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The twenty first century has seen the rise of authoritarian governments throughout the world. Western countries and West dominated International organizations have always emphasized on the virtues of liberal democracy but the world doesn’t seem to be buying it. The preachers of liberalism were stunned when the USA elected a right wing isolationist candidate as their president. US is considered to be the champion of democracy throughout the world but the election of President Donald Trump highlighted the changing mindset of not only the American, but of the world.
Nationalism is on the rise throughout the world. While it was already present to some extent in the rest of the world, the western examples are the most prominent ones since the west has already been considered as an ideal example of countries living and working in harmony. The United Nations (UN) was formed by the western countries to promote harmony among nations after the World War 2. European Countries united with each other to form the European Union (EU) and some countries in the EU adopted a common currency the Euro, forming the Eurozone.
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However, the whole concept of liberalism, international harmony and peace is under threat as right wing parties are on the rise in almost every European Country. The departure of England from European Union, movement in Catalonia for separation from Spain and Greece’s movement for withdrawal from Eurozone all hint that the idea of liberalism is crumbling . The rise of nationalism can be observed from BJP’s ascend to power in India, Putin’s authoritarian regime in Russia and Erdogan’s government in Turkey.
Recently, Pakistan’s neighbor China passed an amendment to remove the term limits for the President and Vice President, allowing President Xi Jinping to stay in power for life. He is considered to be the most powerful Chinese leader since its founding father Mao Zedong. China is apparently a ‘democracy’ but with its one party system, it cannot be considered a democracy by any definition. China is also Pakistan’s partner in the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC).
External Situation of Pakistan
The 71 year old history of Pakistan has seen four dictators who ruled for a combined 31 years, almost half of the history of Pakistan. The changing political landscape of the world is bound to affect the internal politics of the country. Pakistan has long been under the patronage of US and US dominated monetary institutes but Trump’s presidency has changed the situation. US military aid to Pakistan was banned earlier this year, followed by Pakistan’s placement in FATF grey list.
Fewer stakeholders mean fewer people to negotiate with and quicker decisions.
US is also putting a great amount of pressure on Pakistan to act against the Afghan Taliban, a move that Pakistan’s current economic condition cannot afford. On the other hand, India has increased ceasefire violations along the Pak-India Line of Control (LoC), mounting even more pressure on Pakistan. Right wing politics is also on the rise in neighboring India which has consequently provoked the rightist sentiments within Pakistan and in turn gave rise to further nationalism.
In the present situation of international pressure and isolation, Pakistan has only one way forward to look towards for support and that is China, which is investing more than 62 billion dollars in Pakistan in the form of Foreign Direct Investment (FDI). The rightist, nationalistic and authoritarian government is bound to influence Pakistan and its ideologies. China will also support the right of an autocratic government in Pakistan because it would make the dealings with China smoother since democracy requires pleasing of all stakeholders for any decision. Fewer stakeholders mean fewer people to negotiate with and quicker decisions.
Internal Situation of Pakistan
The internal political situation in Pakistan is equally volatile, the founder and former chief of the ruling party PML-N was ousted by the Supreme Court of Pakistan on 28th July 2017. This move triggered a clash between the state institutes with each claiming to be the supreme and hurling accusations at each other of transgressing their powers. There is a popular notion in the country that if the ruling PML-N comes into power in both houses of the Parliament, they will enact legislature to curb the powers of the judiciary.
If such a situation arises, the whole democratic process would come under threat in the country. Either the PML-N will enjoy absolute power in the center without any question and accountability, or the military will be asked to intervene to prevent any chaos within the country. In either case, democracy will not survive and an autocratic regime will be formed.
What the future holds in store for Pakistan?
The current political situation is very different from the past where pressure of foreign powers prevented the intervention of military on numerous occasions. The US is no longer giving any aid to Pakistan so it is unlikely that the country will come under their pressure. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) also puts a condition that the country should have a democratic government but Pakistan might be able to evade it too. US president Donald Trump is also known to have a soft side for military regimes so they might not oppose any military intervention vehemently.
Even though the situation in Pakistan is ripe for an authoritarian regime to takeover, it might not happen. If the politicians prove responsible enough to avoid any internal political crisis, the external situation can be handled by the democratic leaders. But the question that is being asked in the rest of the world is also being asked in Pakistan, is a liberal democracy the best form of government in the world? Only time will tell.