September 15; While expressing satisfaction at the recently-concluded peaceful and largely fair election of Cantonment Boards, PILDAT has shown extreme concern on the continuing overreach against the Election Commission of Pakistan and the rising tide of autocratic attitudes towards media in Pakistan on the International Day of Democracy.
The International Day of Democracy is celebrated every year on September 15 and provides a global opportunity to review state of democracy in the world. According to the United Nations, the International Day of Democracy also encourages the world’s governments to strengthen democracy. Across global indices of democracy in 2021, alone, the Government of Pakistan has a lot of distance to cover in strengthening the state of democracy in Pakistan. In 2021, Pakistan’s rank has dropped a point from the last year score of 38 out of 100 to 37 out of 100 in the Freedom in the World 2021 index by Freedom House. In Sweden’s V-Dem (Varieties of Democracy) report titled Autocratization Turns Viral: Democracy Report 2021, Pakistan is characterized as an ‘Elected Autocracy’ and falls in bottom 30-40% countries with a rank of 116. The Economist Intelligence Unit’s Global Democracy Index continues to place Pakistan in the category of ‘Hybrid Regime’ with a score of 105.
The PTI government had already taken unprecedented and dangerous perspective towards the constitutional body of the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) when the Prime Minister and key Federal Ministers made the ECP a target of scathing criticism. This began with the Prime Minister blaming the ECP to have ‘damaged democracy and morality’ and went on to key federal ministers demanding resignation from all 5 members of the Election Commission of Pakistan. However, yet another terrible and utterly condemnable low was reached when Federal Minister Azam Swati lashed out at the ECP saying the constitutional body should be “set on fire.” Instead of resorting to better sense and sensibility, other Federal Ministers joined the deplorable chorus of attacks against the ECP.
“PILDAT deplores the continuing irresponsible attitude of some of the government Ministers towards the ECP and stands in solidarity with the Election Commission of Pakistan,” said PILDAT.
Another important index of state of democracy is media freedom. International voices have consistently criticised the PTI government for its massive crackdown against media and for failing to protect media freedom in Pakistan. Most recently, the Reporters without Borders has included Prime Minister Imran Khan in the “gallery of grim portraits of 37 heads of state or government who crack down massively on press freedom.” Despite continuing domestic and international criticism in this regard, yet another low was reached on September 13 when press gallery in the National Assembly was locked and journalists were barred from entering it as President of Pakistan was fulfilling a constitutional requirement of opening another parliamentary year through his address to the Joint Session.
“It is inexplicable how a politically-elected government can stoop so low to deny freedom of information and maintain a hostile attitude towards media. Denying media entry into the Press Gallery to cover President’s address to the Joint Session is utterly condemnable,” said PILDAT.
As an indigenous independent think tank working to strengthen democracy and democratic governance in Pakistan for the past two decades, PILDAT maintained that instead of weakening democracy in Pakistan, the Government must realize that Pakistan’s future is tied to strengthening and not undermining democracy.
“As Pakistan grapples with a vast variety of challenges of democratic governance, it is important for the State and Society to not lose sight of the democratic genesis of Pakistan and future prosperity solely linked with democracy,” said PILDAT.