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What the World Can Learn from U.S. Politics: A Pakistani Journalist’s Perspective

Samreen Ghauri is a Pakistani journalist visiting the U.S. on a fellowship under the U.S.-Pakistan Professional Partnership in Journalism. The program is run by the International Center for Journalists in Washington D.C. and is funded by the U.S. State Department. Here’s Samreen’s thoughts on U.S. politics this election season.

Attending a Texas House of Representatives committee meeting and a press conference with Governor Rick Perry in one day – all against the ongoing backdrop of the U.S. presidential debates – I felt the true democratic, liberal force that makes America a prosperous country and role model to countries around the world. 

Democracy aims for social justice, equal opportunity, and people’s rights of liberty. Citizens’ political ideas, values, and beliefs are important components in democracy everywhere, especially in societies undergoing a democratic transition. This is my impression of the American society I have been observing for the last two weeks. Here in America, in a middle of a presidential campaign, I see politics and the democratic process being debated everywhere.

America’s system of debate, argument, and exchange of opinions and ideas is unique, a productive and positive model other countries could follow. The presidential debates demonstrate the real essence of democracy, as I believe that democracy is not only a process, but rather an attitude born of Americans’ self-perception: It respects others’ opinions and the basic pillars of free and fair elections; it encourages participation of the citizens in politics and civic life, and respect for human rights and the rule of law. It’s a part of Americans’ basic attitude.

Real democracy requires not only fair elections and open government procedures, but also fair and just government policy outcomes. That is actually happing now in the presidential debates: President Obama is reviewing and highlighting his government policies, while Governor Mitt Romney is presenting his plans to deliver more effective governance.

Fact-based arguments, justifiable statements and references make people want to get involved in the issues that have a deep impact on their lives, and contribute democratic values to society.

In Pakistan, national elections are less than a year away. Elections rarely focus on policy issues; instead they’re usually a “blame game” between politicians where peoples’ real problems go unaddressed.

The U.S. debates will bring-up the most competent person, a man of substance. A similar format should be adopted by countries like Pakistan, as we have a long and complex history of struggle for the values of democracy. We believe that the universal values of democracy should be respected at all costs, irrespective of national and transient interests. Only democracy can provide a full public consensus for counter-terrorism efforts both in Pakistan and America. 

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