Democracy in Pakistan has seen promises and obstacles since its founding in 1947. Quaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah, the founder of Pakistan, was eager to enact a democratic government there. But his untimely passing prevented it from being appropriately imposed. After that, Liaquat Ali Khan carried Jinnah’s vision but could not give it a concrete form. The doors to democracy were closed entirely when tyrant Ayub Khan imposed martial law. Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto entered the political scene and breathed new life into Pakistani democracy. General Yahya was under pressure to call elections. As a result, he easily won the elections in West Pakistan and took the oath to rule the nation as its first democratic president. The hope, however, was short-lived when General Zia instituted martial law and stopped the path to democratic advancement. After Zia, democracy was evident, but it was frail and feeble and gave the go-ahead to General Pervez Musharraf, another dictator who reigned until 2008. Since Musharraf left office, Pakistan’s democracy has been flourishing since it has been intact up till this point. As a result, Pakistani democracy has previously experienced both hopes and obstacles.

Is our democratic system working? Are our institutions solid, autonomous, and open to democratic civilian control? The questions listed above are current inquiries that request solutions to some of the enduring problems that plague our political and economic landscape. First, we must reflect on why our democracy has fallen short of the people’s expectations. Let’s look at some of the stats provided by the Gallup Survey Pakistan 2022 and the Democracy Index Report 2021. According to a survey by the Democracy Index, 52% of Pakistanis believe their nation is not democratic enough to qualify as a mature democracy, but 80% of Pakistanis believe democracy is necessary for Pakistan. A key source of worry is the 28% gap between democratic expectations and actuality among people. According to the same survey, 40% of respondents believe there is not enough democracy in the nation. In Pakistan, the military is viewed as a more effective institution than the civilian government for governing (67.4% vs 62%), managing the economy (54.7% vs 51.1%), combating corruption (51.4% vs 40.3%), and upholding law and order (70% vs 50.4%), according to the Gallup Pakistan End of the Year Report 2021. One must realize how concerning it is that the public is even placing more faith in the military to control the economy and combat corruption, both civilian concerns. Despite the widespread wave of criticism the military has received from the intelligentsia and civil society, the findings of a different survey, i.e.

August 2022 Gallup Political Pulse results are very illuminating. According to the survey’s findings, the Pakistani Army has the most favourable public perception, scoring 81.5%, compared to the national government’s (51.5%), the Supreme Court’s (67.5%), and the police’s (41%). In their book How democracies die, Levitsky and Ziblatt explain that democracies fall apart when institutions intrude on one another’s territories, there is socio-economic inequality, and people are intolerant of one another’s political freedoms. As a result, people feel disenfranchised by the democracy that the political parties are putting into practice. And there are no exceptions to this alienation; it affects all mainstream parties. Only 28% of Pakistanis, according to the same Political Pulse Gallup Pakistan Survey, think that politicians get into politics to help the populace. About 54% of Pakistanis, according to the Gallup International End of Year Survey 2021, believe that their wishes do not run their country. The quantitative survey results above prove that political parties’ and governments perceptions of democratic practices are seriously flawed. Why have events reached this unfortunate point?

The cause of our frequently derailed democratic journey may be a structural democratic deficit. The country is forced to maintain a high level of force readiness on the military and counterinsurgency/terrorism front due to a disinformation war imposed by India, whose Duval doctrine holds that India’s economic muscle gives it a free pass to foment uprisings and terrorism inside Pakistan. According to Harold Lasswell, this level of force readiness makes a nation perpetually wary, which contributes to the emergence of a garrison state culture where the voices of “violence specialists” have the most significant influence over institutions responsible for formulating civil policy. Pakistan has come a long way toward reaching a national consensus that democracy is the best form of government after experiencing a small taste of authoritarianism as part of its democratic journey. The nature of democracy that we practice and the habit of institutional overreach that has developed by the institutions without voluntary acceptance of the necessary checks and balances over their powers and performance, however, are the issues that plague the democratic consolidation. First, political parties that, in both their organizational structures and political cultures, have consistently avoided internal democracy. Dynastic rule and patronage politics are almost all political parties’ bane.

The democratic system, a poor imitation of the Westminster polity in the United Kingdom, keeps the Prime Minister perpetually unstable or vulnerable to blackmail. By giving out favours in the form of ministerial appointments or development funds, governments are held bloated and dysfunctional in addition to lacking financial restraint. By working with the politicians in this game of spoils, the permanent rulers, or bureaucrats, have devised a cunning way to accumulate power and wealth. Because they are accustomed to receiving perks from their official positions, the bureaucracy will not approve any government initiative that tries to combat institutionalized corruption. Some of the names for a standardized corruption system ingrained in our governance institutions include speed money and facilitation fees. The judiciary’s status does not instil trust either. Some apparent issues include sluggish justice, an abundance of pending cases, a dislike of parliamentary or public accountability checks and balances, and institutional outreach under the guise of filling the void left by an ineffective executive.

A significant sign of hope for democracy in Pakistan is the fact that, unlike in the past, the military would not attempt to impose direct authority by toppling the democratic system: First off, there are several economic sanctions imposed on the military administration because the rest of the world does not accept it. Pakistan, which is currently developing due to the start of CPEC, cannot afford sanctions at this crucial time. Without a solid governance framework, all institutions begin to operate in isolation, each striving to gain more influence and benefits over the others. The condition above is typical of an anocracy, a fragile democracy in transition where elections are held frequently. Still, there is no accountability or the rule of law. The institution with the most organizational grit, discipline, and coercive might is given the catbird seat in such a setting. Modern civil military thinkers like Risa Brooks and Richard Kohn from the United States advocate a convergence approach rather than Huntington’s complete separation of civilian and military spheres due to the evolving nature of warfare and the future norm of grey zone operations. The pearl of great price that all public intellectuals and policymakers must pursue as a national priority is how and by whom that desired convergence and discipline would be achieved.


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