Can Democracy FLOURISH IN Pakistan Politics Essay
Democracy is a form of government in which persons elect their representatives themselves and the representatives of the persons form federal government and opposition. Counseling may be the base of a democratic point out. The state ensures equality and collateral for all citizens regardless of their caste, color, terminology and race. The federal government performs all tasks, for the welfare of all people and is normally accountable to persons in the efficiency of its obligations. The opinion of each citizen is respected and given credited importance. Every citizen has a to vote to his most loved prospect, to contest election, to become listed on any get together and form his unique party. That is why it is defined as “Rule of the people, rule by the people, and guideline for the people”.
Democracy was the form of government which was regarded as implemented when Pakistan happened. Pakistan happened consequently of a strong democratic movement beneath the leadership of Quaid-e-Azam. The persons of Pakistan, who confronted all the problems and difficult circumstances, showed their determination to defend the flexibility. They boldly faced the situation and gradually solved the issues. The Pakistani motion was based on Muslims` absolute privileges of independence and the real execution of democracy was one of many goals of establishment of Pakistan. It had been thought to adopt the democratic composition and enforce democratic values. Quaid-e-Azam described the aim of establishment of Pakistan in Sibi as “Why don’t we promote “Democracy” according to the Islamic principles.” Unfortunately, this can be a disheartening spectacle that within a period of 65 years, Pakistan hasn’t proved itself to be a democratic talk about in its true good sense. Instead of becoming a style of democracy as visualized by Quaid-e-Azam, Pakistan has become what may be best described as “lame democracy” (Shaikh, 1) Pakistan was governed by civil and military bureaucrats through the early 20 years of it. The first democratic elections were kept in December, 1970. In constitution of 1973, this is for the very first time in the history of Pakistan, democratic parliamentary authorities was formed. This first of all phase of democratic government continuing till 1979. Second and third democratic phases were between 1988 to 1999 and 2007 to the present date respectively. In this way, Pakistan remained as a democratic express for only 24 years. Democratic traditions aren’t yet produced in Pakistan and during these 24 years, democracy proved itself only a failure. Although implementation of democracy was one of many objectives of Pakistan on the other hand, democracy cannot flourish in Pakistan because its political leaders, bureaucrats and feudal landlords won’t let democracy to become flourished. Moreover, basic democratic traditions of equality and freedom aren’t followed in Pakistan
The main responsibility for the failing of democracy lies with politicians. Firstly, they are not sincere with their jobs and so are unfaithful to the point out. Secondly, Pakistani political leaders are consequently incompetent that their plans keep failing. People vote a set of politicians with a desire that their elected representatives will act as their faithful leaders and can devote themselves wholeheartedly to the services of the people. But to persons`s dismay, Pakistani politicians do not become honest leaders but as corrupt and disloyal politicians whom ambitions lie in filling their private pockets with public cash. Political leaders are in charge of playing games with people for their own benefits. They have destroyed the purpose of creating an independent homeland of Pakistan giving rise to favoritism and corruption. In Pakistani democratic system, the elected leaders do not on a regular basis visit their constituencies as they are least bothered of public issues. In addition, just about all politicians contest elections on the basis of fake degrees. According to an official report, 106 politicians have already been counted for contesting elections based on fake degrees. (qtd. in culprits, 1) This plainly depicts dishonesty of political leaders. Confidence can’t be restored in the masses. Furthermore, political leaders happen to be incompetent and are unable to discover the solutions to the nations` complications. Political process retains collapsing in Pakistan and guidelines of political parties keep changing in fact it is very difficult for the politicians to attain unanimous stance for a specific political policy. The insurance plan of nationalization and posting of incompetent operations halted democracy further. Since the creation of Pakistan, the same political get-togethers have stayed in power. For example, Pakistan People`s Party arrived to power many times. Persons keep supporting the same party beneath the slogan of “Roti, Kapra or Makaan” due to their affection for the founder of the get together without even realizing the results of their support. Under these circumstances, democracy can never end up being flourished in its true sense.
Bureaucracy also imposes a serious threat to democracy. Pretty much the constitution of Pakistan is situated upon the democratic principles. Even so, the proposals in the constitution could not be implemented as a result of the attitude of some individuals, who are not prepared to leave the laws introduced by the British authorities. They are staunch bureaucrats. Bureaucracy has always remained powerful since the creation of Pakistan. It comprises the Central Better Providers and the Provincial Civil Companies. (Piracha, 1) and the primary cause which stimulated the way of life of bureaucracy in Pakistan is definitely institutional imbalance. Bureaucracy is normally neither in favor of giving capacity to anyone nor is preparing to become in charge to anyone. This attitude is the main obstacle in the manner to democracy. Almost all of the bureaucrats become partial and exploit resources of the country for a most desired political party. Bureaucrats of Pakistan happen to be notorious for their corruption, inefficiency, and incompetency and therefore in charge of destroying democracy in the country.
Another main cause for failing of democracy in Pakistan is definitely feudal system. Pakistan offers inherited feudal program from “British India” which feudal system will never permit democracy flourish in Pakistan. Feudal terrain lords have a major role in forming policies and they would never prefer to formulate those guidelines which will be against their curiosity or are beneficial for the persons. The feudal lords acted as traitors and backed British leaders for creating a moth-eaten Pakistan and now, currently day, Pakistan is nothing but a feudal state. Most of the political leaders of Pakistan happen to be feudal lords who’ve founded their identities as political leaders. For example, Jamal Leghari has result from a family of feudal land lords. He’s the son of ex – president of Pakistan Farooq Leghari. The feudal lords retain people at arm`s size and treat them as their slaves. The rigid mother nature of this class system provides prohibited Pakistan from educational and financial development and offers laden Pakistan with a category framework that hinders democracy. The farmers` community is beneath the control of their feudal masters. Such underprivileged and economically demoted peasants’ can haven’t any other option but to vote for their masters. The famers live beyond the poverty series and cannot possibly express their will openly. Below, the spirit of democracy is violated. Peasants are pressured to aid their lords because of their fear or may be due to insufficient knowledge. In this way, the elections are useless since the peasants is only going to vote because of their feudal lords under their pressure and democracy will get worse than “oligarchy”. Supremacy of feudal class is destroying democracy and also national integration which itself essential for democracy. Democracy provides been proved beneficial for the feudal territory lords since it provides a go over to them and allows them to rule as long as they want. As far as common people are worried, they look and feel themselves in no benefits in such a democracy. In such a circumstances of distorted democracy, even a thousand elections will not change Pakistan’s future.
Democracy is founded on fundamental traditions of equality and flexibility of speech among residents. As far as Pakistani democratic system is concerned, it has didn’t accomplish either equality or liberty among people and so democracy in Pakistan is unsuccessful. This is a clear proof inequality when people need to pay bribes to get themselves a job. There is no merit plan, while making appointments and discrimination based on caste, social position and also gender has removed the ideas of democracy. Rich can certainly exploit the poor. For instance, the wealthy people are always encouraged rather than educated people. Hardly any educated people become a member of politics and assemblies. In this way, the uneducated people sitting in
parliaments cannot build democratic society on right lines. In a democratic condition, the opinion of each citizen annotated bibliography topics is usually respected and given due respect. The citizens have total liberty to criticize the performing of the federal government. Although freedom of speech exists to some extent in Pakistan, but because of no constitutional safeguard, it is not fully implemented. A common Pakistani citizen lacks constitutional security and thus when any civil servant attempts for the nice governance; he has to face many obstacles. Whenever an individual tries to raise his voice against government, he’s pushed back rather than going forward. For example, various journalists of Pakistan who make an effort to raise their tone of voice against politicians are threatened by them. For example, Najam Sethi, a senior journalist of Pakistan, disclosed that he had received significant threats from both non-state and express actors. (Khan, 1) Likewise, many journalists have been murdered in Pakistan namely Abdul Haq Baluch, Abdul Qadir Hajiazi, Abdul Razzaq Gul, Tariq Kamal, Aurengzeb Tunio, Murtaaza Razvi, Syed Saleem Shahzad, and Mukarram Khan Aatif. (Admin, 1) Moreover, police experienced beaten journalists in Pakistan on Press Freedom day even though they were covering the arrival of Asif Ali Zardari. (Admin, 1) Under these circumstances, no person will dare to stand against government. When true meanings of democracy have got not really been fulfilled by Pakistani authorities, it cannot declare it a democratic express.
Illiteracy is also among the reasons for not letting democracy flourish in Pakistan. In Pakistan, the training sector remained neglected for a long period. In the census of 1951 the literacy charge of Pakistan was 16% that rose to 26.2% in 1981. Regarding to census of 1998, literacy rate of Pakistan is 43.92% and literacy rate in ’09 2009 can be calculated to be 58% which is quite low compared to the developed countries. (Admin, 1) Such underprivileged and uneducated persons cannot make right choices. So maximum part of our population is still suffering in illiteracy and backwardness and struggles to contribute anything towards the expansion of Pakistan. High rate of literacy is very important to democracy. Illiteracy also contributes to poverty. An illiterate and economically impoverished community cannot comprehend and comply with the true spirit of democracy.
In Pakistan, most of the political leaders and functions support democracy. It really is argued by its advocates that in a democratic express, rulers can easily be modified without violence. This belief is definitely false as it is evident that whenever any democratic government fails, it is overtaken by military federal government and the solution is never peaceful. Numerous types of military rulers in the united states incorporate Ayub Khan, Zia-ul-Haq and Pervez Musharraf. Martial law isn’t itself enforced, but these are the bad techniques and failing democracy of the government which are responsible for giving climb to Martial Law. Moreover, the federal government can come back again after re-elections, for example Pakistan People Party arrived to power often. The arguments and only democracy in Pakistan happen to be fine theoretically but they are inappropriate in today’s political scenario. It is believed that in Pakistan a democracy could under no circumstances survive for long due to the incompetent people in the thus called democratic system.
People support democracy in Pakistan because they assume that it is the only form of government which gives persons an possibility to make choices and what so ever before their choices are, customers elected are majority people`s chosen representatives. Basic elections are kept in true democracy every once in awhile. The people can easily change their rulers by electing brand-new ones. In Pakistan, the situation is worse because participants elected are not people`s representatives. The primary reason to it is that only very few persons in Pakistan vote and regrettably, there is very little evidence that may prove that elections in Pakistan happen to be fair and free. Firstly, people of Pakistan aren’t prosperous and well-off and therefore their votes can simply be purchased. It has been noticed that votes are ordered as cheaply as 10 rupees. Secondly, there is much rigging in the election process. Kidnapping voters or individuals on elections is certainly a common spectacle. In addition, Pakistani political parties do not announce their “Party-manifesto” during the election campaign. For starters, the parties do not believe in almost any manifesto and secondly, if indeed they do believe in having a manifesto, it really is so unclearly stated that it pretty much means little or nothing to the readers. In addition to this, voter turnout and program of election have further destroyed democracy. In the National elections of 2008, the full total voter turnout as documented by the Election Commission was 41.11 percent of the full total registered voters. In Punjab and Sindh, 48.18 percent and 44.16 percent of the authorized voters voted at the elections. (petitioner, 71) Such kind of election which is suffering such a low turnout is destroying the real spirit of a democratic talk about. Furthermore, the system of election “First At night Post” which is followed in Pakistan isn’t democratic. According to the system, the applicant securing the highest number of votes may be the winner. The winning candidate, however, does not necessarily receive an absolute most all votes cast. As a result, according to the system, the customers of the parliament who declare to be representatives of people may not command the majority of the votes authorized and polled. Therefore, they might not genuinely symbolize their electorate. In such a situation, true democratic spirit can be violated and associates elected aren’t actually the majority chosen representatives.
The accountability process is essential in a democratic point out which results in tidy and fair performing of the executive. Nevertheless, there is no system of accountability in Pakistan. Every incoming federal government makes big claims about accountability, but no effective step has been taken in this respect. If any authorities establishes the framework which is mostly opposition oriented or highly complex, due to that your corrupt bureaucrats generally escape from punishment. The federal government affairs aren’t dealt transparently and the gap between persons and the government isn’t bridged. There is much evidence which can prove that Pakistan does not have any system of accountability. For example, Khursheed Mehmood Ksuri and Sheikh Rasheed Ahmad have been known to be allegedly involved in pursuits like corruption but no step have already been taken against them and they both are making the most of the high official posts. Another example has been place by “Mullahs” who’ve confirmed total support to Pervez Musharraf plus they have also been mixed up in genocide and master minding human rights abuses during the Bangladesh war of 1971. (Sadruddin, 1) Under these situations where there is absolutely no accountability process, democracy cannot be flourished.
Democracy features been proved the most severe type of government for Pakistan. The prevailing democracy reign of Pakistan People Party possesses been proved the worst ever in the annals of Pakistan. It is because it has given rise to unemployment, inflation, poverty and monetary crisis. Democracy is not suitable for a country like Pakistan where almost all of the population is underprivileged. It has additionally been badly failed in lots of other countries like Turkey, Thailand, Israel and Africa. Hence it really is proved that democracy isn’t the successful form of government. If it is successful in United States and India, it really is due to their political and social atmospheres. The ambiance over Pakistan will not support democracy at all. Pakistani authorities should take the exemplory case of China which is not a democratic state but still the world`s second greatest economy. Similarly, Singapore was also not a democratic state when it attained independence and Mr. Lee was its 1st president and he set Singapore on the map of the critical analysis essay world. As one writer once put it, “Singapore has realized the American dream, however, not in the American way”. This has been completed through what they contact a “Benevolent Dictator”. (Trip, 1)
Pakistan is certainly a welfare state which includes been struggling for democracy since its creation. Democracy has got been badly failed in Pakistan due to incompetent leadership and declining political guidelines. In addition, bureaucracy and feudal system has abolished democracy forever. In Pakistan, democracy is definitely nothing but a misapprehension which cause persons to vote for somebody they know and they will only know the person who can encourage himself. That means it does not depend what sort of government Pakistan adopts, what counts is the good administration, accountability procedure and merit policy. Instead of continuing program of the state as a fragile democracy, Pakistan should either turn into a theocracy or a communist.
Pakistanis have shed blood for democracy. The country’s most recent election in May 2013 was its bloodiest. It was held during the height of the Taliban insurgency that has killed tens of thousands of Pakistanis. The Pakistan Taliban, known as the Tehrik-i-Taliban, made the election an explicit target, calling democracy un-Islamic, “an infidel system.” During the campaign, the Pakistan Taliban targeted candidates and political party supporters at rallies, killing more than 130 people. At first, the targets were secular or left-leaning parties—the Awami National Party (ANP) from the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, the Karachi-based Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM), and the ruling Pakistan People’s Party (PPP). The week before the election, terrorists struck the Islamist Jamiat-ulema-e-Islam (Fazl) (JUI-F) as well, killing at least thirty people in two attacks. The Taliban told people to stay away from the polls, warning of more violence on election day.
The election was ultimately a success. The targeted parties curtailed some of their activities, but they did not stop campaigning. Rallies were held in a carnival atmosphere, especially in the urban areas, and mobilized many who had been unmotivated to vote in previous elections. There was a palpable energy in the air. Pakistanis were ready for a turnaround after years of insecurity and bloodshed, an energy crisis, an economy that seemed in free fall, and continued misgovernance. Citizens had become terribly disappointed with the governing PPP. According to a national Pew poll in 2013, 83 percent of respondents had an unfavorable view of the party’s leader, President Asif Ali Zardari (widower of the assassinated Benazir Bhutto). Yet Pakistanis placed their hopes for change firmly in elected government. A Pew poll in Pakistan in 2012 found that it was important to 88 percent of respondents that people choose their leaders in free elections.
On election day, turnout was 55 percent, despite threats of terrorist violence. This was significantly higher than voter turnout in Pakistan’s previous six elections from 1988 to 2008, when it ranged between 35 percent and 45 percent. Election-day attacks did occur: at least thirty-eight people were killed in Karachi and Balochistan, but the violence was contained relative to the Taliban’s threats. Veteran politician Nawaz Sharif’s Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) won an impressive mandate, capturing 188 out of 342 seats in parliament (a tally that includes nineteen independent candidates who switched to the PML-N post-election). Former star cricketer Imran Khan steered his Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) into national prominence alongside the PPP and PML-N. The PPP was routed, especially in Punjab, winning only forty-six seats; and the PTI emerged as a solid third party, winning thirty-three seats.
In the three years since then, trends have been less sanguine. The election that brought Nawaz back as prime minister for the third time had been marred by anecdotal evidence of electoral rigging. Despite the finding of international election observers that the election was by and large fair, in the fall of 2014 Khan’s PTI launched a protest against the government, calling for Sharif to resign (with slogans of “Go, Nawaz, Go!”) and for fresh elections. Khan called off the protest only after the December 2014 terrorist attack in Peshawar that killed more than 130 schoolchildren demanded national unity in the face of extremism.
Sharif Versus Sharif
Khan’s challenge significantly weakened Nawaz Sharif’s hold on power. After the Peshawar attack, the need to improve security was vital, and the civilians were (rightfully) not deemed up for the task. This gave the military an opportunity to appropriate total control of security policy and set up military courts for terrorism cases.
Sharif suffered a further blow in 2016 when he was implicated in corrupt activities by the so-called Panama Papers, some 11.5 million documents from a Panamanian legal firm leaked to journalists revealing how the world’s rich and influential use offshore entities to avoid paying taxes and hide ill-gotten money. In Sharif’s case, the papers showed that his children own offshore companies and assets that he had not declared as part of the family’s wealth. He countered that these companies and assets were technically not in his name and that the money was legal, but has been unable to offer a credible explanation on the source of the money. Sharif said he would form an independent inquiry commission to satisfy his detractors, but proposed a vague mandate for the body, which opposition parties rejected. The squabbling over the terms of reference for the commission continues.
While Nawaz Sharif’s approval ratings have taken a hit, he remains popular. As of June 2016, 54 percent of respondents in a national Gallup Pakistan poll said they were satisfied with his performance. This is lower than the 73 percent approval rating on his performance in his first two years in power found in a poll run by the Pakistan Institute of Legislative Development and Transparency (PILDAT) in June 2015, but is still high.
But the army is also very popular: the June 2015 PILDAT poll found a 75 percent approval rating for the army, and a 69 percent approval rating for Chief of Army Staff General Raheel Sharif. Throughout his troubles, Nawaz Sharif has had the misfortune of being widely and unfavorably compared with his more popular namesake. This must hurt, given Sharif’s personal grievances with the army. During his second term as prime minister in 1999, his army chief, Pervez Musharraf, sacked him and took power in a coup, forcing Sharif to go into exile for years.
The army is basking in the success of its Zarb-e-Azb operation against the Pakistan Taliban that began in June 2014 and is considered responsible for reducing terrorist attacks in the past two years. The army’s operations in Karachi, led by the Rangers, have also reduced violence in that city, although the army has also meddled deeply in the city’s politics.
The army has an aggressive public relations machine, headed by an exceptionally media-savvy general, Asim Bajwa. Its publicity blitz now includes television dramas, music videos, and documentaries. No one benefits more from it all than Raheel Sharif. Posters with his face are plastered all over Pakistan—even as rickshaw art—and he is constantly in the news. The hashtag #ThankYouRaheelSharif became ubiquitous on social media last year.
Nawaz Sharif, on the other hand, still makes old-school speeches from behind his desk, beginning them with “my dear countrymen,” always somewhat whiny and listless. He does not wield a compelling narrative. The public perceives him as weak and ineffectual, while Raheel Sharif exudes competence and efficiency. Nawaz and other politicians are considered as out to enrich themselves personally while the army is considered to work only for Pakistan’s interests. This perception is partly warranted (the army delivers in spite of its corruption; the politicians do not deliver because of theirs), but it also follows from the army’s successful command of the national narrative.
As the Panama Papers scandal unfolded, Raheel Sharif weighed in. He dismissed six military officers, including two generals, for corruption—making his army look better than the politicians through a relatively superficial move. He also publically called for a crackdown on corruption, saying that “enduring peace and stability [will not be established] unless the menace of corruption is uprooted.” In a country where the civilians and the military are constantly compared, harping on the worst weakness of the civilians—corruption—was especially effective.
The media issues harsh criticism of the government while largely sparing the army (the army makes clear that it does not tolerate criticism). According to a Gallup analysis of eight prominent television talk shows in May 2016, governance was the main topic discussed, and the majority of the guests were politicians. The media obsesses over political corruption, while sidestepping the army’s hegemony and appropriation of national resources.
It is a particular feature of Pakistan’s democracy that the army chief, a figure who inhabits the background in most democracies, dominates the country’s imagination more than its popularly elected leader. This dominance is no accident, as the story of Pakistan’s democracy cannot be told without reference to the army. Pakistan’s birth as a Muslim nation amid the partition of India in 1947 led to a sense of deep insecurity vis-à-vis its powerful neighbor. This has led to the disproportionate strength of the institution that defends the country and enables it to exercise dominance in politics, and ironically undermine the very democracy for which Pakistan was created. The army has ruled Pakistan for more than half of the seven decades of the country’s existence. During crises in democratically elected governments, the army is viewed as the ready alternative, a savior for the beleaguered country. Accompanying each army takeover was a heady feeling that things would be fixed; in reality, army rule left the country worse off every time. The pendulum of public opinion would swing toward democracy again, only to be followed by disappointment; the democracy-army cycle would repeat itself.
A popular observation during bad times for elected governments is that Pakistan is not suited for democracy—an argument related to the notion that Islam is incompatible with democracy. This is linked to a Pakistani insularity. Pakistanis consider the country’s problems as particular to it, as not comparable with other countries. As a result of Pakistan’s split from and great enmity with India (and the fact that Pakistan defines itself in opposition to India), Pakistanis have not learned from the nation most similar to their own country. Not surprisingly, they have not looked to the West either. Pakistanis prefer non-democratic success stories—the so-called Asian Tigers, for example—for their models. As a result, they don’t grasp the ups and downs of democracy, that its benefits are found in the long term, that it is sometimes a slog. The (military) savior in the shadows confuses people. If Pakistanis had no military alternative to civilian rule, they might think differently about their politics.
Despite the army’s prominence and popularity in Pakistani life, President Pervez Musharraf’s troubled rule from 2001–08 seems to have dealt a severe blow to any return to direct military rule. In 2007, as Musharraf’s fortunes were sinking after he sacked the chief justice of the Supreme Court and engaged in a violent military operation against a militant madrassa in central Islamabad, a Pew poll found that 77 percent of respondents thought it important that honest elections be held regularly with a choice of at least two political parties.
That shift in public opinion in favor of democracy has persisted despite crises in the post-Musharraf PPP and PML-N terms in office and the army’s current popularity. In the June 2016 Gallup poll, 84 percent of respondents said they preferred democracy to dictatorship. In the PILDAT poll the prior year, 64 percent of respondents said that democratically elected governments constitute the best system for Pakistan, and 66 percent of respondents looked favorably on the quality of democracy in the country. Only 20 percent of the respondents said that another military takeover would be beneficial for Pakistan—while not an insignificant figure, a clear minority.
In the post-Musharraf period, the major political parties are united in opposition to another army takeover. The PML-N and PPP essentially function as a “friendly opposition” to each other, protecting each other over corruption allegations and the like (although the PPP has been more aggressive this year with the Panama Papers inquiry). This is a useful strategy against the military’s ambitions—a lesson they seem to have learned from the repercussions of their hostile relationship in the 1990s—but it undermines accountability. Only Imran Khan’s PTI functions as a true opposition to the government, but instead of opposing it on substance or policy in parliament, Khan leads populist rallies and calls for the prime minister’s resignation. While Khan generates significant support (he had a 49 percent favorability rating in the PILDAT poll in 2015) and has loyal followers, the majority of Pakistanis do not seem to agree with his tactics. In the June 2016 Gallup poll, 68 percent of respondents said that it was wrong for Imran Khan to demand Nawaz Sharif’s resignation over the Panama Papers scandal. Pakistanis seem to have reconciled themselves to a corrupt democracy, because that seems to be the only kind they can get.
The army knows that popular and political opinion does not look favorably on a military takeover. It sent a clear signal during Imran Khan’s protracted protest in the fall of 2014 that it would not move against Sharif’s government, though it will gladly appropriate all the power it can, as it did with security matters following the Peshawar massacre. But the army still promotes its image as a savior, actively and through surrogates. This July, posters popped up all over the country, pleading Khuda ke liay (for God’s sake) for Raheel Sharif to take power. The army denied any involvement in the stunt.
Ultimately, Pakistan’s democracy will not be complete unless the army stops meddling in political matters and stops projecting itself as Pakistan’s savior. In order for faith in democracy to persist, citizens’ belief in the fairness of elections will need to increase. Most elections in Pakistan have been marred by allegations of some kind of rigging. A sizable minority continues to think that the 2013 election was rigged. In the 2015 PILDAT poll, this number was 30 percent (lower than 37 percent in 2014). On the other hand, 59 percent of the respondents in 2015 thought the election was “free and fair.”
The army also needs to cede its control of security and foreign policy. This may be almost impossible—it goes to great lengths to maintain this control. To be fair, it is also unclear that the civilians are competent enough to assume this control. This month, a front page article by a respected journalist in Dawn, Pakistan’s premier English daily, recounted an unprecedented showdown between Nawaz Sharif and the head of the country’s spy agency, the Inter Services Intelligence (ISI), in which the prime minister asked the ISI to end the protection it gives to Kashmiri and Afghan jihadists. The prime minister’s office—which likely “leaked” the story—issued three vociferous denials of the story, and after a meeting between Prime Minister Sharif and General Sharif, immediately placed a travel ban on the journalist and announced an inquiry into the matter. The military’s Inter-Services Public Relations said that the leaks that led to the story were “a threat to national security.” It seems two matters are at stake: the projection of a shift in the civil-military power equation over security matters, and the reference to an internal acknowledgement of the ISI’s cover for jihadists. The reaction from the military has been intense—although most of it is behind the scenes and can be inferred from the actions of the prime minister’s office. It underscores how difficult a shift of power in the military-civilian equation on security is going to be.
Serving the Citizens?
Elected governments through the 1990s were consumed with paranoia. For them, the best outcome (never achieved) was survival through the completion of a full term. Politicians make poor decisions when they are in survival mode. They focus on the short-term, become circumscribed by crises, and are reactive rather than proactive. While Pakistan’s two main parties, the PPP and PML-N, ostensibly differ in their platforms—the PPP is left leaning and favors the rural poor, the PML-N is right leaning and pro-industry—there was little difference in how they ended up governing in the 1990s. They did not invest in improving governance, or in dealing with Pakistan’s myriad development challenges by broadening the tax base, removing barriers to public services like education and health, and improving the rule of law.
The paranoia and survival mode have been evident in the PPP’s recent term and the PML-N’s current term even as the army’s overt threat to democracy has receded. The biggest achievement of Asif Ali Zardari’s presidency between 2008 and 2013 was simply that he completed his term of office. At different points in his three years in office Nawaz Sharif has shown a resolve to adjust to the changed political climate. He has leaned less to the right than ever before, a positive development for Pakistan, but has suffered from setbacks. He has made overtures to India, only to have them voided after the January 2016 Pathankot attack on an Indian air force base that was blamed on Pakistan-based terrorists. He has taken bold moves like hanging Mumtaz Qadri, the killer of provincial governor Salmaan Taseer, a man supported by Pakistan’s Islamists—only to have Qadri sympathizers camp out in front of parliament for days and wreck the capital’s infrastructure in angry protests. Most recently, he seems to have tried to begin the process of wresting back control of security policy from the army, only to be put in his place.
Sharif has spent too much of his time putting out fires, and his policies have felt interrupted and selective. He invests in big, urban infrastructure projects—easily visible to voters—but has not invested in systemic governance reform, or in improving the lives of the rural poor. He has also shown an inability to ideologically counter extremism.
It is unclear whether Sharif will take such steps; with the PPP significantly weakened in Punjab and the PTI experiencing limits to its political ambitions, the PML-N may be able to win the next election even without doing so. But it would be unfortunate if Sharif does not make use of his political advantage. If democracy is to prevail in Pakistan, democratic regimes will have to start delivering for the average Pakistani.
Juncture of Opportunity
In large part due to the repeated interventions of the military, Pakistan’s democracy remains underdeveloped. That condition dents its effectiveness and perpetuates the cycle that makes military rule attractive at times. Pakistan’s political development needs time and protection from interruptions, whether from the army or from extremists.
By some measures, Pakistan’s democracy can be described as vibrant. A total of 333 parties are registered with the Election Commission of Pakistan. In each general election, 272 constituencies hold direct elections to the National Assembly; the other seventy seats are reserved for women and minorities. For each of the direct election constituencies, parties can field one candidate each, and candidates can run independently as well. Reserved seats are then allocated proportionately to parties that have won more than 5 percent of the vote. The party with the majority of seats in parliament forms the government; if it does not have an outright majority, it needs to form a coalition with smaller parties.
In reality, Pakistani democracy operates with many constraints. Just six out of the 333 parties hold more than ten seats in parliament (out of a total of 342), and only eighteen parties hold any seats at all. Pakistan has four provinces, Punjab, Sindh, KPK, and Balochistan, with 183, seventy-five, forty-three, and seventeen seats in parliament, respectively (the tribal areas and the federal capital hold twelve and two seats, respectively). As the numbers indicate, any party that can dominate Punjab can hold sway over national politics. This means that voters are only left with a couple of choices of political parties that are nationally viable.
Then there is the dynasty problem. The three main parties—the PML-N, the PPP, and the PTI—are all personality- and family-driven. The PML-N is associated completely with Nawaz Sharif (it is no coincidence that Nawaz is an element of the party’s name); the PPP with the Bhutto family; and the PTI with Imran Khan. There is a lack of internal democracy. It remains to be seen whether Imran Khan will succeed in transitioning the PTI into a party that is not completely tied to him.
There are barriers to entry at the candidate level—contesting elections requires wealth. In rural areas, large landowners typically win elections; in return, they use their political power to provide patronage to their constituents. It is not clear that many of them have national-level policy interests—it is patronage that helps them win votes, not their voting record in the National Assembly. The practice of horse-trading, in which politicians switch parties to ally with the party with the greater chance of winning the next election, is widespread in Pakistan—evidence of a candidate-party policy disconnect. By and large, party trumps candidate identity, at least once the candidates pass a threshold level of prominence. Thus it seems that politicians’ policy convictions are malleable. This constituency-federal level disconnect is harmful to the country’s interests. It also means party platforms are not well developed or implemented.
Institutions remain underdeveloped as well. Parliament is rowdy, and accomplishes little. It is a part-time job—if that—for most parliamentarians. Nawaz Sharif’s government has undermined it. Instead of using parliament to discuss issues of national concern—such as peace talks with the Taliban—the prime minister has called “all parties” conferences, forums with no legal basis, to discuss such topics.
Democratic governments in Pakistan tend to rely on a cadre of loyalist advisors instead of professionals, limiting their own effectiveness. The PPP and PML-N are both guilty of this. Nawaz Sharif has been especially loath to appoint advisors beyond his tight inner circle (he has appointed many of the same men this time around that he did in his previous two terms in the 1990s); he even holds the foreign and defense portfolios himself.
It is also unclear that voters understand the responsibilities of parliamentarians versus bureaucrats, or the differences in the roles of national-level parliamentarians relative to provincial and local elected officials. The decentralization of many matters from the federal to the provincial level via the eighteenth amendment to the constitution in 2010 only confuses citizens further. For voters to hold the politicians accountable, they require good information. But accountability is difficult in an environment where the division of responsibilities is murky (sometimes even to the politicians themselves).
Pakistan’s democracy is at a juncture of import. Its citizens have shown faith in it, despite continued corruption and poor governance, and in defiance of long-held narratives that undermined democracy in the country. The army has also indicated that it will not seize control of the government, although it continues to meddle in politics, and commands power over internal and external security matters.
All this gives Pakistan’s democrats space—not complete, but enough—to ensure progress in political development, governance, and delivery of public services. How Pakistan’s politicians choose to behave now will determine whether democracy persists, or whether there is another slide toward disillusionment that emboldens the army to take over once again. The democrats need to let go of paranoia, to stop governing in survival mode, and invest in Pakistan’s long-term development. They eventually need to reassume civilian control over security matters, command a compelling narrative for Pakistan’s future, and ideologically counter extremism—though this will take time and enormous effort. They must hold back on self-indulgence. The critical question facing Pakistan today is whether Nawaz Sharif’s ruling PML-N will seize the opportunity before it.
Madiha Afzal is an assistant professor at the University of Maryland School of Public Policy and a nonresident fellow at the Brookings Institution. Her recent publications include “Education and Attitudes in Pakistan: Understanding Perceptions of Terrorism,” published by the United States Institute of Peace. She has contributed to the Express Tribune, Foreign Policy, Newsweek, Washington Post, and Friday Times. She was named to Lo Spazio della Politica’s list of Top 100 Global Thinkers of 2013. On Twitter: @MadihaAfzal.
Tags: Nawaz SharifPakistanRaheel Sharif