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Understanding the current political crises in Pakistan

Pakistan's political system can be best described as a plutocracy, a rule by the wealthy, where the elite are fighting for power to capture state resources to enhance their personal wealth and power. They have no regard for the constitution, institutions, or rule of law.

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Prime Minister 3rd April’s surprise came as a bombshell for the opposition but at the cost of the constitutional and political crisis in Pakistan. It has sparked political instability and has put another dent in the democracy of Pakistan with far-reaching consequences. Political polarization, contempt for constitution and law, economic distress, and weakened parliament are a few. But the drama isn’t new. Such brazen violations of the constitution and real politics have always been a part of Pakistan’s political history.
It’s a power game being played out by the power elite only to keep or get hold of the power. There is no inclusion of the common masses; their interests or their problems. Pakistan’s political environment has become a theatre of absurdity with no regard for democratic norms. Since its inception, the political system has been swinging back and forth between military dictatorship and fragile civil governments. Democracy found little room to deepen its roots. The process of democratic consolidation went into the abyss time and again.

Consequently, it created an institutional imbalance

With the military at the top and weak civilian setups, other institutions have been weakened or destroyed completely in a bid to use them for personal and political interests. For instance, NAB, an institution for accountability created by military dictators, has always been used by successive governments as a tool for intimidating opposition and political engineering. There is no talk of accountability for those in power. Such fragility of major institutions translates into democratic instability. Outgoing PTI’s government collision with Election Commission of Pakistan in recent controversial electoral reforms made a mockery of institutional autonomy; because ECP refused to toe the government line.
Similarly, democracy has been a disguise for Pakistan’s power elite to further their despotic regimes. As democracy stands for free speech, human rights, civil society and free and fair elections; successive governments have always tried to undermine these basic principles of democracy thereby undermining its very core. PMLN draconian PECA 2016 act or PTI’s PMDA 2021 was introduced to silence the dissenting voices and punish critics for speaking their minds.
Moreover, the dynastic nature of polity leaves little space for more able, decent and capable people from commoners to be a leader and run the country. There are only a few options available to choose from the power elite. As they have huge resources and power at their disposal: they are able to keep the competition small and not let the commoners join their ranks. This phenomenon can be best explained through LAO (Limited Access Order), a framework by World Bank— according to which in a developing country like Pakistan the resources, rent and property are distributed among the elites.

What is the way forward?

The monopoly over violence is not with the state but with the group of elites who keep the peace because it’s in their interest. Since the resources, rent and property are limited, they limit access to it and rarely allow someone to join their ranks. Pakistan is a typical example of LAO where a small group of elites has captured the national resources and commoners can only dream of reaching the power corridors.
Hence Pakistan’s political system can be best described as a plutocracy, a rule by the wealthy, where the elite are fighting for power to capture state resources to enhance their personal wealth and power. They have no regard for the constitution, institutions, or rule of law. While the commons masses suffer from the dwindling economy, massive inflation, corruption and institutional erosion, the power elite is playing the game of musical chair around the throne with no settled principles or morality.
Therefore for Pakistan to prosper, the ruling elite must develop a new charter of democracy with the interests of the common masses at its center otherwise the petty power games may result in further chaos and eventually packing up the whole system. As Leo Tolstoy in his novel “War and Peace” enunciates that “it’s the common people, not a few privileged ones that have the power to change the destiny and course of history”. Thus its the investment in the common masses that can bring about the real change in the fate of Pakistan.
The writer is a graduate of Politics and International Relations from Quaid-i-Azam University Islamabad. The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Global Village Space.