Democracy in Pakistan

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Pakistan had no worthwhile civil society and hardly any middle class in 1947 due to rampant illiteracy and absence of an independent media. The masses were poor, the country was described an “economic desert” and there was an unprecedented influx of refugees. The country lacked the necessary infrastructure and institutions. The capability to develop them was lacking. The external and internal threats to the security of the country turned it into a security state. Weak political leadership created space for civil-military bureaucracy. This led to the cut-off periods in democratic governance, which was derailed thrice in 1958, 1977 and 1999. At present, the country is partially developed, the middle class is growing and civil society is assertive; a vibrant media has come up, and majority of the population is literate. There is an overall urge for peace. The people have demonstrated their preference for constitutional government and the rule of law, and to have an independent judiciary to strengthen democratic governance.

Democratic governance implies a system of government in which all the people of a country can vote to elect their representatives, who in turn govern the country in the light of the mandate given to them by the people. Pakistan and India emerged as independent democratic nation-states in August 1947, inheriting the same constitution (i.e., Government of India Act 1935), the same system of civil administration, legal apparatus and the armed forces. But unlike India, the governance in Pakistan has been alternating between civilian democratic governments and military-dominated autocratic or partially democratic governments.1 After several pitfalls, Pakistan has reached a stage where it seems that the people of Pakistan, its vibrant middle class, the civil society, the intelligentsia and the media are convinced that the supremacy of the constitution, strengthening of state institutions, independence of judiciary, and the rule of law are necessary if Pakistan is to become a modern democratic state. Currently, a democratically elected government is keen to strengthen such a system.

Initial Difficulties Obstructing Democratic Governance There are a number of factors responsible for initial setbacks to democratic governance in Pakistan. For instance:

Ramshackle Infrastructure
Initially Pakistan was lacking in the necessary infrastructure. For instance, it had no federal government, no secretariat, and no State central bank. “Militarily the country was defenceless and Indian policies were calculated to stifle the new state.”2 It had to start from a scratch. Due to extreme level of illiteracy3 the capability to develop the infrastructure was also limited. The country needed time to build and nurture the state institutions which could sustain democratic governance.

Leadership Void
Quaid-i-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah, the father of the nation and the first Governor-General, died just one year after the establishment of Pakistan on September 11, 1948 and his right hand lieutenant Liaquat Ali Khan, who was the first Prime Minister, was assassinated on October 16, 1951. About the capability of other leaders of Pakistan Muslim League (PML), the party which had successfully piloted the movement for Pakistan, Jinnah had ruefully remarked that “he had false coins in his pocket”.4 Consequently, several ministers appointed initially were not politicians and did not have a seat in the Assembly.5 Similarly, in 1954, there were several members of Prime Minister’s cabinet without a seat in the Parliament. “The cabinet and other high political appointments reflected a paucity of talent among the politicians.

Unprecedented Migration and Settlement of Refugees
Due to the partition of the Punjab, where most of the ex-servicemen and war veterans lived, communal riots erupted into a carnage causing an unprecedented refugee...
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