Threats To Democracy In Pakistan
By IQRA LIAQAT
Democracy in Pakistan has never been able to take roots in the political culture of country. Ever since the inception of Pakistan, masses have made ceaseless struggle and rendered countless sacrifices to materialise the dream of true democracy in the country. However,all such efforts,so far, have been ruined by one reason or the other. Pakistani democracy is confronted with various threats which range from social and political to the abrupt change in dynamics of international politics. Threats emanate also from the undemocratic cultures of the so called flag bearers of democracy. However threats to Pakistani democracy are complex and multifaceted. Nevertheless, the future of democracy is bright in Pakistan owing to the rising awareness in masses and globalisation. Needless to say,it is inevitable to counter and eradicate such threats to turn country into a truly democratic and egalitarian country as envisaged by the founder of nation.
Pakistan, since its day of inception, has faced several challenges to establish a true democratic system, which could guarantee its survival, stability and development. Every democratic period has been followed by military rule. Unfortunately, the plan of democracy has not taken its roots deep enough to make the country, “a durable democratic state.” This is the reason that until now democracy in Pakistan is prone to many threats. These threats emanate from internal as well as external factors. Internal threats include political, social, economic, as well as religious which have resulted in the weakening of democracy in Pakistan. Lack of mature leadership, confrontation between the main organs of the state, poor relations between the centre and the provinces, rampant corruption, distrust among the politicians, strong bureaucracy and crisis of governance are the immediate threats to democracy in Pakistan. Furthermore, meddling with the constitution has also dealt a severe blow to democracy in Pakistan. In addition to this, terrorism, energy crisis, ethnicity and sectarianism, domestic violence, religious intolerance, economic instability, unemployment, and recent natural calamity is posing a great threat to democratic government in Pakistan. Not only this, but recurring foreign interventions in our national affairs, our country’s tarnished image across the world, and weak diplomacy is also contributing to destabilizing democratic setup. Fuelling the fire, Government’s indifference towards people and its inability to resolve these problems is mounting frustration among the masses. This frustration is proving venomous and it could derail the process of democracy in Pakistan.
Lack of leadership is one of the greatest threats to democracy in Pakistan. Since the tragic demise of the great Quaid we have been devoid of mature and competent leadership. Absence of visionary leadership has been the biggest dilemma for the country. Our leaders have always served their own vested interests and have divested the nation of the basic amenities of life. In such conditions, democracy has suffered a lot and is still suffering. The malignant intentions of our political spearheads, have not only smudged the image of Pakistan before the globe, but have also proved fatal for the democratic survival.
Poor relations between the centre and the four provinces of the country are also a threat to democracy. Coordination between them is essential to run the machinery of the state smoothly. On the contrary, the centre and provinces have always been at loggerhead with each other. Disharmony over natural resources and other issues have kept democracy under strain. The tragic fall of Dhaka was the result of such contentious relations. That’s why; Pakistan has always been experiencing political instability. These conditions have again and again provided the army a rationale to topple the civilian government.
In addition, meddling with the constitution has caused ineffable damage to democracy. A constitution is considered as a guardian of democracy. Unfortunately, the constitution, which was drafted after nine years of independence in 1956, was strangled after a military coup by Ayub Khan in 1958. A proper constitution was formulated in 1973, but every dictator trimmed this constitution in accordance with his own personal interests. Moreover, our political forces have also played a horrible role in deteriorating the original draft of the constitution. Resultantly, we have remained unable to protect the strong democratic traditions.
Strong bureaucracy and feudal system are another threat to democracy. Their secret coalition is hindering the growth of democracy in a smooth way. Their compromise with each other has resulted in the accumulation of power in fewer hands. Even the universal suffrage could have not been effective. Thus, the circulation of power in a handful of families is making the structure hollow. Today we will hardly see people from the middle class and lower class in politics, because of the sheer force and influence of these politicians, such a class could not get a free hand to participate in politics that is absolutely against Democracy. Noam Chomsky has rightly said about the derailing of democracy that” if you want to restrict democracy, transfer power of decision making from the public arena to unaccountable institutions, kings and princes, priestly castes, military juntas, and feudal Lords.”
The spectre of corruption is growing stronger in absence of true accountability. Accountability which aims at strengthening the roots of democracy is lacking in our country. The national anti-corruption agency, National Accountability Bureau (NAB) which was created in 2002 and endowed with the powers of investigating and prosecuting the cases against the corrupt leaders, has failed to play its role effectively. . Thus, in the absence of accountability everyone, whatever illegal he does, thinks it as his right. It is a sort of deluge which is weakening democracy to its roots and posing a great threat.
Lack of accountability coupled with a crisis of governance is posing a challenge to the smooth running of the system. Pakistan is facing a constant dilemma of poor governance. It has generated mistrust and has undermined the proficient and transparent delivery of public services and the implementation of programs in an efficient manner. Poverty has been growing in the country at an alarming level and in just the last three years of democratic regime, it has reached 40 per cent from 17.13 per cent in 2008. Owing to increasing poverty, people find themselves challenged even to procure basic staples such as flour and pulses. Pakistan’s level of human development is low and its education indicators are the worst in South Asia. Despite having huge natural resources, our country has entered into a stagflation, which is the worst-ever scenario. Investment is rapidly flying from Pakistan due to the unfavourable economic environment in the country which is not a good omen for democracy.
Finally, Pakistan’s tarnished image across the world as a true democratic polity is not less than a threat in itself. Above all the military and quasi-military rule strangled the democratic rule in the country. The World Bank and other financial institutions have persistently laid sanctions upon Pakistan. These financial penalties and restraints upon trade are the outcome of weedy democratic in the past and frequent military coups.
To conclude, it can be said that democracy doesn’t just spring out of thin air, it is a gradual process taking decades, sometimes centuries. Our leaders must realize the importance of democracy and must respect the power delegated to them through vote. Though democracy is facing multi-dimensional threats yet they can be tackled efficiently if will is there. Our leaders must shun their vested interests and join hands to fight against all the anti-political forces. They must coordinate and utilize public power in the right direction to create awareness. All the institutions must work in conformity with each other to strengthen democracy. All the contentious issues between provinces and centres must be resolved on priority basis. Good governance must be ensured to encourage democracy. Democracy can be bolstered by competent leadership who realizes and understands the real cause of failed democracy in Pakistan. The government should furnish a worthy foreign policy and shall clearly define its level of interaction and cooperation with the world. If we have to survive as a nation, we all should make collective efforts to nurture the feeble plant of democracy into a fruit and shelter giving plant.
Dr. Abdus Sattar Abbasi Probably the most important challenge for Pakistan is the global misperceptionRead More