Pakistan: 2024 Elections Significant For Both Democracy And Progress – OpEd


The Supreme Court’s decision to bar the PTI party from using its iconic electoral symbol has stirred much controversy. For many, it represents the decline of democracy and the resulting political turbulence. People are debating whether the court’s ruling sets a precedent or is punitive. The matter has grown progressively more politicized and is unlikely to be resolved to everyone’s satisfaction.

In the meantime, Pakistan is experiencing a watershed in its history because of mounting pressures from both the within and the outside that support the notion that it is a ‘soft’ state. This opinion is best illustrated by the May 9 anti-establishment protests and the current tit-for-tat confrontations with Iran. Inimical forces will likely administer more tests soon.

The current political unpredictability reignites the discussion of the relationship between democracy, development, political stability, economic freedom, and political freedom. It poses weighty queries like these: is establishing an elected administration more crucial than a weakened democracy and free and fair elections if it means boosting economic development, reducing inflation and unemployment, and raising average wages? Can ordained political stability lead to better governance? Is robust economic growth dependent on political and economic liberties or only on strong institutions and political stability?

There is a lack of consensus regarding the connection between democracy and growth. Most people agree that countries with more developed economies maintain press and association freedoms and conduct free and fair elections. It is regardless of the criteria used — life expectancy, per capita income, or educational attainment. An alternative conclusion is that growing economies facilitate the emergence of democratic groups. Furthermore, educated people are less trusting and less prone to be seduced by populist promises offered by autocrats.

Similarly, most experts agree on the close relationship between political freedom, sound governance, and economic advancement. For example, both Nobel Prize-winning economists, Milton Friedman, and Amartya Sen, representing the right and the left of liberal economic philosophy, agree that political and economic liberties are intertwined. However, there are counterintuitive examples, such as Bangladesh and India, where stability has led to economic growth and sound governance despite a growing democratic deficit.

We know that protracted political upheaval reduces investment and decreases the rate of economic expansion. Bad financial performance can lead to political instability and the overthrow of governments. On the other hand, enforcing stability through depressing the electorate, promoting corruption and abuse of power through repression, or reducing political rivalry by favoring one party over others might have long-term effects.

We can all agree that over the past 20 years, political engineering, elite infighting, and dysfunctional democracy have brought Pakistan to its knees. Events have refuted the long-held notion that democracy is a comprehensive method of managing conflicts and lays the groundwork for the peaceful resolution of substantive disputes. The only reason the blame game works is to absolve everyone of accountability.

Growing economic difficulties necessitate a prudent backup plan free from cheap political rhetoric or stoking division at this crucial juncture. Artificial stability will not last, but it could buy the country more time to acclimate. It is time to find a middle ground that democracy and development do not conflict.

Politicians must set aside their hunger for power to serve the collective interests of the general population. Despite the sincere alienation of some voters, the people must use the elections to support legislators who can cooperate to pursue a shared development goal. Boring elections are unpleasant, but now that the time has come, it is more crucial than ever for the candidates to prove themselves.

Still, the democracy deficit is as critical as consistent economic growth and will always be a work in progress. A just society and an inclusive political system with public participation must remain the ultimate objective. Only an authoritarian mindset can propagate that economic progress is sufficient and there is no need for democracy.

Unquestionably, we remove institutional barriers that limit public engagement and lead to deficits in democratic government with each election cycle. Stabilizing democratic institutions and promoting socioeconomic changes for political participation and civic transformation are laudable goals.

It is vital to rebuild public confidence in political leaders and institutions. Elections must be a tool for accountability and to pressure governments to enhance governance and economic policies. With elections, a government should garner support by improving the lives of the greater populace rather than simply the select few favored groups connected to power centers.

Finally, democracy and development should not be at odds. We anticipate that political stability, sound governance, and economic advancement will be the norm, notwithstanding times of unrest. Although Pakistan has not achieved the proper equilibrium, there is still time. The approaching elections are a good chance for a change of direction. We should seize this chance.

This article was published at The Friday Times

Saad Hafiz

Saad Hafiz is an analyst and commentator. He can be reached at [email protected].

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *