Failure of Democracy and Governance in Pakistan

Discussion in 'Social Issues & Current Events' started by RiazHaq, Feb 14, 2010.

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  1. RiazHaq
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    RiazHaq SENIOR MEMBER

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    Why has democracy not taken root in Pakistan? Why have the nation's democratic institutions failed to sustain themselves? How can Pakistan build and strengthen democratic institutions that provide good governance to solve its problems? Is it entirely the fault of Pakistan's ambitious military generals who have ruled the nation for about half of its 60 year history? Or does it have anything to do with the poor performance of the politicians who have had the opportunity to govern for thirty years, and failed to solve most of its major problems, particularly those related to human development and industrialization?

    There are many answers to the questions above. But the explanation that appeals to me most is the one offered by British writer William Dalrymple. He wrote for the Guardian as follows on Pakistan's 60th independence day:

    "There is a fundamental flaw in Pakistan's political system. Democracy has never thrived here, at least in part because landowning remains almost the only social base from which politicians can emerge. In general, the educated middle class - which in India seized control in 1947, emasculating the power of its landowners - is in Pakistan still largely excluded from the political process. As a result, in many of the more backward parts of Pakistan the local feudal zamindar can expect his people to vote for his chosen candidate. Such loyalty can be enforced. Many of the biggest zamindars have private prisons and most have private armies."

    While I do see the middle class clout increasing in Pakistan after a decade of economic growth and increasing urbanization during Musharraf years, I don't believe that middle class rise in politics alone can help build and sustain good democratic governance. Incessantly talking about building democratic institutions is not enough. What is needed is the building of competence through good governance education for members of democratic institutions such as the executive, the legislature and the judiciary.

    Pakistan does have the British legacy of functional institutions such the nation's military and the bureaucracy which have been able to sustain the state. The members of the civil and military services have the basic educational facilities, such as a number of staff colleges and academies, for training them to do their jobs. As a result, the military and civil service officers are reasonably competent in carrying out their assigned responsibilities.

    However, no such training exists for the politicians who get elected to the highest positions of leadership in the executive and legislative branches. Under the constitution, they are charged with appointing judges and making and executing laws and policies to solve the nation's problems. Yet, most of them lack the basic competence to understand and appreciate their responsibilities. The parliamentarians are usually uninformed about most of the key issues of governance brought for discussion on the floor. As a result, the level of parliamentary debate is very poor, and important budget priorities and policies are agreed, and laws are passed without fully taking into account all of the issues involved.

    There is no effective system of drafting legislation, making budget appropriations, holding hearings with experts, and subsequent oversight by specialized parliamentary committees. People who chair such committees don't have much of a clue as to where to begin, what questions to ask, and how to hold the executive and the bureaucracy accountable. As a result, once the laws and policies are approved, and budgets passed, there is not much oversight or accountability.

    There was a proposal in 1998 to set up Jinnah Democracy Institute, named after Pakistan's founding father Quaid-e-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah, who spoke eloquently about democracy when he told military officer, “Never forget that you are the servants of the state. You do not make policy. It is we, the people’s representatives, who decide how the country is to be run. Your job is to only obey the decisions of your civilian masters.”The idea for democracy institute was inspired by the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University in the United States, and its main purpose was to offer at least one semester of required training to Pakistan's elected representatives. Unfortunately, the proposal has not gone anywhere.

    If the current crop of elected politicians are really serious about strengthening democracy, it is important for them to revive the idea of the school of government to increase the chances for democracy to survive and thrive in Pakistan. Unless the politicians find a way to improve governance to solve people's problems, the nation will be condemned to repeat the past history of democracy's failure in Pakistan.

    As a Pakistani-American wishing to see a healthy and friendly US-Pakistan relationship of one democracy with another, I believe this is an opportunity for the United States to use its aid and influence with leadership in Islamabad to build competence and institutional capacity for good democratic governance in Pakistan. Helping Pakistan set up Jinnah Institute of Democracy, along the lines of Kennedy School of Government, could become a significant step forward in promoting good governance and sustaining democracy in Pakistan. This may or may not work, but it is certainly worth a try.

    Haq's Musings: Why Is Democracy Failing in Pakistan?

    Haq's Musings: Incompetence Worse Than Graft in Pakistan

    Last edited by a moderator: Nov 5, 2013
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  2. jagjitnatt
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    jagjitnatt SENIOR MEMBER

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    I have to say, one of the first of your articles that I completely agree with. Now you should work on a solution and spread the word to cure the infection. :agree:
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  3. imi786
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    imi786 MEMBER

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    very good effort.... Besides your reasons there are so many other reasons for which democracy is failure in Pakistan. Due to shortage of time here I will mention one.
    Lack of Intra-Party Elections: there are no elections inside the parties. the founder of the party all times will be leader and if his/her party wins the elections he will be Prime Minister i.e. Nawaz Shareef, Benazir Bhutto etc
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  4. RiazHaq
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    RiazHaq SENIOR MEMBER

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    Here's an Associated Press report on Pakistan's assertive judiciary challenging the military and civilian leadership:

    ....Some believe the court’s actions are part of a necessary, if messy, rebalancing in a country that has long been dominated by the army or seen chaotic periods of rule by corrupt politicians. Others view the court as just another unaccountable institution undermining the elected government.
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    The army has been the principal point of contact for the U.S. in the decade since it resuscitated ties with Pakistan to help with the Afghan war. While the army remains the strongest Pakistani institution, recent events indicate it has ceded some of that power to the Supreme Court and the country’s civilian leaders.
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    The Supreme Court’s activism was on full display Monday.

    The court charged Pakistan’s prime minister with contempt for refusing to reopen an old corruption case against the president. Later, it ordered two military intelligence agencies to explain why they held seven suspected militants in allegedly harsh conditions for 18 months without charges.

    Some government supporters have accused the court of acting on the army’s behalf to topple the country’s civilian leaders, especially in a case probing whether the government sent a memo to Washington last year asking for help in stopping a supposed military coup.

    But no evidence has surfaced to support that allegation, and the court’s moves against the military seem to conflict with the theory. The judges have also taken up a case pending for 15 years in which the army’s powerful Inter-Services Intelligence agency, or ISI, is accused of funneling money to political parties to influence national elections.
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    The court’s actions against the army are a significant turnaround. For much of Pakistan’s nearly 65-year history, the court has been pliant to the army’s demands and validated three coups carried out by the generals.
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    The Pakistani media have largely applauded the court’s activism against the army, which has also had its power checked by a more active media and the demands of a bloody war against a domestic Taliban insurgency.
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    “I think the Supreme Court is going too far,” said Pakistani political analyst Hasan-Askari Rizvi. “In the past, it was the army that would remove the civilian government, and now it’s the Supreme Court, another unelected institution trying to overwhelm elected leadership.”

    Supreme Court justices are appointed by the president based on recommendations from a judicial commission working in conjunction with parliament. The judges can serve until the age of 65 and can be removed only by a judicial council.

    The cases have distracted the government from dealing with pressing issues facing the country, including an ailing economy and its battle against the Pakistani Taliban.

    Moeed Yusuf, an expert on Pakistan at the United States Institute of Peace, said the jockeying for power between the army, Supreme Court and civilian government was expected given the shifting political landscape and could be beneficial to the country in the long run.

    “No country has managed to bypass several phases of such recalibration before they have arrived at a consensual, democratic and accountable system where institutions finally are able to synergize rather than compete endlessly,” Yusuf wrote in a column in Dawn.
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    “No single group will totally dominate the system,” said Rizvi. “That will slow down decision making further in Pakistan because nobody can take full responsibility for making a decision.”

    Pakistan’s assertive Supreme Court signals power shift in vital US ally - The Washington Post