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Will Pakistan be able to become a strong democracy as government completes its tenure?

Pakistan is a transitional democracy which means there may be some flaws and weaknesses in both procedural and substantive levels but if the political process remains uninterrupted it will improve.

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The National Assembly of Pakistan has completed its constitutional tenure on the 31st May 2018. In this regard, the Ministry of Parliamentary Affairs on Thursday issued a notification announcing the dissolution of the 14th National Assembly at midnight on May 31, 2018.

The notification was issued in line with Article 52 of the Constitution, which states simply that: “The National Assembly shall, unless sooner dissolved, continue for a term of five years from the day of its first meeting and shall stand dissolved at the expiration of its term.”

Read more: Pakistan’s democracy: Jithay dee Khothee Uthaay Aan Khalothee!

A caretaker setup shall be established before the general elections scheduled on July 25, 2018. This is for the first time in the history of Pakistan that a second consecutive democratic government is completing its constitutional term.

National assembly 2013 to 2018: Contributions and Challenges

The National Assembly was able to hold 56 sessions, and 12 joint sessions of the parliament in its five-year tenure. There were 189 bills and 136 Act of Parliament passed in this period.

Some of the important bills passed during the tenure included The Constitution (Thirty-first Amendment) Act, 2018 formally known as the FATA merger bill; the Gas Infrastructure Development Cess (Amendment) Act, 2018; The Evening Courts Act, 2018; the Legal Practitioners and Bar Councils (Amendment) Act, 2018; The Transgender Persons (Protection and Rights) Act, 2018; the Supreme Court and High Court (Extension of Jurisdiction to Federally Administered Tribal Areas) Bill, 2018; the Constitution (Amendment) Act, 2017; the Elections (Amendment) Act, 2017; the Right of Access to Information Act, 2017; and the Elections Act, 2017.

Military coups and extra-constitutional interventions by other non-democratic forces have almost always disrupted the political process. Resultantly, there has always remained a visible democratic deficit in the country.

Among other important bills passed were Companies Act, 2017; the Alternative Dispute Resolution Act, 2017; the Representation of the People Act, 2017; the National Counter Terrorism Authority (Amendment) Act, 2017; the Witness Protection, Security and Benefit Act, 2017; the Pakistan Commissions of Inquiry Bill, 2017; the Constitution (Twenty-Eight Amendment) Act, 2017; the Benami Transactions (Prohibition) Act, 2017; the Hindu Marriage Act, 2016; the Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act, 2016; the Special Economic Zones (Amendment) Act, 2016; the Constitution (Twenty-second Amendment) Act, 2016; the Constitution (Twenty-first Amendment) Act, 2015; and the Protection of Pakistan Act, 2014.

Read more: Are PML-N actions threatening democracy in Pakistan?

Moreover, during the tenure, Mr. Nawaz Sharif was disqualified in Panama Papers case by the Supreme Court of Pakistan. He was also removed as the President of the PML-N for being a lifetime disqualified person. PML-N leader Khawaja Muhammad Asif and PTI’s former secretary general were also disqualified by the court.

Is Democracy getting Strengthened in Pakistan?

Scholars and political commentators believe that democracy could not flourish in Pakistan because it was never given proper time to evolve and to get strengthened. Military coups and extra-constitutional interventions by other non-democratic forces have almost always disrupted the political process. Resultantly, there has always remained a visible democratic deficit in the country.

Read more: Is Democracy merely rule of the majority?

Interestingly, in 2008 the PPP managed to win the elections and formed the government. It was a fortunate moment in the history of Pakistan that the party managed to complete its tenure. In 2013 the PML-N managed to win the maximum number of seats in the national assembly and formed its government. The Nawaz-led government faced many challenges ranging from Imran Khan’s PTI to Panama Papers. There were many occasions when commentators in Pakistan argued that there might be a military intervention. But the armed forces of Pakistan maintained their professionalism and let the political process working even after Nawaz Sharif’s disqualification from the apex court.

Now Pakistan is a transitional democracy which means there may be some flaws and weaknesses in both procedural and substantive levels but if the political process remained uninterrupted it will get improved. Pakistan’s civil society, media, and civil-military leadership have played their due parts in making democracy better in Pakistan. The role of the judiciary and its independence are hallmarks of Pakistani democracy nowadays.  It is hoped that democracy will keep on moving in Pakistan.


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