Authoritarianism in Pakistan

Topics: Pakistan, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, Benazir Bhutto Pages: 14 (5276 words) Published: March 6, 2013
Authoritarianism in Pakistan

Bilal Ahmed3/2/2013

Authoritarianism in Pakistan
Pakistan has remained under both de facto and de jure authoritarian rule for the most part of its existence. It has led to a weakening of institutions, including the media, which is harmful from the perspective of the country’s evolution as a true democracy. It is because of this menace that the country is still struggling to function as a state. Political instability, economic deprivation and terrorism can be laid at the door of this deficiency in our system. Whether Pakistan acquired this authoritarian steak after independence because of the weaknesses of its political parties, mainly the founder of Pakistan, Muslim League, or the vice is rooted in the pre-independence mindset and factors are an enlightened debate. Using an analytical method of inquiry, this article attempts to trace the roots of authoritarianism in Pakistan by using the data in the form of books available on the subject. Authoritarianism is a malaise that has tainted Pakistani politics since time immemorial. Authoritarian rule has also affected media freedom in the country, with negative effect on democracy. The state of the media in Pakistan after independence can vouchsafe for this fact. There are innumerable reasons for this but to understand the phenomenon of political authoritarianism in South Asia, particularly Pakistan; one has to trace its roots to the pre-partition era of Indian Subcontinent. From great Mauryan ruler Asoka to the Mughals, all rulers have practiced authoritarianism in one way or the other. The British were no different. They practiced their own set of authoritarianism. “In the Indian Subcontinent, the whole concept of the power of the monarch differed from that of European feudalism, in which the king had authority over all persons and things in his domain. This authority was delegated to the lords and the barons who vowed allegiance to him. Thus, the hierarchy of authority was built up. Both the lands and the people connected with it belonged to the feudal lord and through him to the king. This was a development of the Roman concept of the dominion. In India, the king had the right to collect certain taxes from the land, and this revenue collecting power was delegated to others. With disastrous results, the British broke up the traditional village communes known as Panchayats and introduced oppressive feudalism.”2 Feudalism in itself is a form of authoritarianism. “In delimiting a formal sphere of politics, the British colonial system aimed at reconsolidating its authority and placing the networks of social collaboration and control on a firmer footing. Both Pakistan and India inherited the colonial legacy of authoritarianism. It was quite evident in the political system of both newborn countries. Immediately after independence in India, “the rule of law was ever bent to sub serve either executive action in the administration or the will of dominant elements of society. Whereas India made an effort to democratize itself – and has been quite successful – Pakistan failed to make a viable transition to democratic rule after emerging from the debris of British colonialism. The colonial state was quickly replaced by authoritarian rulers, whether civilian or military. This was because the Muslim elite of Pakistan comprised of opportunists who only joined the Pakistan Movement after it was apparent that a new Muslim state was going to emerge soon. The founder of Pakistan, Jinnah himself has been accused of being authoritarian. “Notwithstanding the differential administrative legacies, both India and Pakistan drew heavily on the colonial state’s methods of bureaucratic control and centralization [after partition]. The government of India act of 1935, strengthening the very bureaucratic ‘steel frame’ of the British raj that had been the bête noire of Indian nationalists, was adapted to serve as the...
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