Fri, Feb 15, 2008 - Page 9 News List

Why boycott Pakistan's elections?

A rigged election is given legitimacy if democratic political parties do not withdraw support for the process

By Imran Khan

So the dividing line in Pakistan is not between liberals and extremists, but between those who support the status quo and those who oppose it. Parties that call themselves democratic are not only going along with Musharraf in this fraudulent election, but are also helping to restore the status quo.

The solution to dysfunctional democracy is not military dictatorship, but more democracy. Pakistanis understand democracy because we have a democratic culture. Our founder was a great constitutionalist, and Pakistan came into being through the vote. The problem has been that because we have lacked an independent judiciary, we have not had an independent election commission. So all our elections, except for one in 1970, have been rigged.

India, with which Pakistan shares a similar background, went through 40 years of dysfunctional democracy with a one-party system. But in the last 16 years it has begun to reap the fruits of genuine democratic competition because an independent judiciary and electoral commission give people confidence that their vote can make a difference. Until we have the same in Pakistan, no election can be free and fair.

For two-and-a-half years, I supported Musharraf and believed his promises to bring genuine democracy to Pakistan. I've learned my lesson about Musharraf. But, more importantly, no military dictator can succeed where Musharraf has so clearly failed.

Winston Churchill once said: "War is too serious a business for generals." The same is true of democracy.

Imran Khan is chairman of Pakistan's Tehreek-e-Insaf (Movement for Justice) political party. A philanthropist and sportsman, he was a member of the Pakistani parliament until its dissolution last year. He is chancellor of Bradford University in the UK.

Copyright: Project Syndicate/The Asia Society

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