Dr. Tahseen Mahmood Aslam comments on a Democratic governance and citizenship
Pakistani electoral process is currently in a crisis as the Democratic governance and citizenship political elements are objecting to the procedure adopted for carrying out national census and it appears that if this issue is not satisfactorily resolved then holding fresh elections may probably not possible. It is widely acknowledged that the most important element in democratic governance is the obvious link between the correct estimation of number of citizenry projected to participate in the process of the workability of political democracy. In the historical perspective of democratic governance it is amply recognised that this evolutionary way of legitimising power is citizenship that entails a division of political work between the government and the governed that has made the idea of a change in power the very principle of representative democ¬racies. This process is functionally and practically different than any aristocratic or theocratic perspective and is generally believed that democratic governance took their place essentially due to the vital principle of taking the opinion of the citizenship while governing.
It goes without saying that the concept of democratic governance is very conscious of protecting democracy from excessive interference of powerful lobbies and to ensure removing civic apathy that is seen as functional for the demo¬cratic political system and also to help it avoid govern¬ability crises such as those encountered in Western democracies at the advent of democratic governance. Viewed from another angle the partici¬patory version advocates a strong involvement of citizens in the public sphere. They leave behind the perspective of citizenship as the possession of a membership status representing the modern civil freedoms guaranteed by the state, which in return demands the loyalty of its citizens and instead put forward the practice of civic free¬dom and the repertoire of political expression such as consumer awareness and encouraging pluralistic notions within the societal sphere that play a role in making citizens the first stakeholders of a citizenship that escapes the state’s control and sometimes even questions it to the extent that it dilutes the concept of statehood and takes it to new level.
The modern-day concept of participation of citizens in democratic governance has evolved in tandem with the idea propounded by ancient philosophical wizards that strongly emphasised the civic dimension and defining citizenship as a mode of activity specific to humanity and used exclusively for representative purposes. Further down in its evolutionary journey the concept considered citizenship above all as a specific legal status and one that values its civil dimension. Beyond this founding opposition, the contemporary analysis tends to emphasise the fact that an act of citizenship questions the nature of civic virtues expected from citizens. The status of citizen presup¬poses an engagement in the public sphere, a sphere that constitutes the cement of the community and the solidarity that characterises it. This is an important dimension that determines the future contours of democratic governance.
Citizenship as a concept categorically differentiates citizen membership from all other types of social memberships that have the potential of becoming rival sources of identification. The result is that the functional citizenship constitutes a civil society distinct from family, lineage and affiliated com¬munities. The prevailing modality of civic identity is entirely different from corporate or religious identities though in later case the clerical viewpoint insists its inclusion in defining the nature of citizenship. The current concept of citizenship duly emphasises individua¬lism that crucially contributes to a strong linkage to citizenship to the extent that the individual and the modern citizen eventually merge. It has also given rise to the universalisation of rights that makes citizenship all the more inclu¬sive. By causing a reorganisation of social and religious identities between the public and private spheres, citizenship demonstrates the establish¬ment of a social formation where the combination of status and affiliations to primary groups such as fam¬ily, ethnic, and religious is compatible with the promotion of an allegiance to a political commu¬nity.
It is specifically mentioned in this context that the awareness of the diversity of historical paths in building the nation-state as the process of nation building particularly aimed to complete the process of state building and to develop among its citizens a strong subjective sense of belonging to the same political and cultural community that in the past were often thwarted by demands for cultural, religious or linguistic recognition. The identification of individu¬als as members of a political community is essentially linked to the normative integration of citizens. It is because individuals share not only the same system of val¬ues and representations but also common rules of behaviour that they become aware of their unity. The strength of the idea of identification with a national consensus is also due partially to this normative tonality of membership in a nation-state and its emotional capacity to unite citizens around a body of central and shared values and rules. The evolving civic methodology experimented by the western world was in line with a dif¬ferent perspective but is overall impact was enormous and ultimately became all-pervasive. In many current political con¬figurations a plurality of values coex¬ist in the public sphere and set the social stakeholders against cultural subsystems of different values. In this case, the question of political legitimacy is no longer asked in relation to ultimate values but often on an administrative and a technocratic level.
It was observed right at the outset of formation of modern nation-state that it suffers from weakness of cultural integration and in order to compensate it was essential to increase its economic capacity underpinning its social welfare system so as to ensure to every person a certain equality of access to material well-being. The pragmatic running of society occurs here without reference to the founding values on the basis of which citizens struggle to come together because of former or present distributive conflicts. This new paradigm created a model of citizenship, slightly inclusive in political and cultural terms but also capable of encouraging equal access to economic and social goods and services. From this point of view, it might seem to have an affinity with the traditional perspectives of formation and building the state-nations yet such a conception of citizenship makes it very difficult to develop a strong sense of belonging to contemporary political spheres whose economy is also highly globalised and increasingly discriminatory.
It is becoming obvious by the day that it is possible to visualise the integration of the traditional concept of establishing a cognitively aware of system of civic co-existence. The democratic governance systems now in practice emphasise politics of vertical integration and a certain level of homogenization or at least a certain level of cultural convergence. This emphasis has a strong reason to be based upon a common body of values, beliefs and representations conveying norms and duties that the state has to uphold for its citizenry. This system also encourages multicultural citizenship, whose horizontal inclusive logic is limited to ensur¬ing that every citizen has equal access to the eco-nomic and social welfare of society and is free to choose his or her cultural and identity affiliations. It is essential therefore to locate present conditions of identification and of political participation in con¬temporary societies. It is also by taking into con¬sideration these profound transformations that the concept of citizenship can remain a central notion in governance. The current dissatisfaction of the political elements with the process of census is therefore justified in entirety and is required to be rectified. TW