State of democracy in Pakistan

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The report is in – and it doesn’t look good

 

The first ever transition from one elected government to another in 2013 was seen as a landmark in Pakistan’s political history. The process of consolidation of democracy however, continues to be not only slow, but marked by roadblocks and twists and turns. Pakistan still remains a formal democracy with serious drawbacks that make it fragile.

 

Most of the systematic shortcomings are widely known. What the PILDAT Report does is to demonstrate them with facts, figures and percentages.

 

The performance of the legislative bodies, both federal and provincial, remains uninspiring. With Nawaz Sharif and Imran Khan rarely putting up an appearance in NA, the proceedings of the Lower House continue to be marked by low attendance. This has encouraged the tendency in certain parliamentary parties to seek the support of street power to get their demands accepted. The NA has failed to develop a code of conduct for its members while the Speaker has failed to assert himself. Thus low attendance remains unchecked leading to a decline in parliamentarians’ involvement in policy making. The failure to evolve an effective conduct has led to Panama-gate. What should have been NA’s task has been handed over to the SC.

 

The working of the government is marked by a consistent lack of institutionalised decision making leading to poor performance by federal and provincial governments. While the cabinet is required to meet at least 52 times in a year, it met only 6 times in 2016. The SC had to intervene to tell the PM to get policy decisions passed from the cabinet.

 

The mainstream parties continue to shun genuine intraparty polls required to make the parties function democratically. The PML-N Intraparty elections were more of a mechanised ritual while PTI canceled its intraparty elections. Lack of internal democracy within parties has stopped the growth of alternate leadership and the party leaders remain under the shadow of certain individuals or families controlling the PML-N, PPP and PTI.

 

Unless Pakistan develops a vibrant democracy the system will remain under constant threat from powers that wait in the wings.