's ludicrous. Contrary to what the politically correct pundits would like us to believe about equality, barring militants, terrorists and terrorist-sympathizers from running for office -- is democracy!
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