Thesis statement Due to the continuous political instability and recurring military interventions in decision making, Pakistan is far from witnessing a healthy and democratic political system in the near future. Introduction On the international scene, states have been struggling to obtain their independence and sovereignty. But the biggest threat that arises after accomplishing independence is the way the government rules, the standards it follows and the goals it sets. This is when a new journey begins where the government searches for the best system that suits the country and satisfies the different sections of its population.
Most of the states adopt democracy to be the dominant process in politics. But each state has its own definition for democracy or applies democracy in its own way. One of the states that still struggle today to find its own peace and stability is Pakistan, which was site for different cultures . Historically, Pakistan encountered waves of conquerors that resided in the region, and who influenced the residents of that area and were also absorbed among them, till the independence of Pakistan that was established on August 14, 1947 .
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This paper will be studying the development of democracy in Pakistan, highlighting the major historical events the state has undergone, starting with the instability the country has and is still witnessing, moving to the succession of different leaders and their attempts to modify the state to suit their interests and stressing on the existence and evolution of democracy and its role in shaping the country internally and internationally. Political instability in Pakistan and the succession of different leaders
Ever since Pakistan took its independence, stability was never the case of the state. Martial Law prevailed for long periods in Pakistan during instable situations. This system takes place whenever the military takes control over the state and it diminishes the rights of the citizens and poses severe and harsh punishments or penalties than ordinary law . This law is enforced in Pakistan after a coup d’etat and poses a threat for the freedoms of citizens and to democracy as well.
During the instable history of Pakistan, different parties were fighting for power and elections were rarely the adopted solutions to solve the conflict. For example, whenever tensions increased between the government and opposition, the president would declare the abrogation of the constitution and a situation of emergency would govern the country; ministers would be considered dismissed, assemblies dissolved and political activities banned : under such circumstances, in 1958 General Ayub Khan ousted President Iskandar Mirza.
Another example that shows the absence of a democratic and fair electoral system in Pakistan where people could choose their representatives is when in 1977 Zulkifar Ali Bhutto moved forward the elections in order to prevent the opposition from making the necessary arrangements and preparing themselves to participate in the forthcoming elections . This is when nine important parties formed a coalition under the name of Pakistan National Alliance (P. N. A. ) and the alliance started enjoying wide popular support.
But the elections shocked everyone when Bhutto’s party won most of the seats and there were reports circulating that armed members of the Pakistan Peoples Party (P. P. P. , or the party supporting Bhutto) removed ballot boxes in addition to marking ballot papers during the elections. When we talk about elections, we expect that the succession of power from a political leader to another will take place smoothly and fairly especially under the conditions of clean and well arranged elections during which each citizen would be allowed to choose freely his representative in the government to be.
But in Pakistan, things are run differently and ousting the president and taking over by force has been a common trend adopted by different political leaders or Generals. Under General Zia-Ul-Hak Different leaders have marked Pakistan and influenced its politics and democracy. General Zia-ul-Haq took over on July 5, 1977 and he started a new process of Islamization because he wanted to make Pakistan a “citadel of Islam” where he could be allowed to play a respectable and prominent role not only for his own state but to the entirety of the Islamic world .
In his first statement to the nation, General Zia announced that he will enforce Islamic laws and his deep attention would be focused on establishing an “Islamic society for which Pakistan was created” . He wanted to bring the social, legal, economic and political institutions of the country in conformity with the Islamic teachings, values, customs and principles in order to make it possible for the people of Pakistan to live their lives in compliance with Islam .
He started by creating an Islamic Parliament to be the Pakistani parliament instead of the General Assembly, in addition to imposing other islamization programs such as making the teachings of Islamic studies and Arabic compulsory He eradicated non Islamic practices and he helped needy people through a welfare program called “Zakat” except for the Shiites who did not benefit from any help due to their own and different religious beliefs .
Eventually, the number of mosques increased in Pakistan and for the first time punishments by the Holy Koran we applied on the use of liquor and theft… starting from prison and in some cases reaching death penalty by stoning . The Islamic rules of Zia also included women. In legal matters, two women would have to testify against the testimony of one man, meaning that the status of women was cut into half . The discrimination of women under Zia’s rule increased; for example in case of a rape, four witnesses should be provided or else the rape would be reported as adultery and thus a woman could be whipped if the act was seen as adultery .
This type of ruling is certainly far from democracy. Even if a certain religion was imposed to be the formal religion of the state, other or different people should not be banned from practicing their own religious beliefs. Furthermore, women should definitely be seen and treated as equal to men. The idea of considering women to be inferior and less important than men and treating them according to that basis shows that the state is not headed towards democracy but still separates between its people. The rule of Zia shows that the difference in treating people and preventing them from doing what they want does not promote democracy.
His rule of a sort of dictatorship over his population and they had to follow the rules in order to escape the harsh consequences and punishments. General Zia didn’t want to leave power and in order to achieve his goal; he initiated the referendum of 1984 asking his population whether they wish Pakistan to be an Islamic state. But the issue was that the question was asked in a very complicated way, especially for those uneducated rural people; it was a loaded question and affirmative answer would result in a five year term for General Zia as the president of Pakistan .
The referendum was held in December 19, 1984 and the results of this referendum showed that people voted for Zia even though some claimed that only a very small of the population showed up for voting, but Zia didn’t accept the claim and he announced that he had been chosen by the people for the next five years . President Zia was killed in a catastrophic air crash in August 1988; as his military aircraft exploded minutes after its takeoff and none of the passengers abroad survived . This event was exceptional in Pakistan’s history and the crash was never known and the report explaining it was never published publicly .
The 1988 elections Moving forward in the history of Pakistan, the elections of 1988 brought new Pakistani political figures into the government. In 1988, the first open election in more than a decade the Pakistan Peoples Party showed a clear majority and won the elections and won the largest number of seats in the National Assembly without forming any alliance . Since the elections of 1988 were open for the first time in the history of Pakistan, the elections were thought to be democratic.
But due to the dominant military presence in Pakistan and its interference in the policy making of the state elections were always controlled and manipulated. With the winning of the PPP, Bhutto became the Prime Minister of a coalition government in Pakistan at the age of 35, becoming the youngest person and the first woman to govern of a Muslim-majority state in modern times . Military comes to power again in 1999 In 1999, the Pakistani military came to power again after ousting the civilian government headed by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif .
After the Prime Minister’s attempt to replace the Army Chief while the latter was in a tour outside the state, the coup started and after couple of days the Army Chief General Pervez Musharraf took over as Chief Executive under the claim that the Army was obliged to take such a step in order to prevent the country form facing “turmoil and uncertainty” . Once again, Pakistan was under a military rule and reforms were decided starting with economic reforms in addition to bringing to justice corrupt politicians as well as bureaucrats and businessmen . Musharraf was directed by the Supreme Court to hold elections within three years .
Musharraf taking over Pakistan in 2001 A new system for local government was adopted after the year 2001when Musharraf ousted president Tarar and became the new president of Pakistan . Musharraf introduced a new system that was supposed to empower the citizens, solve their problems and allow public involvement in decision making . New government system The new system promoted three levels for the Pakistani government: -The District Government: This district was responsible for taking care of the people and the local government for improving governance and the delivered services for the citizens . The Tehsil Government: This administration was assigned to take care of “the functions of administration, finances, and management of the offices of local Government and Rural Development, and numerous other subjects at the regional” and lower levels . -The Union Government: This administration was a body that covers the rural as well as urban areas across the whole district . This body facilitated and coordinated communal development and served in the delivery of municipal services . September 11 and its implications internally September 11 had many implications on Pakistan.
Pakistan became the center of attention especially after the U. S. threatened of carrying out harsh military attacks on Taliban Since Afghanistan borders Pakistan and U. S. military troops needed the Pakistani territories to conduct their attacks, Musharraf made hard but successful efforts to convince the state’s religious and political leaders to maintain an alliance with the U. S, since they were not only against conducting military attacks against Afghanistan from Pakistani territories but were also against attacking a dear neighbor.
Pakistan was facing a critical situation and was not left with much choice but to comply with the U. S. demands, especially that the U. S. is an old ally and a super power . Gradually, the U. S. was granted the permission to use the Pakistan airspace for U. S. missiles against targets in Afghanistan . The incidence of September 11 was an important point for Pakistan since it initiated the path to democracy in Pakistan. If Musharraf had refused to allow the U. S. use the Pakistani territories, he would have been considered as supporting al Qaeda and the terrorist attacks conducted by that group.
Referendum of 2002 Musharraf kept his word of holding elections within three years of his tenure, and the general elections were scheduled in October 2002 . But before the elections, President Musharraf held a referendum on April 30, 2002 in order to allow him to be elected as the president of Pakistan for the coming five years . The main reason from the 2002 referendum was the willingness of General Musharraf to follow democratic principles and establish legitimacy for his rule especially that there was no provision in the Constitution that allows the election of a president through a referendum .
According to Pervez Musharraf, he wanted to stay in power for the purpose of continuing economic recovery, ensuring social stability and facing unknown destabilizing influences to eventually return to “true democracy” . The referendum took place on April 30, 2002 and there was no competition or any other choice for the citizens but to vote in favor of General Musharraf . Thousands of polling stations were established including booths set up in prisons, hospitals, petrol stations, workplaces, and markets and there were no voters lists used and anyone who could verify his identity and age could vote at any polling station .
The results of this referendum posed a huge question mark to politicians since under the constitution; a referendum is not eligible in choosing a president for the country, only the elected members of the General Assembly can elect the president . The opposing parties argued that not more than 5 percent of the population bothered to vote and consequently General Musharraf does not enjoy popular support . However, the referendum certified the continuation of Musharraf’s rule with his claims of enjoying popular support to continue with his reforms .
Where is democracy heading to in Pakistan? After the assassination of Benazir Bhutto, fear and hostility took over the Pakistani population. Bhutto’s supporters believe that she was shot and the authorities are still unaware of who committed this crime . One actually wonders if there is a little space for democracy especially if politicians solve their conflicts in such a horrible way. General elections in Pakistan were postponed after the assassination of Benazir Bhutto.
These elections of 2007/2008 were not necessarily to promote democracy in Pakistan and limit or end the military interventions in the country’s politics . The huge importance behind these elections was the acknowledgment of Pakistani politicians, civilians and the military that elections must be held on a regular basis and that the ruling class must change through electoral mechanism and not through extra-constitutional means . The real threat that faces the Pakistani government pursuing a democratic system is the question of how to sustain the process of democracy rather than how to attain it .
Through history, the dilemma in Pakistani politics was not a lack of consensus on democracy being the best form of governance but rather the failure of the government in institutionalizing the process of democracy . In fact, Musharraf and Bhutto both think of themselves as being saviors, but the truth is that neither of them is good at sharing power . If political leaders are not aware of the importance of sharing power and having multiple parties involved in decision making, that shows that they are not willing to promote democracy and let the people decide their future.
Since its independence, Pakistan has never been under the rule of a democratic president willing to encourage the free movement of political parties and opposing groups. That shows that Pakistani leaders have never tried to institutionalize democracy fearing the consequences of such a step. Each president in Pakistan has been scared of promoting democracy since it might drive him to loose his political position. Conclusion For some people, democracy is seen as the only solution for the Pakistani iversities. They argue that “there is no substitute to democracy in Pakistani politics and neither will any form of government, which is not democratic in nature, succeed in Pakistan given the nation’s political, linguistic, cultural, ethnic, and religious heterogeneity. Pakistan, as a nation has historically displayed more points of divergence than it has exhibited a sense of purpose in its national politics and this is a reflection of the myriad ideals, which exist in Pakistan “.
But till today, these diversities in Pakistan have proved that they are not willing to cooperate and live together smoothly. Whenever opportunity allows, political leaders would overthrow the opponent leader through a bloody coup d’etat, using violence as the only way to restore their political disagreements. The Pakistani political participants, and that include civilians, political leaders as well as the military, need to understand that democracy is the process of political evolution and not the perfection of the political process itself .
In the Pakistani politics, there exists a wrong perception that democracy itself is an end to the military power, and a containment to the military’s interference in the political life of the state . If Pakistan wants to install democracy in its political system, the first initial step would be to create the necessary infrastructure; that does not mean to suggest the political notion of democracy but rather to impose a new political style honoring the social contract between the Pakistani people and their government, which should be elected according to constitutional legitimacy . Consequently, the only way to ensure the continued existence and evolution of democracy in Pakistan is to create the political, administrative, educational and social institutions, which will have the capacity and ability to nourish and protect the democratic process from the contemporary vicissitudes of Pakistani politics” . In few words, Pakistan is still struggling to find the most suitable ruling system. And democracy in Pakistan has to go through harsh and long path in order to be achieved, especially that the basics needed for establishing democracy are not found and need to be built.
From what the study shows, Pakistan will not witness a true democracy in the near future, because years of corruption could not be swept away easily with a magical stick. But it is important to mention that it is not too late for a democratic system to prevail in Pakistan especially if the different and divergent groups decide to live peacefully, sharing the rule and respecting the constitution. After all, the willingness and readiness of the people to overcome their differences and start a fresh journey together make anything possible. Bibliography “Conspiracy and Democracy in Pakistan”.
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