31 March, 2023


Elections & Future Of Democracy In Pakistan

By Latheef Farook

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. 

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Latest comments

  • 9

    A country’s fate is decided by the people, not politicians. Until people change, the politicians would not change, and the country would not change. India, Pakistan and SL are the proof for this. In India, the Indians visibly started to change and the country is changing now. But not sure when Sri Lankans and Pakistanis will be changing themselves and we can’t expect some changes until then.

    • 3

      Pakistan is controlled by Punjabi dominated army. Imran Khan is a Pathan. There are allegations that army rigged the elections in his favour. If he does not tow the military line he will receive the same fate as the three previous non Punjabi prime ministers.

      • 0

        If you dont know about Pakistan, you should not comment. Last three PMs were Punjabi and they were removed on the charges of corruption. And Army is not punjabi its Pakistani. How you will response if some says your Army as Sinhalese Army?

    • 1

      Isharath condescendingly recycles the theorem ~ “A country’s fate is decided by the people, not politicians”.
      ~ “……..the Indians visibly started to change and the country is changing now…….”.
      Indian change is negative. RSS bigotry is now respectable. Assassination of rationalists and cow-vigilant killing go unsolved and politicians avoid criticising these evils. Secularism will a thing of the past.
      The partition of Indian sub-continent was religion based. Young Pakistan was pro-British and proclaimed British values (whatever they were). An unstable Pakistan was India’s dream. Pakistan adopted religion as the unifying force. In due course ethnic minorities showed signs of disillusionment. Pakistan Armed forces got mono-ethnic. Bangladesh was one result. The other was the onset of corruption/nepotism/impunity.
      Reconciliation between India and Pakistan will benefit both sides. The Isharath theorem is unlikely to be on the curriculum.
      In the case of Lanka, the writings are there on the language/religion-divide wall. We are left with two baddies to choose. Reconciliation has become unpatriotic
      Various versions of democracy have evolved. The Lankan version is cannibalistic.

  • 5

    Pakisthan is a Mohommadian country. But the invasion of ISLam had destroyed it. Those days Mohomamadians were singing inside their mosque the romantic love songs for the god. Now, women are not allowed and men pray five time a day and consider women as thrash. So, Pakisthan should start removing ISLAMIC-muslims. ISlam is a tribal philosophy that came into mohomadia religion and destroyed it.

    • 7

      Where do you get your info from. Figment of your imagination.

      • 3

        Now, women are not allowed and men pray five time a day and consider women as thrash.

        Status of woman

        Paradise is at the feet of the mother

      • 4

        Sarrij: Muslims are banned to seek the truth except what is said by Mullah/Claric/ ACJU etc., .

        • 4


          what is said by Mullah/Claric/ ACJU etc., we can check in the quran
          This is why people can never escape consequences of their own thoughts and actions.

    • 0

      This comment was removed by a moderator because it didn’t abide by our Comment policy.For more detail see our Comment policy https://www.colombotelegraph.com/index.php/comments-policy-2/

  • 2

    Just after partition, religion was (understandably) used as a unifier but on hindsight, the result is bad. Politicians used it, the armed services used it. Corruption/nepotism/impunity took root.
    The Pakistan Armed Services have evolved into a law unto themselves. The rich have become filthy rich and the poor, miserably poorer. The state religion of Pakistan is one of the sects of Islam. All the other sects are not recognised as Muslims. Religious persecution is rife.
    Can Imran Khan fix it?
    He will not even try.

  • 2

    No matter who its Prime Minister is one factor is a crucial unalterable: the enormous powers and image of the Pakistani army.It is an institution within an institution.In the absence of honest politicians the Army’s institutional image as a clean , stability ensuring body has only grown in the eyes of the people.Imran K is aware of this limitation.He cannot overwhelm it at all.

    The Army does everything from defending the country to running various industries to restaurants, shops etc.This was the direction in which Gota Rajapaksa was dragging Sri Lanka down , post 2009.It stopped in January 2015 but much of it still remains intact.There lies the danger .

    There is one difference though.The Pakistan army is perceived as being above corruption by Pakistanis.It also did not do Rathupaswella type killings of innocent unarmed civilians as the SL army did and is capable of doing in the future.In sum Sri Lankans do not have the same sense of confidence that the Pakistanis have on their Army.As for the SL army,yes it saved Sri Lanka from the tigers but that’s it!!The Ranaviruva canard perpetuated by Gota and Company has limited currency.By the very nature of their psychological construction Lankans aren’t a militaristic people.Three cheers for our Lanka!!

  • 0

    The electors, very often get deceived by the political promises that are made by the politicians in their vote catching spree. When they get the authority, they do not consider it as trust but see as an opportunity to make hay while the sun shines. YES! To put it bluntly in terms of the British House of Cards, the politicians are interested in their “pension-plan”. In Sri Lanka this is amassing of wealth for seven generations. The common myth is that in going for a “third-force” things could be better. That only punishes the politicians who were sharing power for years. But at the end what is it? It is a case of another lost hope if there are no effective checks and balances. Are there any mechanisms to stamp out abuse and corruption as it happens? Hardly anything at all is availed in Sri Lanka. Remember the sitting Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif was ousted through a judicial order. The other side of it is that even that legal action was initiated by sources close to the military, which is the real force of Pakistan. Even after Jan 8, 2015, were not two sitting Chief Justices subject to verbal abuse by the so called powerful under the cover of parliamentary privileges, for giving judgements that does not make the “fellow” happy? The real requirement of a society is an impartial, uncorrupted judiciary, capable of calling a spade a spade within a short time and definitely not after donkey’s years.

  • 1

    Good one Latheef. Thank you.

    Pakistan Democracy seems to be improving. Probably picking some examples from India. Mixing the Sharia there will counter it. Pakistan should get rid of that Sharia. Imran Khan doesn’t seems to capable of implementing any sweeping change. He came there because people could not elect the other two. This is exactly the 2015 situation of Lankawe. This can force Pakistan situation deteriorate further down, rather than improve. Suing the Chitanta government for corruption was not possible for Yahapalanaya because, a brand new build of Yahapalanaya was not possible. Yahapalanaya is only a recycled Chitanta government. This made Chitanta Old Royal has a massive control over Yahapalanaya of how it can function.

    Pakistan’s economic growth is less than 6%. That is only relatively a regression in South Asia comparing with others. Like in Lankawe, Chinese loans are controlling the country’s economic direction. So Foreign Direct Investment is not picking up. Terrorism, unstable of power, Islamization, anti-West feeling, break down of Law and Order…. Imports are too high and currency losing grip, like lanakwe.

  • 0

    Islam, Democracy and the Military: one of these things is not like the others. Guess which one?

    Anyways, corruption is not something you can just wave away like our geniuses seem to think its possible. Corruption is a manfestation of power and as long as there are people in power there will be corruption.

  • 1

    Democracy & Islam can’t go together because Islam is anti-democratic for the female & the moderate content of the population.

    So, to be a successful leader for Pakistan; Imran has to relax religious factor in politics; to achieve best results let the philosophy of Sddhartha Gouthama, still hidden in Pakistani soil re-emerge (to make people logical thinkers & eliminate extremism).

  • 3

    Islam and Democracy will never mix to provide any stable nation. Man-made laws have failed all over the world. The So-called Pakistan always had secular leadership and Imran Khan will continue with his brand of Secularism and most probably barter the existing cultural values for economic sustenance. More usury based international debt.

    • 0

      Hussain Fahmy ~ “….……Pakistan always had secular leadership………”.
      Obviously Hussain does not know the meaning of the word ‘secular’.
      Pakistan defines Muslims as belonging to one sect of Islam. Ahmadiyyas were declared Non-Muslims by a 1974 change in constitution.

      • 2

        A Muslim, by definition are those who submit to the Will / Commandments of Allah.
        Islam deplores sects. Those who label themselves other than a Muslim may defer on the practice / rituals to identify there brand. However, those who defer on the fundamentals of the Islamic creed have left Islam completely.

    • 0

      Hussain Fahmy

      Law is by the people for the people; there’s no alternative.

      If sb wants dog-made or swine-made law, he/she had better be a dog or swine please.

      If sb wants to live under divine law, had better please commit suicide without delay (without troubling people) & settle down in heaven.

      Because divine law is valid only to heaven ( if there’s one). It’s null & void on planet earth.

  • 0

    It is Imran’s financial integrity people seek. They all know he was married three times. Have you seen the superb meme? Photos of his 3 wives. First wife English, Second in head scarf and last in full face veil. “Cricket terms, Slip, cover, and now Extra Cover”. There was NOTHING wrong with him being western educated at Oxford and he loved to cavort with Western women, have sex with them drink and dance and marry one of them. THERE IS NOTHING wrong with it. Suddenly he becomes so religious. But I think Pakis know they want someone who does not hide money in Cayman Islands and other foreign accounts like Nawab Sharif and the Bhuttos and are willing to forgive his fornications like American forgave Trump. So the problem is will your Muslim fanatic anti education Islamist tribals prevail or will a part of his modern western christian outlook prevail and he will allow education and freedoms for women? Queer to see and hear him now pretending to be conservative. But both USA, ISIS plus Taleban will be gunning for him. He wants closer ties with China. Can it work? or will he become a Muslim fanatic arsehole who forces women to the back and burqa? the ball is in his hands and the pitch is ready for his first over.

  • 0

    Islam is not conducive to free practice of political freedoms and democracy. Democracy came to use from Greece. So compare India and Pakistan. India despite all problems is a SECULAR DEMOCRACY; Sri Lanka is A DEMOCRACY. Filthy corrupt military rules most of Pakistan. There is a battle between moderates and conservatives. some of your type Kattankudy type fanatics want to bring that ISIS, Taleban burqa shit to Ceylon too. No we will not allow it. Hijab is ok. But no Burqa and we support FREE education and driving for Mussalman women too.

  • 1

    Latheef Farook: Thank you for the even-handed article on Pakistan.

  • 1

    Imran Khan in his address to the nation said his priority was to end corruption and alleviate poverty. He in my view is a better Buddhist than the lot we have got. A man of humanity .

Leave A Comment

Comments should not exceed 200 words. Embedding external links and writing in capital letters are discouraged. Commenting is automatically disabled after 5 days and approval may take up to 24 hours. Please read our Comments Policy for further details. Your email address will not be published.