Abdul Rehman Nawaz Bajwa
The Decline of Democracy in Pakistan
Updated: Jun 19, 2021
Author: Abdul Rehman Nawaz | The Author is a first year Law Student at Government College University, Faisalabad| Punjab, Pakistan
Co Authored by: Adv. Ahsin Ali- L.L.B. (Hon's), L.L.M.
‘’Of what good is democracy if it is not for the poor?’’ - Ferdinand Marcos
From the time of independence, Pakistan has experienced different forms of government such as the Parliamentary form of government, Presidential systems, martial law, as well as Democracy. According to the 10th edition of The Economist Intelligence Unit's Democracy Index, “Pakistan has witnessed a consistent decline in democratic health as the country’s score kept declining after 2014 when incidentally a sit-in was staged outside the Pakistani Parliament for over four months”.
The process of democratization has been slow and passive in the country and its nature has remained fragile from the time of Pakistan’s inception. For a long time, Democracy has been widely accepted as the best form of government which is why the leaders of Pakistan emphasized a democratic form of government.
Free and fair elections are a major component of representative democracy yet election manipulation has been demonstrated in the form of political victimization, stuffed ballot boxes,
and intimidation of polling staff, pressurizing masses, use of state assets, and violating the rule of the Election Commission set for the election.
‘’Republics declines into democracies and democracies degenerate into Despotisms.’’ - Aristotle
The failure of bureaucratic regimes had created the space for the army which was more organized than civilian bureaucracies to intervene in the political domain of the country. The formal involvement of the army in civilian matters begun from the martial law in Lahore in the year 1953 to control the riots between Ahmedis and Sunnies.
Dictatorship ruled the country from 1958 to 2008. All four military regimes have remained characterized with impositions of Martial Law, ban on political parties, censorship on media, dissolution of assemblies, and abrogation or suspension of constitutions. Thus, they destroyed political institutions and frustrated the media.
Democracy in Pakistan is lacking its true essence due to the unawareness of the people about the form of democracy in Pakistan. One of the reasons for the lack of reforms in the absence of public pressure on the leadership. And that is mainly because the democracy debate in Pakistan is confusing.
Much of the confusion centers on democracy’s meaning and purpose. Throughout Pakistan’s political history, defection within various parties had created problems for various governments.
In the late 1980s, democracy was again at the crossroads in Pakistan after the demise of General Zia due to natural calamity. Prime Ministers Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif also failed comprehensively. Four General elections in the 1990s brought each of them twice to power. They did not seem interested in developing the democratic norms in the country. Neither respected constraints on the use of power rather they trimmed and amended the constitution for their personal convenience. Their behavior brought ruin to the democracy. It also brought the military back to power.
Thus, in conclusion, we see that the main causes of the decline of democracy in Pakistan have been the lack of regard for the country’s constitution and the misuse of powers. The country’s constitution has been ignored and tampered with time and again. Deviation from the constitution had been the main reason why democracy could not flourish and thrive in the country.