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Why democracy fails in Pakistan

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In the words of US President Abraham Lincoln: ‘Democracy is the government of the people, by the people, for the people’. Historically, democracy was introduced in ancient Greece, but it remained dormant for centuries. Subsequently, due to age of enlightenment, revolutions, fall of monarchies and the end of colonialism; revived the concept of the democracy.Democracy is successful because of its inclusive nature. Likewise,Pakistan also came into being after huge democratic struggle and sacrifices.
Founding fathers of Pakistan were dreaming for a democratic state, but unfortunately, soon after its inception in 1947 democracy remained in limbo. Undemocratic forces soon invaded this country throughsuccessful military coups and ruled this country with iron hand. Military take over yielded many hurdles which were again barriers for democratic norms. Nevertheless, issues are many so it is not plausible to delineate allminutiae in a singlearticle. So, here are few debacles which were engendered by long-lasting military rule.
Surprisingly, military rule remained for 37-years. It is worth mentioning that, there were also many unsuccessful coups (1951, 1980, 1984 and 1995). Furthermore,these military regimes had no political power so they relied upon state institutions, turncoat politicians, sectarian leaders and many others. This again paved path for nondemocratic powers to prevail. Dictators, when they were in power have also harassed politicians. For instance, Gen. Ayub disqualified thousands of politicians, just to crush his political opponents. Likewise, Gen. Zia hanged the incumbent PM; other politicians were also harassed in one way or another. To add insult to the injury, elections of 1984 were also held on nonparty basis which dented political parties and political leadership. Gen. Musharraf, also clipped wings of the politicians -who were in power before the coup – when he overthrew the government in 1999. Subsequently, he created a King’s Party (PML-Q) by luring politicians to join it and in some cases harassment was used as a technique to join this party. National Accountability Bureau was unleashed to curb political opponents. So retrospectively, all these instances have created leadership void and Pakistani politics was unable to engender an all encompassing democratic leadership or any nationwide political party.
Furthermore, sectarian politics has also dented Pakistan’s democracy. Since Pakistan is a religiously diverse country, so, there are many religious differences; sectarian parties exploit these issues. Leadership crisis paved path for these parties to prevail. One of the basic demerits of sectarian politics is that they only think for their respective sects not for the population at large. Demagogues in these parties flare sectarian hatred towards others which again polarises the society. These sectarian parties have no election manifestos or any vision – just myopic sectarian interests.Again this is contrary to Jinnah’s vision of a united and all-inclusive Pakistan.
Another major issue in Pakistan’s politics is ethno-centric politics and regionalism. Subsequent military rule and colonisationhas created a yawning gap, which was filled by those politicians who were ethno-centric and regionalists. Their politics was limited to a certain ethnic group or region. Moreover, they have exploited those loopholes which were caused due to negligence of the subsequent regimes. Ethnicity is the only thing to lose or win an election in Pakistan, because it has deep roots within society. Surprisingly, those politicians who were limited to regional and ethnic politics joined hands with dictators when they usurped the power. And it was also very beneficial for dictators who had no political basis,except to rely upon such politicians.
Another, issue with Pakistan’s political power is that it is engulfed by feudal elites (i.e. South Punjab, Interior Sindh,Balochistan). Feudal elites have controlled a major portion of Pakistan. Feudalism and democracy can not go hand in hand because they are complete opposite. Democracy’s basic features are inclusiveness and socio-economicequality of the masses but feudalism extracts power into few hands. Due to absence of true democracy and long-lasting dictatorship feudalism was nurtured. Another harsh reality is that there are so-called democratic parties who also rely upon feudal lords to win elections and gain power. Feudal lords have kept the masses in abject poverty; away from education; away from power;away from decision-making.
Likewise, another barrier for Pakistan’s democracy is dynastic politics. There are many dynasticpoliticians in Pakistan; their main reason for being in politics is not their own struggle or any otherspecial skill ,but their luck. They are lucky, because they were born into a political family. They rule the country like monarchs (i.e. children after children). Furthermore, their party members also obey these royal children without thinking critically about anything. No where in developed world children after children rule a country.
Pakistan is unfortunate to have dynastic leaders, whose only quality is their kinship and bloodline. Moreover, due to these dynastic politicianstrue leaders who should be at the helm of country’s affairs remain dormant. It is not plausible to have much more qualified leaders in a country whosepopulation is 220 million (5th largest);than these handful dynastic politicians.
In a nutshell, there are multiple factors which are impeding democratic process in Pakistan. In the words of Rousseau: “Man is born free, but everywhere he is in chains”. So, Pakistan and democracy both are enchained by:Dictatorship, sectarian politics, ethnocentric politics, regionalism, feudalistic politics and most importantly by dynastic politics. There is a dire need of changing the status quo. Otherwise, there will be no true democracyin this country – only pseudo democracy.