Pakistan: Stumbling Democracy – OpEd


It has been 76 years since the inception of Pakistan which came into existence upon many slogans in which one was that Pakistan would be a true democratic state.

Sadly, the country has been under direct military role for around three decades whereas the rest of democratic governments were indirectly influenced by establishment. We can held responsible it meddling into democratic setup, but at the same time, judiciary cannot be acquitted from its responsibilities while, the politician have huge role in failure of democracy in the country. 

The doctrine of necessity which was proposed in the early 50s by Justice Munir in the case of Molvi Tameezudin against the dissolution of the federal assembly by the then government general Ghulam Muhammad was the first blow to democracy on the part of judiciary in Pakistan. In addition, recently, the honorable supreme court ordered the PTI and the PDM government to initiate dialogue on the mess of holding elections.

It is strange how the upper court orders political leaders to start a dialogue over fixing a date for holding elections on same day in the country. Moreover, though, political cases matter, but, on the flip side, the rest of cases also count where there are around 50 thousand pending cases only in the upper judiciary. Preferring some political cases for hearing immediately raise serious concerns and questions. 

With the collapse of parliamentary process judiciary is being used for political arbitration. These developments have dragged judiciary into politics. At the same time, decisions which suit one political party, the party accepts, but when it does not favour it rejects. One party,s acceptance is the rejection of another party while, the rejection of decisions is the acceptance of the other party. These developments have resulted in a source of mistrust. In such a scenario, true, if parliament and politicians have failed to play their role, but at the same time, the question arises as to why the judiciary should drag itslef in political mess? Would it not be better letting politicians decide their matters? 

The interference of establishment into political affairs is not novice in Pakistan. The ex-Army chief has acknowledged that they had been interfering in politics and that they had then decided to abstain from intervening in politics in future. That revelation was a black sting on the face of Pseudo-democracy in Pakistan. That revelation further exposed the weak democratic and accountability setups in Pakistan. All have zipped their lips, as to who is to be held accountable for such meddling? Who is to be held responsible for making and breaking political parties in the country where their number has reached to 168. 

The politicians cannot be absolved from their responsibilities. Take an example of the incident of May 9th. Truly, democracy was feeble before too but the incidents of May 9th ignited by some politicians have further weakened democracy and have provided establishment to have an upper hand over the fragile democratic system. A true democratic leader never incites its workers for violence, never instigates them to attack state institutions building, to wreck havoc with the statutes of the martyrs, and naming and shaming state officials through fake propaganda tricks and false agenda and narratives. 

The stubbornness of politicians has been a huge impediment in cementing democratic norms and values in the country. They mutualy start fighting for political interests by set asiding the true values of democracy for which the era of the 1990s was a famous one where the PMLN and the PPP fought with eachother by further suffering democracy in Pakistan. In addition, it is not so long, when the incumbent government offered dialogue to the PTI leadership, but the PTI leadership rejected that proposal. After the incident of May 9th, the PTI proposed dialogue but the PDM government rejected that. It testifies that the supremacy of Parliament and democracy is no where. At the same time, Imran Khan has been offering Army Chief to start dialogue with him. This is pathetic. 

Notwithstanding, democracy demands providing opportunities to middle class to come forward on national politics and have a say in the decision making affairs. While, it is missing in our political culture. The leadership of most political parties is based on hierarchical tendencies where the children of political heads enjoy authority in party affairs. These children are born with golden spoon in their mouth whereas the middle class workers have no such level playing grounds available for them as compare to the children of party heads and bigwigs of political parties. In the midst of this unjust and unfair situation how can one expect democratic growth and evolution? 

Moreover, intra-party elections have been just rubber stamp. Almost all (with exception of one religious party Jumiat Islami) political heads have been the alpha and omega of all policy matters and have been leading their parties for decades. For instance, the so called federalist parties such as Pakistan Muslim League is led by former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif for almost three decades, and Pakistan peoples party is being led by Bhutto family for almost 5 and half decades since its beginning. Pakistan Tehreek Insaf is led by Imran Khan for three decades, Jamiat Ulama Islam was led by Mufti Mehmood which is being led by his son Molana Fazal Rehman since decades. 

Meanwhile, the situation of Baloch, Sindhi, and Pashtun nationalist parties is not unlike. Pashtun nationalist parties like Awami national party and Pashtoonkhwa Millin Awami party are being led by the families of Abdul Ghaffar Khan and Abdul Samad Khan Achakzai for decades since its launching. The same is the case with the Baloch national party Mengal group. Such tendencies are against the basic norms and values of democracy which have converted democracy to Psedu democracy. Those political leaders who criticize party leadership or policies are alienated and pushed to the wall, who ultimately leave politics or remain reticent in their respective parties. 

Notwithstanding, many politicians have been revealing that they belong to gate number 4 (a gate of entrance of the office of establishment in Rawalpindi which is labeled to be the nurssary of most political leaders and portrayed as the handler of political affairs). This embarrassment is accepted and revealed with pride by many politicians. 

Democracy in Pakistan is stumbling. It was neither brawny before nor it is now. From establishment to judiciary to politicians all are responsible for the sorry state of affairs of democracy. But, one thing which is undoubtedly true is that in a heterogeneous society like ours, democracy is the most suitable type of government. The more this reality is realised early the more it would be better. It is high time for soul-searching and bold thinking. Will sane voices pay heed? Owing to the experience of past 76 years, it is uncertain.

Naseeb Ullah Achakzai

Naseeb Ullah Achakzai is a M.Phil scholar and writes as a freelance columnist.

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