Is democracy in Pakistan still under threat?

In 2007, the United Nations General Assembly announced to observe 15 September as the International Day of Democracy—with the aim of promoting and upholding the principles of democracy—and invited all member states and organizations to celebrate the day in an appropriate manner.

Background

In September 1997, the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) adopted a Universal Declaration on Democracy.

That Declaration affirms the principles of democracy, the elements and exercise of democratic government, and the international scope of democracy.

The international conferences on new and restored democracies (ICNRD process) started in 1988 under the initiative of President Corazon C. Aquino of the Philippines after the so-called peaceful “People Power Revolution” overthrew the 20-year dictatorship of Ferdinand Marcos.

At the suggestion of the IPU, 15 September (date of the Universal Declaration on Democracy) was chosen as the day when the world community would commemorate each year the International Day of Democracy.

What is Democracy?

Democracy is a structure of government in which the people have the authority to choose their governing legislation. Today, there are as many various forms of democracy as there are democratic nations around the globe.

There are presidential and parliamentary democracies, democracies that are federal or unitary, democracies that use a proportional voting system, and ones that use a majoritarian system, democracies which are also monarchies, and so on. No systems are exactly the same and no one system can be taken as a “model”.

One thing that unites modern systems of democracy, and which also distinguishes them from the ancient model, is the use of representatives of the people.

Instead of taking part directly in law-making, modern democracies use elections to select representatives who are sent by the people to govern on their behalf.

Such a system is known as representative democracy. It can lay some claim to being “democratic” because it is, at least to some degree, based on the two principles above: equality of all (one person – one vote), and the right of every individual to some degree of personal autonomy.

Democracy in Pakistan  

Democracy in Pakistan generally known as ‘jamhooriat’ is one of the ideologies and systems upon which Pakistan was sought to be established in 1947 as a nation-state, as envisaged by the founding father of the nation, Quaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah.

Pakistan constitutionally is a democratic parliamentary state with its political system based on an elected form of governance.

Although, in past history, there have been deviations from democracy in the form of military coups and political uncertainty in the country.

Newest functioning democracy

Today, Pakistan is one of the newest functioning democracies since 2008, with the democratic elections held in 2013 to complete a five year term for the first time in its political history.

Pakistan’s political structure has two eras’ democracy and dictatorship. Democracy is a political system ruled by the people, either directly or through elected representatives.

While the second is the form of government in which the ruler is an absolute dictator. They are not restricted by laws, constitution and opposition.

Poor institution of politics

Pakistan came into being before 72 years but still, we are not able to develop the best institution of politics in the country. Since independence, we are debating which system is better for Pakistan.

The most difficult challenge for Pakistan is to establish a true democratic system, which could assure its endurance, stability and development.

Unfortunately, the plant of democracy in Pakistan has not taken its roots deep enough to make the country a strong democratic state, regardless of the fact that Pakistan thrived in the soil of democracy.

Future of democracy in Pakistan

Pakistan has seen many ups and downs when it comes to the continuing democratic set-up in the country.

This is generally due to civil-military clash and power politics between different political parties. The balance of civil-military relations have always been subject to discussion in the country.

Military role

In other countries domain of the military generally remains with respect to the security of borders however, in Pakistan military is involved in every aspect of life.

After independence in 1947, Pakistan was established as a parliamentary system based on elected forms of governance. 

These martial laws didn’t give space to democracy to even creep for almost 35 years which is more than half of its history, but now the ball seems to spin as we have seen the last two governments have completed their tenure and handed over power to a third democratic successor.

Need strong democratic institutions

Although the democratic set-up is fragile in the country but given regular struggle by democratic powers and seeing the will of the people in favor of democracy by participating in the electoral process in such a enormous numbers makes it clear that the country demands democracy.

But for a strong democratic set-up, Pakistan needs strong democratic institutions that work under guidelines set by the constitution of the country, any institution which breaks the constitution would be a threat to the future of democracy in Pakistan.

Thus the country needs to make its institutions transparent and make sure meritocracy will support it to establish rule of law.

Moreover, political instability due to inconsistent accountability processes has turned people against democracy besides anti-people economic policy has fuelled the anger of people even more.

Such political instability and economic position certainly affect the national security of the country which is compelling unseen and non-democratic forces to interfere in civil domains like the economy to make sure national security of the country.

For the future of democracy in Pakistan, accountability across the board is need of the hour, which does not apartheid in any class or creed, then political leaders will have to shed their political rivalries and will have to show some patience by not creating obstacles for the functioning of government.

Political forces are required to strengthen and ensure the supremacy of Parliament above all institutions which is still quite a challenge in third world countries.

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