My rather unpretentious intent was to continue today with beating the drum on quality education and perhaps even deliberate upon the three steps to quality education, albeit one has come to the conclusion that even three steps are two too many for the government machinery to contemplate and act upon. In the meantime, no harm in indulging in my favourite pastime: democracy bashing!

I recently picked up Francis Fukuyama’s latest literary endeavour, Political Order and Political Decay. While I have not managed to get past the first couple of chapters due to occupational time constraints, it would appear that the project has changed colours. Rather than developing a theory of stability of a political system, it is perhaps a chronicle of political history, albeit a well researched and reader-friendly one. The most striking statement till now in the book is: “All political systems are prone to decay over time.”

That is indeed an unprecedented admission from a strong proponent of democracy as a panacea for all things political, and perhaps a deadly blow for the supporters of democracy in this part of the world, especially those who had compromised on each and every principle to support it. However, sometimes efforts to discover the truth culminate in unwanted and undeniable enlightenment, which attacks the very heart of preconceived beliefs that instigated the endeavour in the first place. Johan Maynard Keynes, faced with such a situation, aptly retorted, “When the facts change, I change my mind. What do you do?”

Volume one of Political Order had postulated that the key factor that resulted in the vast difference in political and economic developments between the west and the east, was the Christian Church having taken a strong stand against inheritance laws that rendered a consequential fatal blow to tribalism. Devoid of a similar path-altering event, the east continued to be dictated to by tribal culture and accompanying parentalism. Conversely, Volume two, at least till the initial chapters of the book, credits the Industrial Revolution for where the west finds itself in comparison to the east today.

Frankly, in the light of the differing political and economic history of numerous nations, it is well neigh impossible to postulate a unified theory of why democracy and capitalism suit a particular nation and not others. Even in the case of the Industrial Revolution, while it may have played a role, it could not have been the sole catalyst for the development of the modern political and economic institutions that the west supposedly enjoys. Sufficient time has elapsed for other nations to catch up with industrialisation and its related benefits; as is, in the information age, geography and time have entirely different specifications compared with those during the Industrial Revolution. For the record, later in the book, Mr Fukuyama also asserts that a modern state is a prerequisite for democracy to work; Pakistan seems to be doing it wrong.

Purely from Pakistan’s perspective, the tribal theory at least makes sense. Much as civil society and its associates in the media and political circles might like to highlight the growing political awareness in the masses, when push comes to shove the vote will most likely continue to be cast on tribal considerations. Rest assured this is not a rural phenomenon; even within urban areas individual pockets are strongly aligned on tribal priorities. In fact, the largest cosmopolitan in the country has repeatedly voted for a particular segment, an ethnic tribe, and is largely expected to do so in the near future. Tribe here is used broadly to cover all kinds of provincial, ethnic and religious affiliation, beyond the simpler definition of a tribe itself.

Frankly, the recent happenings coming out of Ferguson and the Big Apple in the US indicate a continuing bias towards race and colour. Serendipitously, even US electoral campaigns have taken cognizance of minority sentiments on issues which suggest that by and large minorities continue to perceive themselves as different, or perhaps the whites are simply a larger tribe.

In a world where it is impossible for the common man to even understand complex economic issues and diverse global interdependencies, it is perhaps understandable to have a tunnel vision and limit one’s horizon to personal geography and caste when selecting representatives to the legislature. In a polarised atmosphere, why would a black, for example, vote for a white? And, closer to home, why would any ethnic or religious group in Pakistan vote for an outsider? In all honesty, democracy has hardly made any effort to resolve the differences and trust issues within tribes.

The question is: what difference does it make? As clearly outlined by Mr Fukuyama, tribal considerations foster parentalism and merit is the biggest casualty. The three fundamental components of democracy, the state, the rule of law and accountability, are irrecoverably compromised when merit is excluded from the equation. Even at the national level, democratic institutions have failed to unify tribes in Pakistan, and it should come as no surprise that merit has become a dirty word. In fact, over time, the divide seems to be widening and the 18th Amendment is surely not a step in the right direction. Perhaps the authors and the legislators had acted in good faith to allay the concerns of the provinces, but separating key disciplines on a provincial basis will hardly foster national pride.

Henceforth, each province will decide its own educational curriculum and be the master of its own resources. Truly, if there are four histories being taught, there will be no national history. There is all likelihood that the quality of education will also differ from province to province, resulting in varying levels of unemployment. Worse, provinces will, in time, become more protective of their respective resources, further provoking animosity within the populace. From a one nation theory there is a big risk that Pakistan might become a four nation theory.

If tribes are made financially independent, the need for unification is completely eliminated. Increasingly, across the globe, separatist movements seem to be succeeding and, while some may categorise it as democracy at its best, the underlying current is tribalism. Even the UK survived the Scottish scare by merely a fraction. What does the future hold for Pakistan? The pundits seem to want to push the package down even further, all the way to the local bodies level. United we fall, divided we stand? The logic, at least for some, is unpalatable.

Prediction is a dangerous game but the way democracy has evolved in recent times, the end appears to be in sight. The perception that money can buy a democracy was bad enough; the recognition that it is spiralling, or decaying, towards tribalism, each tribe for itself, is perhaps the final nail in the coffin.