In a virtual dialogue organized by PILDAT, on how has democracy fared in 2020, it was agreed that quality of democracy in 2020 has been far from perfect and that Constitution must be the guiding principle in setting rules of the game to address rising political polarisation and improving democratic governance in Pakistan.
Panellists at the PILDAT Virtual Forum on How has 2020 impacted democratic governance and quality of democracy in Pakistan which was streamed live across PILDAT’s social media pages, included Javed Jabbar, Former Senator; Syed Talat Husain, Analyst, Ahmed Bilal Mehboob, President and founder of PILDAT and Aasiya Riaz, Joint Director PILDAT.
In setting stage for the conversation, Ms. Aasiya Riaz said that 2020 has been a year of global chaos and uncertainty due to coronavirus pandemic. Where the world has seen autocratic tendencies in many democracies, Pakistan too has seen institutionalisation of its hybrid governance model be it in the shape of NCOC, elimination of locust threat or polio vaccination. Birth of PDM as an alliance by opposition political parties appears as the only silver lining for democracy in 2020.
Mr. Ahmed Bilal Mehboob believed that quality of democracy in Pakistan has deteriorated in 2020. Parliament and Provincial Assemblies have not played the required role of oversight especially in managing the impact of coronavirus. A Parliamentary Committee formed on COVID-19 highly underperformed. Lack of effective local governments across is another weak link in Pakistan’s system of democratic governance. But, Mr. Mehboob also believed that it is the first time that hybrid regime in Pakistan is being challenged by political parties which is a positive indicator for democracy in 2020.
Syed Talat Hussain said that all international indices on democracy, justice and media freedom in 2020 paint a bleak picture of quality of democracy during the past year. How little attention Prime Minister has given to Parliament and how much Federal Government has relied on ordinances in 2020 instead of legislation also points to deteriorating quality of democracy while kidnapping of IG Sindh presents a picture of rule of law in Pakistan.
Mr. Javed Jabbar said that he endorses the point on absence of effective local governments as a major weakness of the system of democracy in Pakistan. While military’s role in politics is criticised, even if it were to be removed, Pakistan’s administrative structures are so weak that democratic governance cannot be improved without major reforms.
Multiple rounds of questions were posed to panellists on models of democracy Pakistan might look at, at what is the central issue weakening democracy in Pakistan, role of political parties, political polarisation and the possible way forward for improving democratic governance in Pakistan.