By Latheef Farook –
Pakistanis have voted Imran Khan and his Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party to power in the general elections held on 25 July 2018. This was a remarkable departure from the tradition of voting for Pakistan Muslim League and the Pakistan People’s Party. This is also sent a clear message to the politicians who dominated Pakistani politics ignoring the burning issues of the country.
Former Prime Minister Nawaz Sheriff, disqualified as he was found guilty of financial corruption, is now serving a ten year sentence. Corruption has been one of the main issues blocking smooth functioning of democracy.
For example Nawaz Sheriff and the assassinated Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto were each elected thrice as prime ministers. All three times both were sacked due to corruption.
Founder of Pakistan Quaid E Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah told on 9 June 1947 that “I do not know what the ultimate shape of the constitution is going to be, but I am sure it will be a democratic type, embodying the essential principles of Islam”.
It can be safely assumed that on that day the two philosophies outlined by the founder as the basis of any future government in Pakistan were Islam and democracy.
However Islam and democracy were floundered at the hands of their keepers. Islam exploited shamelessly by those that pretend to be its defenders has divided instead of uniting the nation and democracy has been reduced to a sham by those that never tire to proclaim themselves as its guardians.
Since establishment in 1947, Pakistan has been facing lot of turbulences in the path of democracy. The main causes of failure of democracy in Pakistan are summarized as follows:
Overdeveloped state structure, political instability, military intervention, and massive corruption, lack of accountability, weak infrastructure, feudal dispensation, institutional crises, constitutional crises, strong bureaucracy, and low level of political socialization, extremism, weak civil society and absence of mature leadership.
The monopolization and centralization of power have blocked while political instability created unnecessary barriers in the process of democracy since independence.
Military intervention has been dead blow to democracy. In Pakistan, democracy faced four military intrusions. Massive corruption paved the way for military to intervene in the internal affairs of country.
In the presence of corruption and absence of accountability make infrastructure weak. Weakness of infrastructure is creating constraints in the path of democracy.
Feudalism is threat to democracy. After emergence, feudal class had more power and wealth. This class created barriers in the way of democracy. Feudal class has been engaged in the accumulation of power. They are power lusty. This power must be snatched from them for proper flow of democracy.
Landlords and feudal cum politicians hijacked the political system. Of the major causes of failure of democracy, the substantial ones are related to those in authority i.e., the leadership, army and bureaucracy.
Clash between judiciary and executive class has been threatening democratic practice.
In the initial year of establishment only two institutions were powerful to face the challenge of early establishment. Quaideazam gave chance to military elite and bureaucrats to complete the task of establishment. Soon after completing the task, they maintained strong control over the state institution which created a lot of problem for Pakistan.
Weak civil society created a big gap in the establishment of democracy. Both are dependable on each other.
Extremism has been spreading like ulcer in Pakistan. It has deep roots in the past history. It creates a lot of hurdles in the development process.
Lack of dynamic leadership since the death of Quaideazam
Judicial reforming is very important for the establishment of democratic practices as judiciary is very powerful branch of government and it needs reformation in its own spheres.
Exploring the last 70 years of Pakistan, democracy was taken as a comic relief between military regimes. Assassination of Liaquat Ali Khan, the first elected Prime Minister, was in fact the demise of democracy in Pakistan.
The state must practice the principle of equal citizenship and ensure equality of opportunity to all for advancement in social, economic and political domains and guarantee security of life and property of its citizens.
The failure to institutionalize participatory governance has caused much alienation at the popular level. A good number of people feel that they are irrelevant to power management at the federal and provincial levels.
History is witness to the fact that Pakistan has lost territory while under direct military rule. The dictators’ hawkish attitude has fanned various separatist movements across the country. Absence of Democracy is a significant reason for nurturing terrorism in a country. A democratic government is supposed to represent the people and provide political means to voice grievances, hence essentially providing a sphere where terrorism has no place.
Democracy is necessary to peace and undermining the forces of terrorism.
The political leaders lack a clear vision and they never had the capacity to elevate the status of democracy and strengthen it. Moreover, in Pakistan the politics is more personality-driven rather than issues-driven, which has an overall negative impact on the evolution of independent institutions and has fanned the vested interests.
Political parties are mere puppets in the hands of different families and party elections are considered taboo and it seems that political parties have dictatorship at their own core!
In true democracy, political leaders derive their power from the people thus they are intrepid and assume more audacious visions, consequently the respective country forms an independent foreign policy that best suits its interests but feeble democracy is devoid of these characteristics. Pakistan has so-far failed to furnish its independent foreign policy, with faint support in their own country; political leaders are swayed by the world powers, thus they undermine the national interests and sovereignty of the country.
Though democracy has failed many times to establish its firm roots in Pakistan all these failures actually provided an insight into what went wrong and how democracy can be preserved from de-railing next time.
The first essential step seems to stop interruption in the democratic process and the elected government must be allowed to complete its tenure in any case. Secondly, a major chunk of the population wants greater Islamic character in the democratic setup and legislation. Incorporating true Islamic injunctions lead to a more cohesive civil society and will foil any attempts by the extremists to paint that democracy is antithesis to Islamic form of government.
Reforming the judiciary and incorporating the Islamic laws can also soothe the deprived and poor masses which have been manipulated by the extremists. Moving on, corruption and selfish attitudes is eating away the institutional structure of the country and such mal-practices never allowed democracy to flourish. There is a need to engineer an accountability mechanism, so that these wrong-doings are kept in check.
Common man was compelled by the existing setup to stay away from contesting an election. Hitherto it was a prerogative of the affluent and feudal classes; such practices are against the moral, democratic and Islamic principles. The necessary ingredient for the success of democracy in Pakistan is the emancipation of the rural areas from the clutches of the local landlords, i.e. to take steps for the abolition of this System.
The criteria of merit; the right of freedom and equal progress for common people should be promoted. Young and morally upright persons should come forward and actively take part in democratic setup and elected member must be nurtured with the notion that they have to serve the nation and they have to bail out this nation.
Constitution does not provide an effective system of check and balance. That is why every elected civilian government becomes omnipotent and powerful which give rise to corruption and mal-administration. There is no effective system of governance which can keep proper check on the decisions and the steps taken by PM and his cabinet. Judiciary must be made strong enough to keep a strong check over these important matters.
In Pakistan, the rulers, political parties and leaders and the civil society groups support democracy at the conceptual level. The politically active circles demand representative governance and participatory decision making in the political and economic fields. They highlight fair and free electoral process, the rule of law, socio-economic justice and accountability of those exercising state power as the pre-requisites for a political system.
Public disillusionment with Pakistan’s political parties is high. Many are run by single families, while some families have influence and interests in several parties at once. It means that power is concentrated into a very few hands, and passed down to their descendants.
On the positive side, Pakistan’s parliament appears to be functioning correctly. Since 2008, the assembly has passed twice the number of bills than were adopted in the previous legislature, while the number of presidential orders imposed has halved .In cases where it hasn’t performed, Pakistan’s Supreme Court has been willing to step in to fill any vacuum. While the court has sometimes over-stepped its mandate, many believe its activism has been a deterrent to the military and is helping to keep a lid on corruption.
From the outside, Pakistan often appears to be caught in a chaotic cycle fueled by corruption, cronyism, violence and poverty. But participants were very cautiously optimistic that democracy might finally be taking root, as the first transition to democratic civilian rule pushes Pakistan’s history of military rule deeper into the past.