Farah Adeed |
Interesting to see that a second consecutive democratic government has managed to complete its tenure in Pakistan. The whole country is happy to witness a peaceful transfer of power—a caretaker setup has been established to do it formally. But the term ‘democratic government’ in this specific context has narrowly been used to describe a government which was elected by the people. Generally, the term democratic government refers to a government elected by the people which ensure the welfare of citizens, uplifts the lives of masses, and protects all civil liberties of the citizens regardless of their gender, race, religious or ethnic belongings.
A democratic government is expected to be based upon the ideals of constitutionalism, meritocracy, and political pluralism. In other words, a government should have above-mentioned ingredients to be treated as a democratic government. But the case of Pakistan is slightly different. Democracy could not have been established since the inception of the country in 1947. Different structuralist, institutionalist and agency-centred arguments have been established to explain Pakistan’s democratic failure.
This is alarming and dangerous for the political process of Pakistan where there are different actors to disrupt it and come in to fill the vacuum.
As a matter of fact, Pakistan’s failure to establish a genuinely representative democracy can be attributed to a number of things; feudalism, military’s intervention in politics and civilians’ failure to work independently to ensure democracy in the country.
Since 2008 in Pakistan, we have witnessed civilian governments that have successfully completed their respective tenures. This is a welcome-trend. But is it sufficient?
Read more: Is Democracy merely rule of the majority?
A democracy which has no basic democratic ideals in practice can technically not be a democracy. In Political Science literature, a term Competitive Authoritarianism has been coined to describe systems which have democratic outlooks but not the democratic spirit. In a competitive authoritarianism elections are held but not fairly, media is present but is not independent while citizens can speak but cannot cross red linen.
Pakistan is an interesting democracy where the Supreme Court has just suspended the order of the Lahore High Court regarding nomination forms. The LHC has ordered to include some information deleted by a parliamentary committee. The SC feared that it would cause a delay in the elections, therefore, the decision of the LHC needed to be overturned, the SC observed.
It is interesting to note that what was missing in the forms. According to new forms, the candidates are not required to mention the following information in their nomination forms:
- Educational qualifications of the candidate
- Current occupation/job/profession/business of the candidate
- Dual nationality, if any
- National Tax Number/Income tax returns/ and payment of income tax
- Agriculture tax returns and payment of agriculture tax
- Criminal record, if any
- Assets and liabilities of dependents
- Declaration pertaining to election expenses
- Declaration pertaining to any default in loan or government dues by dependents
- A declaration that the candidate will abide by the code of conduct issued by ECP
In any developed or developing democracy such information is key to determine the credibility of the person who decides to contest elections. The citizens have a democratic right to be provided with this information to make ‘informed decisions’. The most interesting point is that even a candidate is not supposed to mention his/her ‘criminal record’ at the time of submission of his/her nomination forms.
Generally, the term democratic government refers to a government elected by the people which ensure the welfare of citizens, uplifts the lives of masses, and protects all civil liberties of the citizens regardless of their gender, race, religious or ethnic belongings.
The SC’s decision to let it happen to ensure elections in time is an intentional or unintentional act to weaken Pakistani democracy. How can Pakistan even claim to be a democracy where the candidates are not to declare what has been mentioned just above? Does this happen in any democracy of the world?
Justice Ayesha Malik of the LHC had given a well-thought, well-written and well-reasoned judgment on the matter to ensure the presence of ‘democratic spirit’ in Pakistan’s soulless fluctuating democracy. The DG legal of the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) had also assured that the ECP will ensure the changes immediately without delaying the general elections.
Read more: Analyzing the dynamics of institutional imbalance in Pakistan
The SC’s decision to ensure democratic process at the cost of the democratic spirit is not something very appreciable for the growth and development of democracy in Pakistan. The path has been paved for the election of corrupt, dual nationals and criminals to enter into the Parliament. This is alarming and dangerous for the political process of Pakistan where there are different actors to disrupt it and come in to fill the vacuum.
Pakistan can hardly be counted as a democracy when evaluated on the principles of democracy mentioned above. But Pakistan can ensure a genuine democracy if it continues to follow the democratic procedures while inducing democratic spirit. So, hold on, Hon’ble Chief Justice!
Farah Adeed is a Senior Research Analyst in GVS. The views expressed in this article are author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Global Village Space’s Editorial Policy.