It is unanimously agreed upon that Public Opinion is the fundamental to establishment and regulation of an effective democracy and an effective Public Opinion ensures a strong democratic set-up. As is the case with all other elements Public Opinion must meet some criteria to be sound and effective. The exercise of democracy requires for the people’s representatives to be well aware of the trends of Public Opinion in the various and must harbour them and keep them under consideration as policies are laid out.
Some requirements of an effective Public Opinion, would academically be, enlisted as: Vigilance and Awareness, National Integration, Freedom of Press and Publication to render possible efficient flow of information, Freedom of Expression to let surface all opinions whether of majority or minorities, Tolerance to scrutinize and comprehend the dynamics and stance of all opinions expressed by each community…
To analyse the Pakistani society in context of the above stated requirements it remains essential to comprehend the realities of the society subject to discussion. Pakistan is a multi-national country rendering home to many ethnicities hailing from the land with a centuries’ old background or soaking in its soil the influx of thousands of migrants. It is a society subject to segregation of class, religion and creed. It is a fact that the Pakistani society which is an amalgam of numerous cultures and linkage of thousands of years old traditions which merge into one beautifully diverse heritage. The divides are ethnic, religious and linguistic as well as class base and sectarian. The rule of Might is Right prevails and leaves a large number fallen dependent on a countable elite to play their puppets.
Pakistanis, due to lack of awareness and absence of culture o commons’ empowerment, tend to be ignorant of the affairs of political nature which directly or scarcely indirectly have an impact on them and their lives. Hence, the people are the least bit interested in what happens and aren’t vigilant in acting upon any developments and establishing logical opinions. Due to no awareness in regard to fundamental rights as citizens and no comprehension of implications of various acts the masses remain distant from voicing their opinions in various matters. For instance, It is quite understood a fact that a layman can never comprehend how the amendment in the Army Act would be exercised and how will the military courts work to serve justice and how the criteria for a case to be dealt by a military court shall be met. In the alleged rigging scenario it is evident that electoral frauds, systematic or not, did take place in the general polls of 2013. Why is the common man so ignorant to existence of bogus votes in every other constituency put to scrutiny, whether deliberately or not someone’s right to vote has been exploited and someone’s opinion has been committed theft on. Why is the public so ignorant? Until or unless an institution trustworthy and capable elucidates the dynamics and inferences of the above discussed the masses can never logically and ideally develop a consensus.
As outlined above, Pakistani society is subject to many divides and mismanagement, administrative and political failures, bad governance, ignorance, indifference, avariciousness and prejudices have carved differences over the years. People are tangled in religious, cultural, racial, linguistic and social loyalties undermining the spirit of unity and harmony. The ethnic divisions are exploited the most by those who are self-proclaimed flag carriers of general public’s’ interests. Until a Punjabi would treat a Sindhi equal to himself, an Urdu speaking would accept a Pashtun, a Saraik would bond with a Punjabi and a Punjabi would mingle with a Baloch and an elite would stop looking down to a less privileged and a Muslim would accept a Christian neighbour and Quran would be respected by a follower of Gita and a Shia would be protected by a Sunni and a Sunni be graceful to a Shia, there won’t be a general consensus that could be framed as the Public Opinion because until then none would rise above segregation to consider the benefit and good of Pakistan. Until prejudices are undone no Public Opinion can be established.
Post Musharraf’s Enlightened Moderation Pakistan has experienced a drastic evolution in print and electronic media and the social media has established basis over past five or so years. Freedom of press and publication is an essential for efficient and proper channelling of right information to the people on the basis of which they can establish the Public Opinion. It is, however, quite an unfortunate fact that the fighters of the right to free publication and freedom of expression have succeeded in breaking the baseless bars but have gone past an extent of fair play and responsible journalism. It is quite evident that Pakistani media today is acting a puppet to various elements whether internal or external. There is no better example than to incite the coverage of the record hundred and twenty six days long sit-in staged in the Federal Capital. One media house adamantly declared it a failure in the very first hour and one remained defensive toward the anti-government protest till the very end. Which media house was quite performing its obligation and which vindicated some agenda? Who lead the people by fair means and who manipulated the public opinion? Freedom of press and publication and expression must prevail but the media must honestly perform its duty. Without impartial channelling of information it is rather impossible to formulate an effective public opinion.
Pakistani society is found to be intolerant in various aspect. The educated class overcomes the prejudices and develops a sense of respect for opinions. This trait is, however, not very common. People are ardent followers of a school of thought or prejudiced by generations to an extent not tolerate even a notion which is against their interests or convictions. An intolerant society which cannot respect opinions does not let freedom of expression to fittingly fulfil its purpose and hence, a general consensus is never reached.
Illiteracy, Baradrism and Wdera culture are other factors which hurdle establishment of an effective Public Opinion. An illiterate society can never break the shackles the colonial mindset, comprehend dynamics, scrutinize implications and tolerate difference of opinions and slaves of Jagirdars and Waderas will never be able to think independently. An illiterate can never undermine religio-ethno-socio prejudices. It is necessary to educate and train minds to formulate effective Public Opinion to root and nurture a strong democracy in Pakistan.