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Thursday, May 21, 2009

What lessons can Pakistan learn from India

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I came across an interesting article in the Pakistani newspaper The Dawn. It talks about how deep the anti-India feelings exist in Pakistan. I suppose it would be wrong to say if similar feelings don't exist here. We can go arguing which one is more. It is in these circumstances that we fail to appreciate what is common among us and how both sides have something to learn from each other. The article talks about lesson Pakistan can learn from India. I am mentioning some of the more interesting point. Do read the entire article.

  1. So strong is the Pakistani elite’s aversion to India that it barely acknowledges its South Asian identity. Most Pakistanis would like to believe that Pakistan is located somewhere between Iraq and Saudi Arabia.
  2. This mindset prevents Pakistan from studying Indian strategies to deal with the various issues that also plague us. Faced with problems of stagnation in agriculture we have invited experts from the western countries that have little knowledge of our soil, our land tenure system and the strengths and weaknesses of our peasants but we have made no serious attempt to analyse how India, a food-deficit country in the early 1950s, is now groaning under stocks of surplus grain.
  3. The destruction of Pakistan’s railway system is a most painful scandal but it is doubtful if we have tried to find out what keeps the Indian railways running. We have subcontinental diseases and we insist on applying Middle Eastern cures, quite unmindful of the disastrous results.
  4. India is the only country in the world where polling in a general election is spread over several weeks, the basic reason being the keenness to ensure availability of the necessary personnel in sufficient strength in each sector. Till some years ago ballot boxes used to be kept under strict guard till counting could begin at the end of polling. It was no small achievement that in a country that was among the first to report incidents of booth-capturing no serious complaint of tampering with ballot boxes was heard.
  5. But in 2004 India took a revolutionary step by switching over to vote-recording machines. The success of the system has silenced all those who had argued that the poorly educated rural communities could not use machines. True, there have been minor problems here and there but on the whole voting by machines has yielded huge benefits.
  6. Some improvements in India’s political culture were evident in the promptness with which the losers admitted defeat and the manner of their doing so. In the main they held themselves responsible for their poor showing instead of blaming the system or the winners for wrongdoing. It is evidence such as this that convinces everybody of the election having been free and fair.
  7. The extent to which the election commission has contributed to the development of electoral processes and conventions in India merits study by Pakistani experts. India has avoided reserving the chief election commissioner’s office for the judiciary and succeeded in establishing the institution’s credibility. Differences have been noticed between the commission’s working under a stern and authoritarian Seshan and a gregarious and media-loving Gill and there have been occasions when observers have wondered at the commission’s laziness or else but on the whole the system has continued to deliver.
  8. The greatest misfortune of the Pakistani people has been that the repeated disruptions of the democratic journey by authoritarian adventurers have deprived them of the joy of owning the state. The Indian election needs to be studied in Pakistan in order to settle the question of the state’s ownership — whether it belongs to an oppressive, incompetent and corrupt elite or the dumb, exploited multitude.

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