08172017Headline:

Mandate of the majority by Abdul Quayyum Khan Kundi

One of the basic building block of a liberal democracy and nation state is sovereignty of the people and mandate of the majority. It is this mandate that legitimize a democratic government and grant them the agency to draft laws. But this raises two key questions with which political scientists are still grappling with. First whether majorities have the capability to make the right decision? And secondly how to accommodate dissidents that may not have majority support but provide a new direction to the nation? Before we tackles these questions let us first briefly review how the concept of adult franchise developed in the West and Islamic world.

The first known quasi democratic country was the Roman Republic (500 to 27 BC). In that system an electorate comprising of aristocracy and landowners elected Senators who would then elect a Council which was comparable to present day President. Term of the council was just one year. Present day Western Europe was part of this Republic and were considered barbarians by the Romans. But as their population grew they demanded representation. So a lower house was created that comprised of representatives elected by these second class citizens. The mandate of the lower house was limited to taxation, customs, trade, property and other economic spheres. But these representatives of lower house, for much of the Roman Republic, did not had the right to get the elevated status of Senators.

Almost 700 years before start of renaissance in West, Islam arrived on the horizon when Roman Empire was in relative decline. Islam became the first social system in which each member of the community had a voice without reference to their land ownership, social or economic status. Charter of Medina offered equal citizenship to all members of the community. It was a new idea of egalitarianism that became one of the main building block of the vast expansion that occurred during the first four rightly guided caliphs. It was not just expansion in the geographic domain but also phenomenal growth in numbers because of new converts.

After the renaissance in the West new political systems started emerging incorporating voice of the people in decisions of the community and state. These included the glorious revolution in England, emergence of French republic after the revolution, emergence of parliament in Prussia incorporating the Junker (landowner) class and the democratic new world in North America. But in these nascent democracies the right to vote was limited to those that owned property or enjoyed a special citizenship status. It was not until mid 1900s that the concept of universal adult franchise become a norm.

After this brief history of evolution of adult franchise the question remains does the majority make the right decision for the community? When we look at the history of prophets and philosophers it is clear that it is not necessary that majority always makes the right decision. All prophets introduced a social change that was initially not acceptable to the majorities and produced resistance. Similarly when Greek philosopher Socrates started questioning the status quo he was considered a danger to the society and a majority decided to punish him for that behavior. Similarly when Galileo presented the idea of a world revolving around the Sun he was considered a political danger to the society and banished from publishing his work. In our times US President George W. Bush and British PM Tony Blair decided to invade Iraq based on lies and the majorities in these countries supported them for most of their tenure. One thing is clear that a nation starts its decline when majorities start making wrong decisions.

So if it is possible that majorities can make a mistake then what needs to be done to put the nation on the right track? Once again we have to look at the lives of prophets and philosophers. They have refused to accept the decisions of the majority and continued preaching their message until a small group of followers emerge that firmly believe in the message. From this nucleus of committed followers it slowly starts expanding their network and converting their minority into a majority. It is a long process and does not happen quickly. But throughout their struggle they never engage in violence or forceful disruption of the society.

Bloody revolution to break the status quo is a Western idea. An uprising of people that can become violent and disrupt life in a society is looked down upon by the Islamic political thought. Islam proposes a peaceful transformation of a society which is evident from the life and tradition of Prophet Mohammad (PBUH). Islamic political system does not give absolute sovereign right to the majority but defines boundaries based on higher values within which majority can draft regulations. Islam proposes that when injustices happen in a society or majority is finding it helpless to challenge the forces of oppressive status quo then a group of people should start getting together to initiate a peaceful transformation. These people should first seek help from the officials of the state to redress the grievances. If they fail to deliver then approach the justice system and demand prosecution of corrupt and unjust officials and community members. And when that does not help then they should start building a network throughout the nation to take the political power away from the status quo. It is a peaceful process of transformation and the key component of it is to build a network of individuals that are capable and passionate about imposing the justice and rule of law on the society.

It is from this perspective many of us opposed the revolutions and Dharna of PAT and PTI respectively. These call for disruption of society for political gains were not peaceful transformations. We had proposed that PTI should engage in delivery of good governance in KP, pressure government for electoral reforms; and develop a cadre of new leaders that are capable, honest and passionate about changing the nation. It is a longer road but more in line with the teachings of Islam. It is a good thing that PTI has returned to the assemblies but they are failing in their governance of KP and development of new leaders.

Transforming a nation is a long term project sometimes producing results after two or three generations. But the process has to start first. I personally feel that nation is now aware that we need new politics and leaders. It is only a matter of time before it is clear which party will take a lead in this transformation. As a member of PTI, I hope and pray it is our party but the field is wide open for anyone to take.

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