Democracy in Pakistan is stuck in a familiar and deepening rut at the end of 2023. The past year has only made the hoped transition towards improved democracy that much harder for the country now called an electoral autocracy by some international democracy rating think tanks.
Remedies and lessons are obvious but the people who have the power and capacity to pull the country out of the rut have not taken the right steps for the last ‘seventy years’, borrowing the phrase of former Chief of Army Staff, Gen. (Retired) Qamar Javed Bajwa used while referring to his institution’s interference in the country’s political affairs. The transition could be initiated with a simple change of perspective and by marshalling the required will.
As an organisation consisting of Pakistanis for the betterment of Pakistan’s democracy, PILDAT has advised the decision-makers consistently to do the right thing by the Constitution for over two decades. Our counsel, and our efforts of capacity- building and engagement with political parties have been the same.
Deferring course correction, may not be an option much longer. It may be a luxury the country of young Pakistanis cannot afford.
The only option available is to urgently design and execute a transition from the hybrid system to a normal, functional democracy. Will the coming election and the post- election arrangement provide a flip to move in that direction? It is difficult to be optimistic but on the first day of the new year, we re-dedicate ourselves to continue working for a democratic Pakistan despite the challenges on the horizon.