It’s the election year in Pakistan. The end of another democratically-elected government is here. For a country like Pakistan where democratic development remained hostage to intermittent military coups, and which enjoyed its first-ever peaceful democratic transition only after the last general election held in 2013, the successful completion of another democratic tenure is, undoubtedly, a landmark achievement. But not everyone seems content. And there are reasons for that.
For many sceptics, democratic functioning in Pakistan is essentially flawed. The state of the elected government remained in constant crisis. They point toward the general failure of democracy in Pakistan in ensuring the rule of law, and provision of fundamental rights and facilities to the common citizens. As it has failed to deliver, it is, therefore, no longer valued among the citizens.
The recently-published edition of the Economist Intelligence Unit’s Democracy Index places Pakistan among one the of “hybrid regimes” in the ranking, leaving it down from “flawed democracy”. The Index cites Pakistan as a dangerous place for journalists who face physical and death threats on a regular basis. The white paper further puts that “In Pakistan the law penalises blasphemy and defamation and the authorities have extensive powers to control and censor the media on the grounds of national security. Journalists are at risk from government, military and non-state actors and radical groups, and the threat of violence has a chilling effect on media coverage.”
It is a fact, a grave one actually, that the continuation of democratically-elected governments over the past ten years could not strengthen core governance institutions in the country. In some areas, it has, forcefully or willingly, handed over responsibility to some unelected institutions which being unrepresentative cannot address the demands of a wider populace. In short, Pakistan does not have fully-operational democracy; it’s rather a less democratic country.
In one of his influential books ‘Political Order in Changing Societies’, Samuel P. Huntington argued that “the primary problem of politics is the lag in the development of political institutions behind social and economic change.” According to Huntington, political stability in a demographically and socially evolving community depends upon the capability and workings of political institutions.
In her book ‘Pakistan: Beyond the Crisis State’, Dr Maleeha Lodhi voiced similar concerns about the relative low pace of political development vis-à-vis socioeconomic progress. “Representational and electoral politics,” puts Dr Lodhi, “have remained stuck in an old mode and increasingly lagged behind the social and economic changes that have been altering the country’s political landscape. The economic centre of gravity has been shifting but politics has yet to catch up with its implications.”
Viewed from this Huntingtonian lens and as observed by Dr Lodhi, Pakistan is going through rapid economic and social transformations – from increasing urbanization to growing pace of industries and from expansion in mass communication to rise in automation – creating new demands and expectations among the citizens, but the country lacks required political institutions capable of responding them adequately.
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