For the first time in history, Pakistan has experienced a complete democratic tenure. The transfer of political power from a democratic government to another through electoral process is likely to happen in May 2013. In Pakistan, democracy really turned out to be an exigent phenomenon; for, it took it almost six decades to at least start flourishing.
In the contemporary systems of political governments, a democratic regime is considered to be the most significant design for a state’s prosperity. On the one hand, it is for the first time that Pakistan has experienced a complete tenure of democracy, and on the other, it is also a fact that this likely democratic transition has left the masses somewhat curious about it. Since the masses of Pakistan have never experienced such a transition; therefore, curiosity and confusion are natural.
In Pakistan, there exists a parliamentary democracy. This current democratic system, the country owns is output of an ongoing endeavor. Both the state and government institutions took a long than usual time to groom and flourish.
After independence, the state inherited a weaker infrastructure and administrative setup. A hostile neighbor-hood, poor defence and economic infrastructure, rehabilitation of refuges and lack of financial resources to regulate basic state affairs were the major issues which demanded immediate attention of the then government. The situation was not ripe for the development of a healthy political atmosphere.
In early 50s, power tussles among politicians further exacerbated the situation. Pakistan already had no healthy political legacy; these political intrigues put the emergence of a participatory political system in serious jeopardy. Moreover, an excessive delay and neglect in the making of state constitution lead to serious repercussions for the political future of Pakistan.
In regulating the affairs of a state, constitution provides basic guidelines for national policy making; while, in its absence, the development of political institutions, political culture, democratic and political behavior among the masses cannot be expected. This paved the way for the entry of non-political regimes into political arena. And military interventions in the political affairs became a common character of Pakistan’s political system. Dictatorships not only affected the state image in the international community but also damaged state’s national interest at times.
For sake of vested interests, dictators took such decisions and made such agreements with external powers, which gravely threatened state’s sovereignty. It is obvious tha one-man show can never secure state’s national interest; only elected public representatives, through a democratic regime can interpret and secure state’s national interest. Another major factor which badly affected the flourishing of a democratic culture in Pakistan was its higher illiteracy rate. Because of illiteracy public awareness regarding political system, about their right to vote and optimum use of their vote was negligible. In the form of electronic or print media, very few informative sources such as radio and few newspapers were available to public.
As such, lack of proper access and availability of these sources to masses, was also a major hurdle in the way of the development of a mature public opinion regarding political affairs.
Now, when a new political setup is likely to be formed after election 2013, people are hoping change. And the graph of people’s hope from the upcoming system is quite high; especially the energetic Pakistani youth is quite interested to participate and its participation can give tough time to traditional political pattern. This literate/educated generation is ready to challenge the traditional political pattern.
The political awareness in civil society, rise of new political parties, judicial activism and an active media, all explicitly show that democracy in Pakistan’s political culture has successfully passed through its initial phase. But the development of democracy and mature democratic behaviour cannot be expected to prevail overnight. It has to be an evolutionary process, and Pakistan is yet to pass through a long journey of political maturation.
However, the good omen is that, the state and the political institutions have expressed their confidence in the democratic system. Recently, the military leadership also expressed its will for change through democracy. While addressing occasion of ‘Youm-i-Shuhada’ (martyrs’ day) on April 30th, 2013 Army Chief General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani explicitly stated “I assure you that we stand committed to wholeheartedly assist and support in the conduct of free, fair and peaceful elections; to the best of our capabilities and remaining within the confines of the constitution. I also assure you that this support shall solely be aimed at strengthening democracy and rule of law in the country”
Although, in last five years many times it was opined that the fragile democratic government would not last longer. Many times it was being said that state was on the verge of military intervention but throughout past five years, the military leadership remained away from political arena. Thus, the incumbent military leadership remained successful in developing a mature and non-political image of the military.
This mature behavior shows that the political institutions have started grooming; therefore, the masses can hope that this transitional phase would lead to a better Pakistan. It is being hoped that after few regular terms, the democratic system will become mature. As soon as the system starts functioning regularly, it gradually leads to obliteration of major hindrances such as mismanagement; hence nepotism and corruption, etc would get reduced.
An aware, educated and up-dated civil society would definitely play its role for the betterment of the system. This will not only create a healthy political atmosphere, but will also enhance public trust in electoral politics. Thus, with the passage of time, the fragile democratic setup will turn into a firmly-rooted democracy. Not necessarily, but the possibility of change is there, which had never been there before with that much potential.
Nonetheless, to expect much from the new political setup would not be a rational act. But, as the initial phase is almost over, chances are there that at least in future Pakistani nation will witness somewhat mature democratic pattern in the political arena.