ERIS Annual Democracy Lecture 2010

November 2010

This is a transcript of the ERIS Annual Democracy Lecture 2010, as delivered by Asma Jahangir at the University of London School of Oriental and African Studies on 18 November 2010.

The event was organised by ERIS in co-operation with the McDougall Trust and the Westminster Foundation for Democracy.

Introduction by Keith Best, Chair of Electoral Reform International Services

“I don’t think you need me to say that the rules of democracy are never so perfect as not to be capable of being perverted by their neglect or misapplication. Democracy is not just about form, but about substance. There are many prerequisites for a fully functioning democracy on which we can agree, which go way beyond the mere form of democracy. The form consists of the obvious ones – voter registration, access to the electorate, rules about funding and political parties, and correctness in casting a secret ballot, but the substance, the substance, involves other necessary attributes such as a healthy civil society and of course whether the form actually works in practice or not.

I have been reading recently the book called The Miracle of Democracy, which was written by the former Chief Election Commissioner for India, Mr T S Krishna Murthy, a copy of which he kindly gave me when I was chairing an international conference on democracy in Mauritius earlier this month. He puts a spotlight on another aspect that is not so often considered, namely the distinct roles of the politician and the civil servant and the importance that, whatever the form, they do not step beyond the bounds of propriety. He writes, and I quote:

‘It is clear how values in public life are gradually getting eroded, resulting in the loss of people’s confidence in democracy and democratic governments. Very often the relationship between the public servant and the political leader is blurred and they seem to depend upon each other for personal gain. I have no hesitation in stating that if democracy is to survive a healthy relationship between the politicians and the civil servants is an all-important prerequisite. Public confidence in democracy and therefore democracy itself will be affected if politicians and civil servants do not realise they are expected to serve the people and not rule over them.’

I fear that most democracies have been there or are there. There are these problems and not least in the country from which our distinguished speaker comes herself for our inaugural Annual Democracy Lecture.

The biography of Asma Jahangir could occupy a lecture period in itself, but out of deference to you who want to hear her and not me, and out of deference to her, I will not go into it in very great detail. Save to say, she is of course Pakistan’s leading democracy activist and has written widely on human rights, good governance, and the rule of law. She is an advocate of the Supreme Court of Pakistan, is a former Chairperson of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, and was recently elected as the first female President of Pakistan’s most influential lawyers’ organisation – The Supreme Court Bar Association.

Many of her cases as a lawyer have been in defence of the rights of women, religious minorities, bonded labour, and death penalty prisoners, and a number have been widely reported in Pakistan and internationally. I can only say that, as a member of the Bar myself, I stand in awe of her for all that she has achieved in that profession.

She has been subject to house arrest and detention on a number of occasions and was confined to her home after the imposition of emergency rule in Pakistan in 2007.

I think sometimes it is very easy for us in this country to forget that championing democracy and human rights sometimes comes at a terrible personal human cost for those who put it forward and that is no different for what has happened to Asma Jahangir. One of the things tonight I really want to do is to salute her courage for what she has achieved in sometimes a very hostile climate.

Her list of achievements and posts held is a long one: Commissioner of the International Commission of Jurists, member of the Boards of the International Crisis Group and the Open Society Institute, United Nations Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial, Summary or Arbitrary Executions, the UN Human Rights Council’s Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Belief. She was one of the three authors of the report called Democracy in the Commonwealth which was published by ourselves, ERIS, and the Commonwealth Policy Studies Unit in November of last year and in July of this year she was appointed as a member of the Commonwealth Eminent Persons Group. It is timely that she comes to speak to us this week because only last Tuesday it was announced that she is the laureate of the Bilbao prize for the promotion of a culture of human rights for her work in Pakistan’s Supreme Court. She has been nominated by the Director-General of UNESCO, Irina Bokova, and she will be presented with that prize on 10 December, which we’ve all come to know as Human Rights Day, in Bilbao, which actually funds the prize.

Ladies and gentlemen, your Excellencies, it’s an enormous pleasure for me personally, as I know it is for all of you, to be able to welcome Asma Jahangir to give our very first Annual Democracy Lecture. Asma please address us


Lecture by Asma Jahangir


Thank you very much Keith. Your Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen, I can see many in the audience who are from my country and let me begin by saying – especially some of my friends who are from the media – that often you get news from Pakistan and it is not good news. I see images of Pakistan, of violence, of terrorism, of corruption, of violation of rights of women, of violation of rights of religious minorities. All this is true and all this does happen, but let me also add that these are the products of dictatorship. I am not saying that democracy will do away with these, but certainly this has become entrenched – a kind of intolerant atmosphere, an intolerant way of thinking – through consistent dictatorships in our country. But I will come later to certain other images that you don’t see of our country, like we don’t see of yours. Like today when I was in the House of Commons, one of the Lords said to me: “Do you know that Blair and Brown were elected dictatorships?” And I thought to myself yes I did know, but I didn’t hear it from you in Britain; had this been in Pakistan you would have heard it from us!

And that is what I want to bring out, a kind of resistance as well in Pakistan which the media does not cover often enough. For example, I remember very well – and I want to make this lecture into also experiences that I have had – that the first dictator in my childhood that I saw was Ayub Khan. I heard every foreigner coming to my country say he was handsome and also say that he was a benevolent dictator. And this was said to me at a time when my father was in prison for a year and a half by this handsome, benevolent dictator. It was said that he was a man who believed in development and yet the literacy rate was minimal, and yet people living in remote areas had no roads, had no livelihood. But in Pakistan there was a movement that resisted that dictatorship, and eventually it was through their resistance that we were able to point out that dictatorships cannot survive and we need a system of democracy.

Then we had our prize dictator called Mr Yahya Khan and if I recall very well, because I do, because at that time was BBC Urdu service – which used to come on on a transistor, which you had to really hang on to if you really wanted to hear it – and there were commentaries in the West saying why Yahya Khan is a true soldier; he is a magnificent soldier; and that magnificent soldier actually lost half the country. That magnificent soldier had his own colleagues surrender in East Pakistan. Why I am saying this is because I suddenly heard today as well, just a few minutes ago, that Britain wants to spread democracy. Let Britain first learn democracy, because democracy is not simply a kind of governmental system. Democracy is also what people inside the country do, what people inside the country’s behaviour is, and in difficult circumstances.

I am not the only one in Pakistan who has fought for democracy. There are several and several people. So we begin to see that there was also a distortion in history, because our dictators have always been loved by people outside the country. And I say this not as a complaint, but as a fact. And I have said it several times to my Indian friends who, when you go into India, they sort of put up their feet and say:
“Well we have democracy.”
But they have always loved our dictators and every time a dictator has gone into India they have had some very complimentary things to say about them.
And every time we have had democracy I hear a sound from even the human right activists in India saying:
“Do you really deserve democracy?”
And I have to ask them:
“How many of you went to jail during Indira Gandhi’s emergency?” But hundreds and thousands of Pakistanis have gone to jail during Ayub Khan’s regime, during Yahya Khan’s regime, during Zia-ul-Haq’s regime.
“How many street protests have you had during emergency?” But we have had several street protests nearly in every dictatorship and in democracies as well.

So we really are distorting and we remember, if you look at our history books now, at that time we were told that East Pakistan is not really a part of our culture, because most of East Pakistanis are Hindus. Even if they were, that did not justify the kind of action… but this was what was being taught to us while we were in school. And I recall that one that of my friends and myself, her father was also a politician of the opposition, had to fight very hard in the school to tell them:
“No they are not Hindus. They are Muslims.” And they said: “No they wear saris: they cannot be Muslims. They have to be Hindus.”
And then to say:
“But even if they are Hindus, they are Pakistanis. You can’t kill them.”
“But they are traitors. They wear saris.”
And therefore the quick conclusion is they are Hindus. And if they are Hindus they are obviously aligned to India and therefore any action on them is justified.

And then unfortunately we had what we call a civilian dictatorship of Mr Zufiquar Bhutto. Now I know that people sort of revere what Mr Bhutto did, but there was an ugly side to that rule as well. And that is because after a long period of dictatorships you do not get – and one of things that I believe is the worst thing – is that you do not get new blood into politics. It stops the growth of human capital into politics and even Mr Bhutto when he came in was basically a man of the Establishment and so he thought very much like the Establishment. His whole foreign policy was very much an Establishment foreign policy; it was a ‘hate India policy’; it was a ‘keep at distance Afghanistan policy’. Even in his internal policies he did not tolerate dissent, and I know again a number of people during Bhutto’s time who went to jail.

I myself have been in many of the protest meetings during Zufiquar Bhutto’s regime, but nevertheless there was a difference, and the difference was that during dictatorships all institutions closed their doors. We have now a very celebrated judiciary, but this is the same judiciary during dictatorships that turned away people, that turned away people who were tortured, that turned away people who were incarcerated for years and years. It was the same judiciary that actually put the crown over military dictators and called them legitimate rulers. But when Mr Bhutto’s government came that is the first time that the judiciary talked about military dictators not being legitimate rulers of the country. And I find this in some ways humorous, but also in a way it gave us relief when the judgment said: “Yes, we cannot de-legitimise them while they are there, because once the oppressive apparatus falls from the hands of the usurper – it’s only then that we can scream.” Well once the oppressive apparatus falls from the hands of the usurper I am sure than even the weakest of the weaker can scream. So I think that that is the jurisprudence as well that we got. If you look at it during dictatorship you don’t get any human rights jurisprudence; you don’t get any fundamental rights cases; they are weak if ever there are cases where fundamental rights are denied. But it is only during civilian governments that you begin to get gradually and slowly a jurisprudence that recognises fundamental rights.

But our worst dictatorship came during Zia-ul-Haq’s period. And I have to tell you that I discover not now, but even earlier – but this time I was able to see more closely some of my colleagues – lawyers who were tortured during Zia-ul-Haq’s time. And, since I was campaigning and travelling, I happened to travel with some of them. There were at least two such people, older than me, and I asked them: “What happened? Why didn’t you get married?” And they looked outside the window and they said: “They tortured us so badly we couldn’t.” And yet they have never given up. And this is what you do not see in the media about Pakistan here and that is why I think there is some kind of a democratic spirit that is burning inside the belly of Pakistan which so much is missed out in the media, not only in our country but also in your country.

We saw, for example, during Zia-ul-Haq’s period, I recall that there was public flogging of a man and a public hanging of a man in our city. And there was a couple that I knew – the husband was extremely upset with his wife because she had decided not to go for that public hanging and seats were actually reserved; people had reserved them beforehand for days in advance. And this man was so angry with his wife because she really was taking away the recreation from him that he almost decided to divorce her, because she refused to see a public hanging. And the first flogging that took place in Rawalpindi there was actually no place to stand, but gradually and slowly people began to change that mindset and that is the most difficult thing to do. And it was not only after Zia left, but even before Zia left, there was a case where amputation of hands was ordered by the court and this man was in Bahawalpur, a small town in the centre of Pakistan, and all medical professionals practitioners said they would not do it; it is against their code; it is against their ethics. And so there was a civil society that actually stood up to a dictator and said we will not practice this and gradually things began to roll back.

But let me say that, who doesn’t in our country? Who likes dictatorship? I believe that those people who are empowered like dictatorship. For example, the 22 rich families that Ayub Khan made loved dictatorship; for example, all the people who were picked up from their fancy homes and made ministers during Zia-ul-Haq’s period and Yahya Khan’s period loved dictatorship, because they actually don’t have to go and mess around with elections; they don’t have to go and shake hands with guppy people and talk to them and sit there and have their tea which is full of sugar. So they prefer to actually being simply picked up and taken in the corridors of power. But democracy suits those who have nothing. And so when I hear of people, sometimes even my own sons, say people are fed up and people don’t want democracy – it’s not that people don’t want democracy, people want better democracy; and people may not want this government, but they certainly want democracy. And that was really very well demonstrated in Pakistan when General Musharraf was in power and everybody who was educated, who was refined, was so keen that a liberal General had come in who liked dogs, who smoked a cigarette, who heard music. And so the man actually thought that he was popular throughout the country and went into referendum, and when the results of the referendum came it was a shock to him. And it was a shock to the elite public opinion makers, who are making public opinion only in drawing rooms, and who actually begin to believe in their own public opinion that General Musharraf was actually popular throughout the country. I, for example, remember during Zia-ul-Haq’s period that women stopped wearing sleeveless, from the upper class, saris were suddenly packed away and thrown away, and women came without saris, those who were wearing them already.

And it became a fashion for everyone who was elevated to the Bench to go for Hajj, and these people had never gone for Hajj before, but now every Judge, once elevated, has to go for Hajj now. And this is strange for me; I admire the fact that people go for pilgrimage and I am very much for it, but why only when you become a Judge, why not before that? Why not after that, you know? And I really recollect, at least as far as my memory can take me and what history I’ve read, that two of the people [names indecipherable] who studied here, probably came by ship here, never went for Hajj. But the whole psyche, the whole outlook in Pakistan, has completely been changed since Zia-ul-Haq’s period and I also remember when people used to say: “Well, Zia-ul-Haq is cruel, but not that cruel”, that when I was in jail, in [name indecipherable] jail there was a woman with me called [name indecipherable] who is still there. Her eleven year old brother was executed in the other cell, very nearby, and I have never in my life heard the kind of cries that I heard that day of [name indecipherable]. It was like the bleating of a goat, but it never appeared in newspapers. It never appeared anywhere; nobody knew what had happened. There were several young men who were executed those days simply because they were accused of being pro People’s Party.

We also have heard a lot about corruption, something that we are all ashamed of, that continues to take place in our country, but let me also say that when military dictators are there, there is no talk of corruption. For example, the first military dictator, his sons lived in absolute luxury without having to do a single day’s work. The second son actually boasted in the media saying that “I am richer than the other General’s son, so I have far more money than the other General”, having again done not a single day’s work. And we of course know how inexpensive it is to live in London and that is where our third dictator lives.

So in any words this is the story of corruption, but that is really not to say that it is in defence of the present state that we are in in Pakistan, because we have today a mixed bag. There are certain, I would like to say positive, trends that I see in Pakistan. For example, the fact that several political workers of the Awami National Party – which is a party in KPK – several of them have been targeted and killed and yet they are the ones who are most vocal against Talibanisation. And they stand formally against Talibanisation. The fact remains that the Parliament did pass an eighteenth amendment where the centre has devolved its powers to the provinces, which is a demand that has been there since many years, and Gilgit-Baltistan – which was completely left on its own, which had no of representation in the country – some kind of a system has been set up there. And mercifully you see more women politicians, particularly on media, because they are the ones who have the time, who come to the media, who talk about politics. Unfortunately many of them are simply defending their parties, but some of them are also talking with substance; but there are obvious drawbacks which are perhaps also a hangover of the past.

But the most important is that there is a complete lack of political leadership in Pakistan. There is lack of political leadership, there is lack of will to do anything, there is a dysfunctional Government and corruption continues to plague democracy in Pakistan. I believe that if we are talking about democracy not only in Pakistan, but everywhere else, there has to be some minimum consensus on how we are to work democracy, how we are to make it better, because democracy is not simply a word; it is a growing phenomenon. It has to take into account the new challenges it has, the new questions that development poses you, and I’m afraid that I somehow do not agree with the kind of governance that is put out by a number of institutions of countries. Countries are not companies and when people talk about governance in the sense of how you run a company – you can’t run a country in a similar fashion, because there is compassion, there are needs, there has to be flexibility. You are not dealing with numbers, you are dealing with human beings and that distinction has to be there. And when I see technocrats running governments they are basically running it like an institution with numbers and outputs and results and benchmarks, but really there are variables when you are running countries, because people’s aspirations may differ, people’s mindsets may take a turn, one incident can change everything in a country and nothing can be changed regardless of how good your governance may be because people are simply not willing to be stakeholders in the kind of changes that you are proposing. So I think that the first thing that we have to do, I believe, and I’ve set out 12 basic criteria for democracy, is to really grow in that sense.

The first is to allow space to all institutions so that there are diverse centres of power and there are checks and balances. If you depend on one person – the minute you say democracy in Pakistan everyone thinks of Asif Zardari – but I don’t. I don’t want to, because when I think of democracy I think of a system. I think of a system where there is going to be a Parliament, where there is going to be a President, where there is going to be an Opposition, where there is going to be a judiciary, where there is going to be an army, where there is going to be, most painfully, intelligence agencies, and there is going to be civil society. So I think giving space to all institutions is healthy, to have those constant checks and balances in a democracy.

And secondly it is important to have civilian control on decision making. In Pakistan, unfortunately, we don’t have it. Many people say that there has still not been what we call transfer of power; for example, our Foreign Office is completely run – and I beg your pardon, I know you’re here – is completely run by the military even today. It is very much an ISI-driven policy. If you are a peace activist you are an anti-Pakistani. If you want to make amends with Afghanistan without having to own it, you are unpatriotic. If you want to fight for the rights of religious minorities you are anti-Islam. But that kind of rhetoric I believe has to stop, because I believe that peace-making is central to the progress of our country. To live with your neighbours in a peaceful manner, to have trade with them, is something that we need. All political parties are at consensus that we need it, but none of them can do it, because there has been no transfer of power.

Similarly, if you look what is the civilian control, there are people who have disappeared from Pakistan. Just before I came there were five people in one of the jails, they were released, and suddenly they disappear. And the Government cannot tell them where they are, because the Government itself is too scared to say they are with the intelligence agencies. And now the courts have asked the heads of the intelligence agencies to appear before them – now this is going to be a huge, big, test, whether they actually do or they don’t – but people are disappearing, not only from [name indecipherable] jail. Only in the month of April five persons disappeared from Frontier, from KPK, and the family has given testimony accusing the intelligence agencies of having taken them. If you look at Balochistan, the Chief Minister of Balochistan actually stands up and says “I can’t do anything because the court commander calls the shots here and so what I can do is just please everybody else.” And so in Balochistan, apart from one person in the Parliament, everybody is in the Cabinet, which means that everybody is on the take, and they have nothing to do because they don’t take the decisions in Balochistan. Similarly if you look at Azad Kashmir there – and that was something I did in my previous role as Chair of the Human Rights Commission – that every judge that is appointed to the superior judiciary of the Azad Kashmir [indecipherable] is actually vetted by the intelligence agencies. The decision is not taken in Azad Kashmir; the decision is taken in Islamabad, and it continues to be so. So there is truly no civilian control on decision-making.

My third point is that there has to be truly an independent judiciary. Now, after the lawyers movement everybody looked forward to an independent judiciary and there is no doubt that today the judiciary is more independent than it ever was before, but there are some very major concerns that people have. For example, you have the old PCO judges who have condemned the new PCO judges, and then you have the [indecipherable] judges who were kicked out, and then you have judges which are called [indecipherable] judges, who actually are judges, but no work is placed before them, and then you have what we call now the stay-over judges. So you have completely different sets of judges and completely different sets of criteria for each one of them. And if one begins to question that then you are considered to be anti-judiciary. And therefore I think it became like a religion to praise the judiciary. If you criticise it, it was almost the equivalent of blasphemy.

We also have concerns because very recently the judiciary has taken it upon itself to look at one of the Constitutional Amendments that was made by the Parliament on a cross-party basis. And so the question really is then ‘is the Parliament supreme’ in the sense of law making? No, certainly not, because the judiciary can strike down any law which is against fundamental rights. But is the Parliament supreme in Constitution-making? According to our Constitution it was, but today if the judiciary also strikes down Constitutional Amendments, then we have a problem that we are facing. Plus it goes down the root of the Indian Supreme Court that means that our Supreme Court is going to determine – if they decide to strike down the Constitutional Amendment – what the basic structures of our Constitution are. And according to them the basic structures have differed from judgment to judgment, but basically it is Parliament, it is independence of judiciary, it’s Islamic provisions, and so on and so forth. So if that is the basic structure of the Constitution then tomorrow they will open the floodgates for litigation of all Constitutional Amendments that people may find are not in conformity with Islamic injunctions. So this is a worrying sign and it is a worrying case, but we are all very keen; we are watching it.

And then for example we had one of our Chief Justices of one of the Provinces who went from Bar to Bar sort of saying “Now time has come to fight again” and “We are going to fight the Government so be ready with your boots on” as though lawyers were foot soldiers of the judiciary. And so this matter kept happening to the extent that this particular Chief Justice reportedly – as a report, which was sought by the Supreme Court – actually told the Chief of the Police that “If you don’t go and beat up the lawyers badly you’ll find yourself behind prison”. So these are the kind of problems that we face: fragile institutions, wayward institutions.

Then we have the free press of course – many of them are here – and I think it is a very welcome thing, because the press has really brought out the voices of the vulnerable, the press has really brought out alternative voices, but there is also a section of the press that has manipulated a number of news items to give people a picture which is not true. And so we feel, for example, that there has to be a Press Council as well, because freedom of the press is freedom of the press and it cannot be perfect unless there is a Press Council, which does not include Government people, but press people themselves. Because a very recent example that I would like to give you is that at eleven o’clock at night there was a sticker on television saying the Prime Minister had withdrawn the notification under which the judiciary was restored and so now the judiciary is going out of the Supreme Court and the new PCO judges are coming back. And I was a bit horrified and the whole country got up and looked at television and said:
What is happening here?”
And the commentary that went with it was:
“Judges have just gone out without number-plates and PCO judges are coming back.”
And I just thought now we’ll see images of PCO judges jumping over the gates and getting into the seats of the judiciary and then the Prime Minister said:
“But that’s not true”
And he gave a contradiction and he said:
“No such thing had happened.”
And yet the judges of the Supreme Court passed an order in the middle of the night saying that if somebody did do that, that would amount to treason. And the next day the court called for the Attorney-General and said we want an undertaking from the Government that this would not happen. And he said the Prime Minister himself has contradicted this news item – and nobody knew where this news item came from, nobody’s ever said where it came from – and so the answer was:
“We don’t trust the Prime Minister, the Prime Minister has to give it in writing within two hours.”
And then the Press said: “Aha! We told you it is happening, because the Prime Minister is not giving it in writing.”
Well obviously the Prime Minister is not giving it in writing because the Prime Minister also has dignity of his office. So I think there has to be kind of a Press Council because the press, when it begins to take sides, can be extremely dangerous in the development of society and in portraying the truth.

Then the other point that I want to raise is capacity building of civil bureaucracy. When our last dictator was there he completely destroyed civil bureaucracy. It was only military bureaucracy – whether it was earthquakes, or whether it was floods – it was General so-and-so who was in charge and we all know how well and how badly General so-and-so did. Well, personally for himself, probably very well, but not for the victims of earthquake and flood. So I believe that bureaucracy, a civilian bureaucracy, is a guarantee for better governance if its capacity is built, but if civilian bureaucracy is set aside and replaced by military bureaucracy, then we will soon have a relapse of a democratic transition.

My sixth point is that there has to be also a role for the Opposition. If we leave the Opposition simply to oppose everything – particularly in a country where decisions are not made easily, where there are kind of prejudices – the Opposition feels very happy. For example, when the Government says lets have talks with India, no matter who is in, the opposition says:
“We can’t hold it, that’s unpatriotic.”
And as soon as the Opposition comes into government they say the same thing:
“Let’s hold talks with India.”
And then the ones that have been in the Government say:
“We can’t do it because that’s unpatriotic.” So I think that some kind of a role for Opposition leader – whether it is appointment of judges, whether it’s foreign affairs, or whether it’s Standing Committees on corruption – so that they too are accountable to people; they are not left on the loose to simply oppose for the sake of opposition. And then we in our country, and yours I believe, we need accountability across the board. Now many of my colleagues and friends from the People’s Party say:
“Well, why are we being only made accountable, why not the others?”
But I find that completely laughable, saying that:
“Well, I have committed crimes. Why should I only be punished? Others should also be punished.”
Well the fact is: you don’t commit a crime! And I agree that others should also be punished. And so we have had what I call politicisation of corruption, a politicisation of accountability, because we have what is called the National Accountability Bureau, which is the most politicised institution in the country. Everybody who has come there has been either kicked out by the judiciary, or kicked out by the Government, or been criticised by the Opposition, so we completely are at a loss who should head this accountability commission.

My next point is that democracy today can only thrive – if it wants to beat autocratic systems – if they will pay attention to social and economic justice. It’s not just political justice, not just rights; it’s also social rights, it’s economic rights, where the disadvantaged people are looked after. I look, for example, at the question of haris in Pakistan, and whether it is dictatorship or democracy, their fate remains the same. Because when it’s dictatorship feudals join the dictatorship, when it’s democracy they are still sitting there. And so the poor haris continue to suffer regardless of the system – haris are bonded labour – regardless of the system that we create. And in our countries what is also most important is that we have to look towards food security, particularly in a country like Pakistan where tracts of land are now in the process of being sold to Gulf countries. That means that we will have to pay for their food security and deprive our poor of food. And these are issues that nobody dares to bring up in Pakistan, because if you oppose Gulf countries then you are opposing Islam. But if you oppose the US then you are actually opposing infidels, which is very good. So these are the types of mindsets that we need to change.

And then comes the democratisation of political parties themselves. We know party bosses, both in India and Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, if party bosses continue to stay there and political parties do not have a culture of democracy within themselves, soon they begin to become mafias rather than political parties, and then again you do not let fresh blood come to the political system. And I believe that an effective parliamentary system is important. If you look at our Parliament it hardly sits for a few days. I mean it’s mostly on leave and on the days that it sits the quorum is not complete.

You know that we have 33% women in the Parliament and one of the parliamentarians said to me that it’s very good – and he’s quite conservative – so he said to me:
“It’s excellent we have 33% women in Parliament.”
So it came as a surprise to me that he should be saying that. I said:
“Yes, I agree with you.”
And he said:
“Won’t you ask me why?”
So I said:
“Why?”
He said:
“Without them the quorum would never be complete!” So it’s the women who are sitting there completing the quorum.

Similarly, you know that in our Parliament the defence budget is never debated. Now what kind of Parliamentary supremacy is that? And I enjoy it when the Parliament says:
“Oh, we are supreme, our sovereignty, and nobody can say anything to ourselves”
…These speeches that they make. But once you ask them:
“What about the defence budget?” They say:
“That’s another part. That can take care of itself, not yet.”
And similarly, I was quite aghast that in the Parliament one of the Parliamentarians got up and asked a question and said:
“Can you please tell me under what law do our intelligence agencies operate and whom are they accountable to?”
And the answer was: “The law is a secret and whom they are accountable to is also secret.”
So this was a Parliamentarian told in Parliament.

We obviously have to have – to start democracy, to put it on track, and that is what all of you are doing here – is a clean electoral process. When I say a clean electoral process it simply doesn’t mean you watch everything goes into the box, but it also means that the representation has to be proportionate. For example, in our Parliament the representation of FATA – which you hear here about FATA, where you are told by your television stations that all the militants are hiding – it has more representation in the Parliament than any other place proportionally. Why? Because those members can easily be bought by the Establishment. So every time you want to vote all you need is to get the FATA members in your pocket and then everybody can jump up and down and you don’t care. And previously the FATA members were elected through a system called the maliks; so the maliks were your own people, they got the FATA people up there, and they were in your pocket. So it’s the FATA members that constantly create that problem. It’s not because they shouldn’t be there, but they should be there in proportion to their population, not disproportionately.

And similarly if you look that in every election even the most liberal parties will go into a compromise with the other parties saying “OK, let the women not come and vote. You don’t bring your women and we don’t bring our women”, and so we don’t count. And so women are actually being dissuaded from casting their vote in certain pockets of the country but no electoral officer has said that’s a violation of electoral process. And so we also see, for example, how the feudal influence elections. I happened once to go to monitor elections in [name indecipherable], which is really in the interior of Sindh, and one of our Prime Ministers – who came from US with two bags and left with twenty-two – was contesting by-elections there and as an observer I went there. First of all nobody gave us a house to sleep and we were told that: “This you can’t really monitor because the boss doesn’t allow strangers to come in.” But anyway, somebody gave us a house which was half-built. And nobody knew whom they were voting for. I asked them, they said: “We don’t know who he is. He’s some kind of [name indecipherable] from Punjab. We don’t know, but since we have been asked by the feudal to vote we have to come and vote.” And then they said to me: “Why did you have to come? Because then we need not to have come to vote. He said: ‘The vote will come in the box itself, you don’t have to come.’ But then we were told that there’s a group of these nuisance human righters so some of you will have to turn up and then put the vote, then go and come back, and put another one.” So that’s the kind of influence that feudal lord has over their domain.

I’m just coming to my last point: transparent governance. Now, when I say transparent governance I don’t mean simply lack of corruption. I mean how are appointments made? Who makes these appointments? – I mean to say not only in terms of appointment – how is the budget allocated? Whom does it revolve around? Why was this road made and not another road? So it is important to have the right to information for not only public spirited people as we call ourselves, but everyone, so that they can get up and say: “Why has this decision been taken?” I am truly not a person who admires what is happening in my country, but I really do think that there are pockets in my country where democratic culture existed and still exists. For example, if you look at the lawyers movement, the Bar Associations have always held elections. Regardless of dictatorships, regardless of whatever has happened, we have had election upon election. And we also have our democratic traditions. For example, I may not agree with my predecessor, but once I am elected we will exchange flowers (this time it was blue for the boy and pink for the girl), and we will speak to each other; we will hand over things to each other; we will have an interaction with the judiciary, despite the bitterness that campaigns do have. And this time it was even worse because I was called every name under the sun from anti-Islamic, to being pro-Hindu, from being not a Muslim, from creating a society where women must become vulgar, and destructing the social fabric of the country, and if you looked at the list you would actually think you were going to vote for a demon. So I really do thank the over 800 voters that voted for me despite being told day in and day out what a horrible picture I paint. But that is the fruit, for me, of democracy.

Thank you very much.

ENDS