Perennial Flaws in Pakistan’s Democracy

By: Zubair Ali Somroo

Democracy is deemed as the best form of Government, which is being practiced across the globe. It is believed that even the worst form of democracy is better than the dictatorship. Regretfully, Pakistani brand of democracy is not akin to ethos of true democracy. Pakistan has been tackling with the perennial flaws in democracy since inception, which restrain it to be robust democratically and prevent democracy to furnish smack-dab purpose. Thereby, it fails to bear required and willing fruit that can be constructive for nation at whole. Consequently, Pakistan undergoes social, economic, political, and judicial and many more challenges, which resist Pakistan to move on the path of prosperity.

Pakistan’s politics has been dominated by dynastic rule of Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) and Pakistan Muslim League Nawaz (PML-N), which in consequence, promoted extractive political institutions that empowered these two parties

Basically, democracy is derived from Greek word demokratia which means rule by people. In its very meaning, democracy depicts the structure of government and privileges that it can render for a nation. Former USA president Abraham Lincoln defined democracy as “government of the people, by the people and for the people.” This definition is considered as the perfect definition for democracy.

Democracy is consisting of multifarious constituents such as: sovereignty of parliament, inviolability of the constitution, supremacy of civilian rule, rule of law, free, fair and transparent elections, high-powered and impartial election commission, protection of fundamental rights of people, independent and incorruptible judiciary and free press.

Comparatively, Pakistan lacks in all constituents. Our democracy has undergone three times military rule in which constitution was annulled or suspended which decimated the health of democracy. Moreover, Pakistan’s politics has been dominated by dynastic rule of Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) and Pakistan Muslim League Nawaz (PML-N), which in consequence, promoted extractive political institutions that empowered these two parties, exclusively Sharif family and Bhutto-Zardari family, to get laws passed which can be in their best interest.

Furthermore, many of our politicians even do not meet the criteria of being a candidate for election in Pakistan as per article 62 of the constitution of Pakistan. Article 62(e) states that the candidate should have adequate knowledge of Islamic teachings and candidate practices obligatory duties prescribed by Islam as well as abstain from major sins. De facto, many of our politicians do not satisfy this provision. As, in a local media interview which was taken outside of assembly, various our politicians were incapable to recite Kalimas or Surah Fatiha. This deplorable situation makes nation not to vote for such politicians, but various ill-educated or influenced by landlords pleasingly or in duress cast their vote to such politicians. This tiny-seeming blunder decides the future of our next generations. So, it is essential to pay heed on the future of our generations. In addition to this, a video gone viral on social media and other hue of media, in which president of PML-N Shahbaz Sharif was gazing passim for replicating steps in a funeral prayer. However, while offering prayer, Muslims have been prohibited to gaze passim. This shows that Shahbaz Sharif does not have adequate know-how of offering funeral prayer. Which is wretched and against this provision. There are many examples to quote.

Further, article 62(f) articulates that candidate should be sagacious, righteous, non-profligate, and honest and amen, there being no declaration to the contrary by a court of law. However, this provision is being violated or has been violated. Many of our politicians are charged with multifarious cases including corruption, money laundering, profligacy and various other cases. Even they had been to prison or they are in prison. Besides, Nawaz Sharif had been disqualified.

But, some culprits manage to be scot free by influencing judges. Recently, Lahore High Court gave decree to National Accountability Bureau (NAB) that NAB should inform Maryam Nawaz 10 days before they go to arrest her. This seems quite out of grounds of law because if NAB informs her, she will appeal for bail and she can never be held accountable for her cases.

According to the above given examples, one can point out performance of Election Commission for approving them to contest elections.

Dolefully, after every election, rigging is buzzword. This points out the fairness and transparency of elections, whereas fair, free and transparent elections are primary purpose of election commission of Pakistan. Fair, free and transparent elections are sine quo none for democracy.

Some political scientists are of the view that ignoring these provisions before approving them to contest election, is endangering our own country or willingly destroying the future of next generations.

The historian and diplomat Lord Bryce vocalized, “Perhaps no form of government needs great leaders so much as democracy.” But, leaving a few, Pakistan has been deprived of great leaders since her inception. De facto, a democracy without great leaders is nothing, but covert oligarchy.

Aristotle further distinguished between democracy and oligarchy as:”The real difference between democracy and oligarchy is between poverty and wealth. Wherever the rules, whether they are a minority or a majority, owe their power to wealth that is an oligarchy. Where the poor rule, that is democracy.”

Sorrowfully, since inception of Pakistan, influenced, rich people or landlords have been ruling over rest. Thereby, democracy in Pakistan needs relief to be robust by giving chance to new and competent candidates, who just work for the interest of nation not for their own interest. Currently, PTI has its first tenure to rule Pakistan. It has some new but many old candidates who used to be with other opponent parties or had their own parties. That is why it is extremely difficult to impart transition in their thoughts. One measure of PTI that is being lauded is empowering institutions at some extent but government could not have succeeded in empowering them wholly. Besides, hike in inflation has been worst part of their governance.

Additionally, politicians in our country go to visit their cities, except few, in days of election and spend billion rupees on their election campaign. Consequently, after winning elections their primary purpose remains to recollect spent money and make more money from funds allocated for their cities.

Furthermore, opposition parties constituted an alliance namely Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM) to attenuate or to topple ruling party. But, PDM seems Pakistan destabilizing movement rather than democratic. The parties- exclusively PPP and PML-N- had been ruling for decades and they could not practice true ethos of democracy. PPP has been ruling over Sindh for decades, whereas PML-N had been ruling over Punjab for decades. Regretfully, their governments were not true democratic. PPP is infamous for their work in education, health and wreaking havoc to merit and PML-N is infamous for usurping funds of infrastructure and money laundering.

From get-go of PDM, chaired by Fazlur Rehman, alliance has been knitting plots to topple current government, but has failed due to rift in alliance. PML-N and Fazlur Rehman decided to resign in protest but it was herculean task for Sindh ruling party to resign from the province-limited rule. Thereby, PPP associated repatriation of Nawaz Sharif from London. This was arduous for PML-N. This demand of PPP caused rift in PDM’s alliance. Besides, NA 249 by-election played role to disassociate PPP and PML-N. In which PPP candidate outsmarted to other candidates including candidates of PML-N and PTI. Aftermath, appeal for recounting was made by PML-N candidate. Afterward, PPP and PML-N commenced a new series of exposing each other. Resultantly, PDM could not remain in such effect as it was in its get-go.

After month of silence, when Shahbaz Sharif was rejected to fly to London and after opening of Hudaibia case, Shahbaz Sharif speculated to revitalize PDM to promulgate their anti-government campaign. This action shows the real intent of PDM.

Ruefully, the backbone of democracy, accountability, used to be undermined. Once Asif Ali Zardari, former president of Pakistan, while interviewing a national channel, articulated that NAB chairman has not power to file case against me or collar me. This attitude towards accountability bureau shows the robustness of democracy that used to be practiced during regimes of PPP and PML-N. After years during rule of Imran Khan, nation is witnessing somewhat progress in accountability but not so much as our country required being true democratic state.

For countering all the flaws coming in way of democracy, every Pakistani must be acquainted to true democracy so that supremacy of civilian rule is established which will lead to sovereign parliament, inviolability of the constitution, and protection of fundamental rights of people. Besides this, accountability must be ruthless so that no one can dare to do corruption or commit various other crimes. Ruthless accountability will spawn transparent, free and fair elections. Media should be impartial to broadcast truth. In last, independent and incorruptible judiciary is indispensible for ruthless accountability.

To wrap up all, civilian supremacy should be prioritized to biologically inherited democracy so that Pakistan can move towards inclusive institutions and can find path of prosperity.

The writer is a freelance columnist based in Karachi, he can be reached at [email protected]