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Overcoming Boundaries: Fostering Critical Thinking in Pakistan's Democracy

Soon, elections will be conducted in the country, but this alone cannot guarantee sustainable growth and stability.
by TNN Editor - 15 Jul, 2023 1651

Maryam Anum

When citizens are restricted from thinking beyond boundaries, great states can never be established. Soon, elections will be conducted in the country, but this alone cannot guarantee sustainable growth and stability.

Pakistan has been plagued by political and economic instability, and unlike other countries that learn from their mistakes, the political elite in Pakistan remains entrenched in bitter rivalries, pushing the country towards collapse.

The United States is known as the pioneer of democracy and liberty, having learned from its history of crises. From religious persecution in Europe, the Americans embraced religious tolerance. They studied the works of political philosophers like Locke, Rousseau, and Montesquieu, which influenced the principles of their Constitution, such as government accountability and the separation of powers.

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Comparing the histories of the United States and Pakistan, it becomes evident that the pioneers of America were deeply influenced by the political thinkers of their time. In contrast, Pakistan has largely forgotten the contributions of democratic thinkers like Sir Syed Ahmad Khan, who emphasized the lack of political representation as a cause for the Indian mutiny against British rule. The American movement for independence, driven by the slogan "No taxation without representation," resonated with the masses.

Unfortunately, in Pakistan, those who think beyond the boundaries are criticized and discouraged. Critical thinking has not been encouraged since independence. Pakistan's involvement in the Afghan war brought the country to the brink of terrorism, yet valuable lessons were not learned due to the influence of the political and military elite, leaving the nation lacking critical thinking skills.

Only a handful of people in Pakistan dare to think beyond their boundaries, while the majority of society exhibits a lack of critical thinking. This not only leads to the rejection of alternative viewpoints but also hampers intellectual growth in the country.

Turning our attention to Pakistan's current situation, it is crucial to understand the root causes of its longstanding problems. Religious and political intolerance have been major factors contributing to the country's instability. Popular leaders are blindly followed by the masses, but for sustainable change in an illiterate and economically disadvantaged society, Pakistan needs a governance system that addresses its unique challenges. Following foreign models will not provide salvation from political and social insecurities.

No political thinker or leader in Pakistan has seriously considered designing a system tailored to the country's specific problems. Since 2008, no government can claim to be the sole representative of the people. Different leaders lean towards capitalist or socialist systems, but a one-size-fits-all approach is insufficient. Reforms are needed to benefit both the country and its masses. To achieve this, an inclusive education system is essential, allowing people from all classes to develop opinions and engage in critical thinking.

While countries evolve and bring about changes, Pakistan remains stagnant. The political and bureaucratic elite remains the same, intentionally keeping the poor illiterate to maintain their power. People are discouraged from expressing opinions that may challenge the decisions of the elite, and the value of the general will in the democratic process is diminished. Elections are shaped by the elite's interests, with many citizens in remote villages lacking knowledge of the electoral process, economic policies, and political dynamics.

Therefore, Pakistan needs a restricted democracy until the entire nation is empowered economically and socially. The masses must be empowered through education and awareness to ensure a more inclusive and representative democratic process.

Note: The views and opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the policy or position of the organization.