Challenges to Democracy in Pakistan

By Saleem Qamar Butt
Ever since inception, democracy in Pakistan appears to have been quite fragile and challenged by authoritarian preference, either by overzealous establishment or by public demand when fed up with corruption, lawlessness and host of other disappointments from democratically elected governments. However, in the global context, somewhat similar phenomenon has been observed in the recent past but for some different reasons.
Over the past decade, many marginally democratic countries have gradually become increasingly authoritarian; and chauvinistic populist movements have grown strong enough to threaten democracy’s long-term health in several rich, established democracies, including France, Germany, the Netherlands, Sweden, the United Kingdom, and the United States. The immediate cause of rising support for xenophobic populist movements is a reaction against immigration and rising racial equality. That reaction has been intensified by the rapid cultural change and declining job security experienced by many in the developed world. Cultural and demographic shifts are making older voters feel as though they no longer live in the country where they were born. And high-income countries are adopting job-replacing technology, such as artificial intelligence, that has the potential to make people richer and healthier but also tends to result in a winner-take-all economy. However, on the positive note, despite many setbacks, net result has been an increasing number of democracies, from a bare handful in the nineteenth century to about 90 today. The bad news is that the world is experiencing the most severe democratic setback since the rise of fascism in the 1930s.
Over the past two centuries, the spread of democracy has been driven by the forces of modernization. The industrial revolution created many new job opportunities, better economies, greater urbanization, enhanced civic services, freedom of expression, racial equality, physical security and above all availability of non-violent ways to replace country’s leaders/ governments through evolved democratic systems as per the culture and history of different countries. Needless to say that better education, greater knowledge base and developed civic sense of people has throughout kept the democratic systems under due check and balance for sustainability in developed countries; however, that is not the case with developing or under developed countries. As for Pakistan, absence of land reforms, colonial legacies, lopsided education system, sluggish judiciary, and most of the national wealth revolving in few filthy rich hands has helped the corrupt mafias to keep people of Pakistan largely uneducated, ill informed, misled, and deprived of basic human facilities on the one hand; however, most ironically, misusing the name of democracy for keeping themselves in power by exploiting poverty and ignorance.  Although, military rule in Pakistan remains much criticized, nevertheless even in so called dictatorship period, same political elite remained in power by putting to play their chameleonic characteristics. The clergy further adds to confusion by demanding an imaginary Islamic system of government without much to offer either in the religious domain or in the political system. When it comes to rampant corruption, elite of all shades act as one team.
Democracy has a major advantage over other political systems: it provides a nonviolent way to replace a country’s leaders. Democratic institutions do not guarantee that the people will elect wise and benevolent rulers, but they do provide a regular and nonviolent way to replace unwise and malevolent ones. Nondemocratic leadership successions can be costly and bloody. And since democracy enables people to choose their leaders, it reduces the need for repressive rule. Both these advantages have helped democracy survive and spread. However, people of Pakistan remain confused when time and again they are offered the same families and faces to choose from even when they know that the candidates offered by the given system only allows filthy rich same corrupted elite to get elected. Consequently, while praying for getting blessed with leaders like Muhammad Ali Jinnah, Liaqat Ali Khan, Dr. Mahathir Muhammad of Malaysia, and President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey, desperate people of Pakistan are forced to elect mostly unwanted known corrupt and immoral people. That begs the question; will our electoral system ever allow Pakistani people to find the desired leadership? Quite obviously the answer is no. In a country like Pakistan, since chances of a revolution like Iran appears bleak and evolution process may be a painfully long and distant dream, Pakistan’s Judiciary and Military remain the only hope to introduce meaningful electoral reforms in line with deeply analyzed electoral systems in place in USA and many other developed European countries and modern Muslim countries like Turkey and Malaysia; which ensures election of honest, capable and sincere common Pakistani thoroughbred to govern the motherland and get rid of shackles of repeatedly tried ruling elite whose corruption is unmatched on planet earth.
Writer of this article Brigadier (R) Saleem Qamar Butt, SI (M) is a student of International Relations, Defence and Warfare Studies with expertise in Executive Management, Military & Intelligence Diplomacy, Strategic Analyses and Forecast.

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The views and opinions expressed in this article/Opinion/Comment are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the Dispatch News Desk (DND). Assumptions made within the analysis are not reflective of the position of Dispatch News Desk.

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