The US elections grasp attention of people all over the world and for a period of time, the two terms “Democrats” and “Republicans” become the most iterated of terms. In Pakistan also, it creates a lot of buzz with debates and discussions all around. But my intention to refer US elections is certainly not to debate over “Why Obama won?” and “What should Republicans do?” Here, I am more concerned about the differences between the two terms i.e. Democracy and Republic; or are these terms synonymous enough to be used interchangeably?
Literally, the word Republic is derived from a Latin words res and publica, which mean everybody’s thing or interest or a public affair. Whereas the word Democracy has its origins from Greek, with Demos meaning people and kratos, meaning Government. Literally, democracy means Government by or of the people.
In modern political science, republicanism refers to a specific ideology that is based on civic virtue and is considered distinct from ideologies such as liberalism. Democracy is a political government either carried out by the people (direct democracy), or the power to govern is granted to elected representatives, without the restraint embodied in a fixed body of law. The law is whatever an official organ of government determines it is.
Considering our case i.e. of Islamic Republic of Pakistan, we follow a specific ideology that is based on civic virtue as prescribed by Islam. For us, as mentioned in the Objective Resolution “Sovereignty belongs to Allah alone but He has delegated it to the State of Pakistan through its people for being exercised within the limits prescribed by Him as a sacred trust.” Consider an extreme case of an ideal Democracy in Pakistan; if a law is passed by majority which is against the teachings of Islam or which goes against the fact that “Sovereignty belongs to Allah”, should we consider it as a law? In my opinion, I would have a vocal ‘NO’ against that. Now refer to our constitution where it is clearly prescribed tha Islam is the state religion which means in any case the principles described in Holy Quran have to be upheld, we can say that it does not exactly fit into the definition of the term ‘Democracy’. So it is necessary to keep distinction between implementing a complete Democracy and keeping some principles of democracy, freedom, equality, tolerance and social justice fully observed as prescribed in the constitution.
In order to have an idea of the will of people, consider the survey conducted last year by British Council of Pakistan which suggested that almost three-quarters of the Youth in Pakistan (which currently constitutes two-third of the whole population of Pakistan) define themselves as Muslims First then a Pakistani. Moreover, according to a survey conducted by Maryland University, almost 71 percent agreed with requiring “strict application of [sharia] law in every Islamic country.” Despite more than six decades of our creation, the debate still continues amongst the masses, on which side we fall but what is important here is to realize the difference between being a Democrate or a Republican, as this misunderstanding is becoming a major reason behind the dichotomy that exists within our society – a society which faces extreme opposition from many scholars regarding ‘Democracy’ and on the other hand extreme proposition from various circles. So the bottom line is instead of imposing a system which is executable in any other part of the world, we should work out in designing and implementing a system suitable for our needs and which rightly addresses our values. Now surprisingly, Urdu being our national language and the language of masses; has the same word “Jamhoriat” for both Democracy and Republic. Yes! The word Jamhoriat, a word which echoes repeatedly and amplified by various political personalities, is also reflected in the name “Islami Jamhoria Pakistan”.
So it should be kept as two distinct approaches whether the leader or party, for whom we keep on chanting slogans, wants a “Democratic Pakistan” or will keep it “Islamic Republic of Pakistan”?
As John Marshall (Chief Justice, The US Supreme Court 1801-1835) observed: “Between a balanced republic and a democracy, the difference is like that between order and chaos.”