Pakistan: The Shoddy Democracy

Pakistan Democracy
A Pakistani man walks with Pakistan Flag/ Image: GETTY

Democracy has been as much a catch cry in Pakistan since its creation and more intensely since the despotism of GEN Ayub khan as in most other parts of the world. Whatever their grade of allegiance to it, every leader has adopted the vocabulary of democracy as a useful means of professing political legitimation and branding their jurisdiction popular. Majority of them have pointed to the existence of some forms of popular representation and ‘electoral legitimacy’ to vindicate their avow to popular sovereignty and ultimately a democratic system of governance.

This absolutism has been instrumental in perpetuating a serious rift between the ruling elites and ordinary citizens, with the later bolted in a continued syndrome of alienation in correlation to public authorities. It has also dispensed the critical nexus between the domestic and international critics of regimes. The problem has produced serious consequences in terms of relations between state and society and for human development and stems from a set of complex, reticulate factors.

Regimes in Pakistan have constantly come under domestic and external pressure, especially from the West. Close scrutiny divulges that the claim to democratic credentials has been purely rhetorical and nugatory of material assembling even the minimal criteria of democratic trustworthiness. When provoked to promote democratic reforms, a majority of leaderships have done so on a highly selective and exclusive basis, and within agenda configuration which have not substantially affected their personal or family or elite powers. They have conveniently delineated the reforms in such a way as to produce nothing more than a system that may be termed “democratic” in form but authoritarian in content.

Liaqat Ali Khan’s Assassination reports in U.S. Newspapersin American

Democracy was doomed when Liaqat Ali Khan, the first elected prime minister was shot at a public gathering. From there onwards, the balance of power shifted in the hands of the military. Unsurprisingly, our neighbour country India had only one Prime Minister and several army chiefs from 1951-1957, whilst we had only one army chief and several Prime Ministers. This truly was a raid on democracy. From Field Marshal Ayub Khan to GEN Pervez Musharraf, the military rulers ruined the political structure of the country benefiting only the elite class.

Feudalism is one of the key factors responsible for the weakness of political structure in Pakistan and the supremacy of bureaucracy. The landed aristocracy has always dominated the politics of the country. These aristocrats and the feudal sardars (leaders) have neglected the development in their areas, especially the rural areas. In this rudderless state or the land of pure has been plundered in every possible way by every individual where possible.

The failure of Pakistan’s democratic rulers is evident from the fact that no agrarian reforms have ever been introduced to abolish feudalism. National oppression continues as a festering wound on the body politic of this country. The task of the formation of a modern nation-state is far from being achieved. Issues of electricity shortfall, floods and terrorist activities every now and then have only made things worse. A famous American educational philosopher Robert Maynard Hutchins rightly said “The death of democracy is not likely to be an assassination from ambush. It will be a slow extinction from apathy, indifference, and undernourishment.” The way Pakistani democracy has been abolished speaks of the wordings of Hutchins.

Pakistan’s Parliament Building/ Image: Pakistan Today

We have murdered its essence and kept its forlorn form for an exhibition. Creation of Greeks, nurtured by Brits and spread all over the world as final panacea democracy had its heyday all over the world after WW-II is now becoming a pariah in many of the kingdoms it once regained. Democracy, both as an ideal perfected over millennia in the hearts of philosophers and as a system realised by sacrifices of millions of ordinary, forgettable mortals is imperilled in our age. A bad press coupled with mass disenchantment among folks who thought of it as a tool of economic prosperity that failed to deliver rather than a mode to politically govern their lot has relegated its splendid past track record to the ash heap of history.

Democracy is a word only used in a dictionary in Pakistan. We have learnt nothing from our history. The blunders that we did in past are being repeated time and again. I am very much afraid that history will never forgive us if we don’t learn from our mistakes. A famous saying, which goes like this “ those who don’t have their history are destined to repeat it”. History has been repeated many times by the dictators in one way or the other. The faces were different but their way of rendering the things was the same. The did blunders, they did sedition, but they are above the law. Their attitude reminds the famous king of France Louis XIV. He used to say “I am the state”. These generals are above the law and they feel no regret in doing harm to the country and to the cause of 22 crores (220 Million) people.

Talking of the prevailing situation, the judiciary has taken over to upset the civilian rule. making unreasonable demands that the government send the President to swiss justice. Strange, Aafia was sentenced in the USA for 80 years and millions of people are demanding that she be handed over to Pakistan, although she posses US passport, the president of Pakistan left to justice in Switzerland. But Pakistan being Pakistan, keep your worries away.

However, the only forward is only of a pure democracy. A democracy which was very beautifully defined by Abraham Lincoln “the government of the people, for the people and by the people”. How can we bring justice and meritocracy in Pakistan? The very simple and limpid answer is that there should be a system of check and balance for all the citizens regardless of their ethnicity, caste, creed and colour.

Secondly, a system of good governance and the rule of law can pave the way for democracy. The military should limit its self to the borders. They should not be allowed to interfere in the politics of the country. Military men should teach us how to fight, not politics. Moreover, we want to usher in peace, democracy, and prosperity. Give us a utopian Pakistan, give us the Pakistan of Jinnah, give us the Pakistan where every person could live according to his desire.  To fairly conclude the article I would like to add these lines, “Long live Democracy, Curse on Dictatorship”.

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The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Kootneeti Team

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Hidayat ullah

Hidayat Ullah is a History undergrad student at Quaid e Azam University, Islamabad. He can be reached at

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