Democracy takes a hit worldwide

The annual Freedom House report saw a slight worsening in Pakistan’s score

It is something of a paradox that, according to INCO Freedom House, democracy is under threat worldwide because of elections. The paradox lies in the fact that elections form the bedrock of democracy, and they should provide a means of enhancing democracy. It does make sense to attempt to control elections, so as to control the results of democracy, but it means that democracy and freedom must be endangered. It might seem also oaradoxical that in a year in which no less than 47 countries are going to the polls, democracy should seem under threat, but it makes a kind of sense for, as our own experience as a nation tells us, politicians as well as other forces do their best to ensure results go their way, no matter what the public will might be.

Though such prominent countries as the USA, the USSR, the UK and India are still to hold their polls, Pakistan is one of those countries which has undergone its own electoral exercise, and its messiness and controversies echo the Freedom House report, but it should be a cause of concern that Pakistan should find itself scored as ‘not free’ in the ‘freedom on the net’ category, with a score of 26 out of 100. Perhaps of more concern is the fact that that score is unchanged from last year, and reflects the fact that no effort is being made to make a change. The fact that at the moment Twitter is banned reflects even more on Pakistan, and shows that those in authority seem to have misunderstood the nature of the Internet. The ban is being overcome by VPNs, so the proposal has arisen for VPNs to be banned. All this will achieve is making users try to achieve some other software means of accessing the microblogging site.

It is increasingly clear that those in authority are not yet in the 21st century, and yearn for the old days of pre-Internet control. The problem is that Pakistan’s export competitiveness is only possible by getting on the ‘information superhighway’, thus making old-fashioned control a thing of the past. The ideal of the ‘Great Firewall of China’ is perhaps unattainable, as Pakistan has never been a control society. It is the government which must act to ensure that freedom is enhanced, not so much because freedom is valuable in itself, but because it makes good economic sense.

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The Editorial Department of Pakistan Today can be contacted at: [email protected].

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