Saturday, December 31, 2011

Daily Times editorial Dec 31, 2011

Hashmi’s swan song

Makhdoom Javed Hashmi delivered his farewell speech to the National Assembly the other day, having resigned his seat (along with his daughter) after leaving the PML-N and joining the PTI. A parliamentary veteran of almost three decades (he began in the partyless 1985 Majlis-e-Shoora of General Ziaul Haq and served the dictator as a minister), Hashmi was given his head by the speaker to say what was in his heart. Hashmi’s speech was of course first and foremost a litany of complaints against the leadership of his erstwhile party, the PML-N. It may be recalled that after the Sharifs opted to accept the offer of going into exile in Saudi Arabia and the PML-N virtually collapsed into a rump party, with the majority of its leaders and members trooping lemming-like into Musharraf’s King’s party, the newly formed PML-Q, it was Hashmi who held the remains of the PML-N together. His defiance of Musharraf landed him in jail on a spurious charge of defaming the military, but he never compromised on his opposition to military rule. Since 2007, when the Sharifs finally returned to the country, he had been sidelined by Nawaz Sharif and company. His departure was therefore the recognisable writing on the wall for some time, the rise of the PTI merely providing the opportunity. But Hashmi did not confine himself to criticism of the PML-N. He delivered a wake-up call to the lawmakers to change their attitude and conduct, which had miserably disappointed the entire nation. He argued that the ruling PPP should concentrate on saving the country rather than the democratic system, although he conceded the right of the incumbents to serve out their full term. However, he advised the prime minister to seek a fresh mandate at the earliest as the present drift had led to the country dying economically and the people deeply disappointed with the demonstrated tendency of the elected members to fill their own pockets instead of serving the electorate. He pleaded for a new Pakistan, for which the sine qua non was the evolution of a new system. An early election, he held, had the potential to bring forth a trustworthy leadership.
Javed Hashmi was echoing what a lot of people have been saying of late. The words ‘change’ and even ‘revolution’ have been ringing out in the political space, particularly since the momentum associated with the rise of the PTI. Unfortunately, though, such is the deterioration in the level of our political discourse (media pundits included) that no one has any clear idea what ‘change’, let alone ‘revolution’ means or entails. First and foremost, it would be instructive to remember that Pakistan’s political energies throughout the 64 years of its existence have been consumed in the struggle for democracy. The resistance to military rule and authoritarian civilian dispensations defines the political history of the country and colours its politics like nothing else. Since 2008, an elected government is in power, but this by now no longer seems enough. The performance of the government on the political, economic and social fronts leaves much to be desired, to put it mildly. Parliament’s performance has been no better, perhaps even worse, bright spots on the legislative horizon such as the 18th Amendment notwithstanding. Taking Hashmi’s nostrums as a starting point, the functionality or otherwise of our assemblies could do with some revisiting. Democracy does not end with free and fair elections. They are only the starting point of the democratic process, whose test lies even more than the polls on the performance of the elected representatives in the assemblies. If these assemblies merely reinforce the notion of ‘parliamentary cretinism’ without answering the expectations and aspirations of their electorate, disillusionment cannot but be the logical outcome. The limited experience of democracy we have points to some ugly features of our political structure and culture. Elected members’ constituency supporters (let alone opponents) constantly complain of the indifference of the members to the problems and plight of the people who voted them in. These members are only available when the next polls roll round. In between, the people are abandoned to their own devices. Even within the paradigm of a parliamentary democracy, there are steps that can be taken to improve the situation and accelerate the march towards a functional, participatory and dynamic democracy. For example, a change of the rules should allow a majority of voters in a particular constituency to recall their elected representative if he or she fails to respond to their needs. The first-past-the-post system could be modified partly to allow party list-based elections on the basis of the overall percentage of votes garnered by a party (an indirect application of this principle is already in use for reserved seats for women, minorities, etc). This would bring people into the assemblies who cannot otherwise challenge the monopoly in the electoral field of landowning clout or money. The disappointment with the hard-earned democracy we have threatens to turn opinion in the direction (once again) of authoritarian or even praetorian dispensations, which have more than been proved disasters for the country. Reform must be undertaken before we reach that point of no return.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Daily Times editorial Dec 29, 2011

Zardari’s address

Benazir Bhutto’s fourth death anniversary was commemorated by a mammoth, emotionally charged rally in Garhi Khuda Buksh, with the imposing Bhutto family mausoleum as a backdrop. President Asif Zardari’s address on the occasion had been eagerly anticipated, with some observers convinced it would be explosive. As it turned out, however, the hype may have been exaggerated. That is not to say the speech did not have incendiary remarks and references littered through it, but it was basically a reiteration of the ruling PPP’s concerns and claims. Poignantly, it reminded many throughout the land of the late leader’s loss and the seeming inability of the government to bring justice and closure to the issue. Prime Minister (PM) Yousaf Raza Gilani separately stated that the murderers were by now known since the investigation into the murder was complete. Further than this he could not be drawn. Intriguingly, the president during his speech at the rally hinted that the names of the perpetrators (by which it can be presumed he meant not those ostensibly charged and in prison, but others) had not been revealed on the request of someone unnamed, and would be revealed at the proper time. Four years on, during which the PPP has been in power almost throughout, that ‘proper’ time is still not visible on the horizon. PML-N and its chief Nawaz Sharif also delivered themselves of their thoughts on the occasion, the former by circulating a questionnaire of 15 intriguing questions related to the affair, the latter by vowing to punish the murders of BB whenever his party came to power.
Moving on to the content of the president’s speech, he made the following points. Zardari vowed to foil conspiracies against democracy, defend the constitution, and, as a son of the soil, not allow any damage to the federation. All this would be pursued through democratic struggle a la Aung San Suu Kyi. He warned against “tailor-made” democracies being promoted, presumably, by the usual cast of suspects. He was dismissive of those jumping fences as those having no significant achievements to their credit.
The president questioned the Chief Justice (CJ) of Pakistan regarding the slow pace in BB’s case. Ironically, on the same day, the CJ asked the same question of the government. All this is of questionable merit, since it does not help advance the cause of getting to the bottom of BB’s assassination one wit. The president implied that the Supreme Court was taking up cases out of turn that put the government in the dock, while ignoring its concerns re the BB and Zulfikar Ali Bhutto cases. This is a reflection of the present state of ‘estrangement’ between the executive and the judiciary, a dangerous divide that needs to be bridged rationally at the earliest.
The president took pains to praise and support his (seemingly) embattled PM, reiterating once again that all ‘forces’ were under parliament, the PM represents the federation and the people and all powers have been delegated and rest with the PM and parliament. Democracy, the president argued, needed time to flourish. Meantime he claimed he had given the Pashtuns and the Baloch their rights, advising the latter to struggle along the lines of his party within the ambit of the federation (advice that is subverted by the repressive policy of the military). He also supported the idea of a separate province in southern Punjab as the right of the people of the region to demand their due from Takht Lahore (the seat of power).
On foreign policy, the president expressed the new, assertive tone adopted by the government since the Salala incident. He asserted Pakistan would no longer be part of any international war game, trade with who it pleased (an oblique reference to Iran, particularly the Iran-Pakistan gas pipeline) and expand the ambit of trade to China, Russia and Central Asia.
For those who consider the president and the government embattled in the light of the ‘stand-off’ with the judiciary and strains in relations with the military, Asif Zardari’s speech was defiant, hard hitting without being offensive, and an attempt to rally the troops of the PPP for the challenges ahead. Interestingly, the prominence and importance given to hitherto estranged PPP leader Aitzaz Ahsan at the rally has set off a new round of speculations regarding a critical role for the redoubtable Chaudhry in days to come. A space to watch, this…

Friday, December 23, 2011

Daily Times editorial Dec 24, 2011

On the cusp of a defining moment?

Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani’s unusually blunt remarks the other day about moves to oust his government implied that the usual cast of suspects were once again up to their tricks. This candour sent alarm bells ringing throughout the country. The received wisdom was that the prime minister, known for his soft demeanour and reconciliatory manner, had come out swinging against the military establishment and this inevitably meant that the latter would retaliate in customary style. While some were convinced of the possibility of a coup, others regarded that as too risky in the present concatenation of circumstances and thought the intervention (by now considered inevitable) would be indirect. For all the alarmist prognoses therefore, it must have come as a bit of a dampener to learn that the COAS, General Kayani, had categorically refuted all such speculations, stating that the military had no intentions of staging any intervention, direct or indirect, and that it respected democracy and the mandate of the people. Sceptics and cynics may still not be convinced, and they can hardly be blamed, given the dark history of the country where military domination of national life has become a seemingly irreversible fact since the late 1950s.
However, this may not be a 1958, 1969, 1977 or 1999 moment. A tectonic shift below the surface of things, albeit still embryonic and halting, appears to be emerging. Whereas there is no dearth of critics and opponents of the present incumbents, starting with President Asif Ali Zardari and encompassing the PPP-led coalition government, there are few takers for the idea of another military intervention to remove the incumbents. Some are apprehensive whether our hard-won democracy, warts and all, would survive such a development. In this regard, the case of the PML-N appears the most interesting. Having been the victim of a military coup that overthrew its elected government in 1999, its leader, Nawaz Sharif, even when he blows alternatively hot and cold against the government, has been exceedingly careful to distance himself from any notion that he or his party support any intervention by the military, a la the 1990s. Even his hawkish Leader of the Opposition in the National Assembly, Chaudhry Nisar, rose to the occasion on the floor of the house to state that his party would oppose any praetorian move. The parties allied to the PPP and part of the coalition also have closed ranks with the PPP in defence of a continuance of the democratic system. Those outside the present parliamentary setup, for example Imran Khan and Jamaat-i-Islami (both boycotted the 2008 elections), are finding it difficult to make the case for the removal of the incumbent dispensation they love to hate without making the obligatory genuflection towards democratic principles. What does this seeming ‘consensus’ portend?
Without trying to read too much into this (admittedly weak and subject to sudden opportunist shifts) ‘consensus’ of the political class on the need for the continuance of democracy and opposition to all manner of praetorian gambits, one is tempted to venture that we may be on the cusp of a defining historic moment, one in which the legacy of military domination can no longer as confidently call upon the services of one section of the political class to topple a sitting democratically elected government. In the civil-military relationship, badly skewed in favour of Rawalpindi in our history, is there a shift in perception and thinking? Only time will tell. However, there is no gainsaying the fact that only if the political class unites against military domination can the latter be rolled back. The key to our civil-military conundrum lies in two critical areas. One, the political class, whatever its internal rivalries and differences (normal in any polity), must unite against praetorian adventurism and Bonapartism. Two, political party governments must learn to govern in a manner and with a set of policies that bring relief and inspiration to the people. With the democratic consensus on top amongst the political class for democracy strengthened and reinforced by a similar consensus at the base amongst the people that only democracy offers any hope of the redress of their problems and future prosperity and progress, the ground will have been laid for changing Pakistan into a country conforming to the principles of any modern, democratic state and society: the supremacy of the will of the people, reflected in their chosen representatives, subject always to recall if they do not perform.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Daily Times editorial Dec 20, 2011

A sorry looking lot

President Asif Ali Zardari’s return to the country and declared intention to get back into harness at the earliest possible has left his detractors with egg on their face. All manner of rumour, gossip and speculation had been unleashed as soon as the news of the president’s illness became known. Every flight of fancy was considered fair game, from the allegation that the president was no longer able to discharge his duties and should therefore, in accordance with Article 47 of the constitution, be removed from office, to the impending departure of the government. The fact that the presidential spokespeople were consistently conveying that the president had recovered and would soon return cut no ice with those whose visceral hatred of the president and the PPP-led government has blinded them repeatedly to the ground realities and plunged them into folly after folly. No nuance, real or imagined, was overlooked by our hyperactive media in prophesying doom for the incumbent president and government. The wish list of the forces that could, in overheated imagination, be mobilised to unseat the incumbents included the military and the judiciary. Why has this phenomenon of forecasting doom and gloom repeatedly become the leitmotif of large parts of the media and political players?
There are perhaps three sets of actors tilting at these windmills ever since the PPP government came to power almost four years ago. They comprise: 1) Those with an unflagging visceral hatred of the president and the PPP government for ideological, political, and vested interest reasons. 2) Those who may not have begun life in the first category but have become increasingly disappointed and disillusioned with the performance of the government since it assumed power in 2008. 3) Our permanent establishment and their satraps that may still harbour suspicions about the PPP despite the latter’s bending over backwards to keep the former sweet. Taken in order, there seems little hope of rescue for the first category, blinkered as its vision is. The second offers at least the possibility of being persuaded that whatever their view of the present incumbents and their performance in office, efforts to see the back of the incumbents must not stray into territory where along with the bathwater (the government) the baby (democracy) also gets thrown out. To those who pooh-pooh democracy because they feel it has failed to deliver, there is only one counsel: patience. Democracy does not offer guarantees for the solution of problems per se. What it does offer is a participatory political process under the umbrella of the freedoms that are an inherent core of any democratic system worth the name. What use are these freedoms, the detractors ask? Freedom to organise, express opinions and exercise the right to oppose through peaceful and constitutional means offer the possibility of putting forth a new, or amending/changing the existing national political agenda. In other words, the struggle for solutions and rights can be waged openly and without fear. The more democratic a system, the better able are all the diverse forces in society to advocate and ‘fight’ for their special or even general concerns. Since we in Pakistan have little or no experience of genuine democracy and true freedom, and far too much than is good for our health of autocracy and dictatorship, we soon lose patience with the seemingly slow pace or non-existence of desirable change under democracy and reflexively start harking back to strongman rule of one kind or another. Nothing has been learnt by such minds from the history of damage done to state and society by such non-representative dispensations littered through our relatively brief history as an independent country.
Prime Minister Gilani, in a relaxed mood at a private wedding in Lahore on Sunday reiterated what some analysts (and this paper) have been arguing since the (now) pricked balloon of memogate and other fulminations have been trying to portray. The ‘crisis’ is more overheated imagination than ground reality. The institutions of state that these agitated minds have ‘clashing’, seem wiser and maturer than those who have been egging them on to bare their knuckles against each other. The meeting between General Kayani and Prime Minister Gilani cleared the air considerably and saw them arriving on the same page. The honourable Supreme Court Chief Justice (and PML-N chief Nawaz Sharif) is clearly committed to opposing any extra-constitutional intervention to upset the applecart of the present democratic dispensation. Those with axes to grind will therefore have to take a deep breath and relax. And those in our ‘free’ media who have been proved wrong and way over the top in recent days should take time out to reflect on the ethics and sense of responsibility of a truly free media that intends to stay that way.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Daily Times editorial Dec 15, 2011

Fertilising a troubled relationship

The envoys’ conference, even though its recommendations have not been officially revealed, seems to have spun out a ‘wish list’ of how it would like the relationship with the US to go. It must be conceded that the wish list is a compendium of belated but correct principles that should govern relations between states, as well as the usual practice in official policy formulation to ignore the elephant in the room. When the recommendations reportedly speak of their desire that Pakistan’s external relations should be based on the principles of respect for sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity, who would disagree? Unfortunately, these are the very principles that have been conspicuous by their absence in the conduct of our foreign policy since independence. Not only have we continued (periods of estrangement notwithstanding) to serve the US’s and the west’s interests as a client state for most of our history, in our zeal to defeat communism on Afghan soil after the Soviet invasion, we surrendered large parts of our sovereignty in offering our territory to foreign jihadi fighters recruited from across the Muslim world to wage resistance in Afghanistan. Right or wrong, these fateful decisions in the past have had the unintended consequences of threatening the whole world, including Pakistan, with the destructive activities and mindset of the terrorist brigades.
Now, as a result of the Salala incident acting as a trigger, if our foreign office mandarins have woken up to these time honoured principles for the conduct of any self-respecting state, so be it and better late than never. The new ‘red lines’ reportedly under discussion with the US and NATO even as we continue to fulminate in public against the attack on November 26, include no more attacks across the border a la Salala, no more raids a la Abbottabad, and arguably, no more drone attacks without a Pakistani ok (the latter are at a standstill since November 26 and one airbase, Shamsi, has been ‘recovered’). What should have been said in this context is the need to revisit all the secret and not-so-secret agreements Musharraf made with the US without any mandate or a nod in the direction of the citizens of this country. Airbases, overflight and land-based logistics support (which today is charged with causing Rs 40 billion damage to our highway network, is clogging up our ports because of no onward movement, and may end up being taxed if and when reopened), a free run for American spooks and others, all these concessions Musharraf made to his ‘tight buddy’ George Bush Jr. A sovereign, self-respecting country would have acted differently, at the very least negotiating the terms on an equal basis. In return for an acceptance by the US of the new terms of engagement, presumably we would continue to enjoy the critical aid from the US and the west for our ailing economy.
What is not in this discussion so far, and which the prime minister camouflaged in the diplomatic phrase “our legitimate interests”, is the Pakistani military establishment’s support for a proxy war through the Afghan Taliban ensconced on our soil. Arguably, this is the fundamental problem, from which flow almost all the related issues surrounding the Afghanistan-Pakistan imbroglio. And it this unstated reality that informs the Obama administration and the US Congress’ approach to Pakistan. Our civilian government not only does not make this policy, arguably it is by now firmly hitched to the wagon of the military establishment’s strategic depth folly. One immediate result of this ‘consensus’ of all the players in Pakistan’s state and society is the cut-off of $ 700 million owed as compensation for war on terror expenditures. The thought cannot be ignored whether this is the first drop of rain, presaging the deluge? While Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar is at pains to emphasise that Pakistan is not only not responsible for all the ills of Afghanistan (does that imply we are responsible for some of those ills?), it is part of the solution, not part of the problem. This thesis is wearing thin in Washington and other western coalition capitals. Already there are signs that the coalition is seeking to bypass Pakistan in its attempts at a negotiated settlement with the Afghan Taliban. And as though all this were not troubling enough, the US/NATO are now on our case regarding the ammonium nitrate fertiliser used in Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) that have inflicted so much damage on the US/NATO and Afghan forces, which is said to originate from our two factories. There seems no end to this interminable saga except an all out struggle for influence and power in Afghanistan between regional players and their proxies once the foreign forces withdraw. A sobering prospect indeed.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Daily Times editorial Dec 3, 2011

Memogate in the SC

The Supreme Court’s (SC’s) order setting up a commission headed by Tariq Khosa to probe and report back within three weeks on the ‘Memogate’ controversy has sparked off another executive-judiciary confrontation-in-the-making. The nine member SC bench hearing Nawaz Sharif and others’ petitions on the issue also sent notices to the president, COAS and DG ISI to respond within 10 days, and ordered ex-ambassador Husain Haqqani not to leave the country until the commission had completed its work. Nawaz Sharif himself appeared before the bench and read out his petition, whose underlying justification was that parliament had disappointed in performance, hence the petitioner had approached the SC.
In response to the order of the SC, Babar Awan and other PPP leaders launched a virulent attack on the proceedings, arguing that only the executive can set up a commission under the relevant law. Babar Awan argued that the petitioners should have waited for the parliamentary committee on national security headed by Senator Raza Rabbani to conduct its inquiry into the affair. Approaching the SC even before that committee had started its investigations was tantamount to depreciating the role of parliament. He asserted that the executive and parliament’s turf would not be allowed to be encroached upon by any other institution of state. Also, he contended that the SC passed the order without giving the federation a chance to be heard. On this point, the PML-N has responded by saying the Attorney General was present and did not object to the order. However, the Attorney General has since clarified that he was there in response to the court’s notice and was not representing the federation per se. Without saying so in so many words, Babar Awan implied that the PPP rejects the Khosa commission and left open the question whether the government would cooperate with it or not. He did say however, that the commission would be subjected to a legal challenge. Awan defended Haqqani against the, according to him, ‘unnecessary’ order not to leave the country when the ex-ambassador had himself returned, stated he had no intention of leaving, and resigned to ensure a transparent probe. Awan also lambasted Khosa and his ‘connections’ in the judiciary and bureaucracy, implying a lack of confidence in the impartiality of the officer. He then went on to contrast the treatment the PPP and the PML-N had received from the courts, implying the latter got relief and the former never did.
Statements from various sources that the PML-N chief and his entourage were given special protocol by the SC were firmly rejected the next day by the court with a warning that such utterances about the court could attract contempt.
There is no denying that Memogate has rocked the country and the democratic dispensation to its foundations. While most objective observers decry the implied veracity of Mansoor Ijaz’s claims, there is no denying the need to get to the bottom of the affair, and that too transparently. The memo delivered through General (retired) James Jones to Admiral (Retired) Mike Mullen, which Ijaz alleges was sent with the blessings of Haqqani and the president, has been compared during the proceedings by the Chief Justice with the Nixon-Watergate scandal. While many things still remain to be settled, the most important being the truth or otherwise of Mansoor Ijaz’s alarming claims, the SC’s order and the ruling party’s response promise a new round of confrontation between the executive an d the judiciary, a prospect that will cause a sinking feeling in most citizens tired by now of the seeming inability of the institutions of state to work together in harmony, while recognising and respecting each other’s purview. The division of powers at the heart of our constitutional construct still remains to be firmly delineated. All sides should exercise restraint and let the facts come out, whether through the commission or the parliamentary committee, and not prejudge the issue from anything resembling a partisan position.

Rashed Rahman interview with Danish tv

Country cannot be invaded and rebuilt from scratch: Rashed Rahman
Daily Times Monitor
COPENHAGEN: The idea that a country could be invaded and rebuilt from scratch was inherently flawed, Daily Times Editor Rashed Rahman said in an interview with a Danish news channel DR on its premier current affairs programme Deadline.
Describing the setup within Pakistan, Rashed Rahman said that the country consisted of different actors. He said that the military and the ISI were powerful and they were the ones that basically controlled Pakistan’s security and foreign policy in specific areas, such as Afghanistan and India. According to him, the rest of Pakistan was mixed. He said he did not agree with the idea of the export of extremism and the notion that Afghanistan could be controlled through proxies.
“Pakistan is a very divided, complex, multi-layered country, so when you say Pakistan be careful; let’s distinguish between the policy of the army and the policy of the rest of Pakistani society,” he said.
He argued that the current scenario was a result of history, saying that once the West walked away from Pakistan after the Soviets walked away from Afghanistan, the country was left to pick up the pieces.
“So Pakistan has gone with things that are not palatable. For example, raising and supporting the Taliban, bringing them to power in Afghanistan and then after they were overthrown in 2001, hosting them, giving them safe havens. This is a policy that inevitably brings the military and the ISI into conflict with the people who are fighting in Afghanistan, which is the US and NATO and, of course, the Afghan forces,” he explained.
Continuing in this vein, Rashed Rahman said that in these areas, the government was weak and unable to assert itself against the military.
“The US-Pakistan alliance is fraught, enmeshed in friction and mistrust and suspicion,” he said.
Talking about the withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan in 2014, Rashed Rahman said that the military felt that it had better position itself to get a piece of the action there. He said that post-2014, the military wanted to see a, if not pliant, then friendly government in power in Kabul. According to him, the military felt that this could be best achieved through the Taliban. This had created the current friction between Pakistan and the US, since the US, NATO and the Afghans did not want the Taliban back in power. This time round, apart from the non-Pashtun ethnic groups, the Pashtuns in Afghanistan were divided and there was a considerable body of Pashtuns allied with the Karzai regime. According to him, his greatest fear was that there would be a civil war in Afghanistan after 2014, which would affect Pakistan and the entire region and may spiral into separate proxies being supported by regional powers apart from Pakistan.
“If that happens, and I hope it doesn’t, but if it happens, it will be a disaster,” he said.
To a question about who, between extremists and the rest, was gaining the upper hand within Pakistan, Rashed Rahman replied that religious parties had always been marginal in the political process, if it was a free political process. Citing the example of elections, he said that such parties did not obtain more three percent of the seats, if the elections were not manipulated in any way.
“So clearly, Pakistan is a moderate Muslim country. The bulk, the majority of the people are entrenched in the Sufi tradition, they are not extremists. So the extremists are not gaining the upper hand, unless someone gives them a boost,” he said.
According to him, there was a perception in the western media that Pakistan was running amok with fanatics and terrorists, while the reality was that 99 percent of the people just got on with their daily lives, which was never reported.
To a question about the security of Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal, Rashed Rahman said that there was little chance that it would fall into the hands of radical extremists. He said that the military had ensured, along with help from the Americans to some extent, that the arsenal be kept safe. He stated that unless there was a movement inside the military, the arsenal would be secure. He claimed that there had been efforts within the military to bring about a coup or to orient it towards Islamism, but that they had been nipped in the bud, adding that the Pakistan military’s discipline had not broken down and was intact.
About the situation of democracy within the country, Rashed Rahman said that a struggle for democracy was still continuing in the country. He claimed that unless the country persisted with democracy, unless the parliament continued to function and freedoms existed, the extremist tide could not be rolled back.