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Pakistan an analysis of its democratic challenges and growing polarization

Describing Pluralism and Political Polarization Pakistan:

Democracies are characterized by plurality and tolerance. Since pluralistic civilizations value the diverse perspectives, convictions, and pursuits of their populace, these ideas are related. But plurality without respect for the rights of other groups and without tolerance can lead to political division.

When ideological or political groups are sharply opposed to one another and unable to compromise or find common ground, political polarization results. In these circumstances, bigotry and disdain for opposing viewpoints can threaten democracy. The term “polarized politics” refers to the growing gap between political ideologies that breeds distrust and hatred.

Zero-sum conflicts are usually associated with political conventions and policies. This is a global trend. Divided politics exist in even the oldest democracies, such as the United States.

Political Polarization in Pakistan:
Pakistan is not an exception to divided politics and the challenges of democracy, with its unstable civil-military ties, military interventions, ineffective civilian governments, and linguistic and ethnonational divides.
There is division throughout Pakistani society, from the top to the bottom, and there is no agreement on what constitutes a democratic society. The political divide in Pakistan is top-down rather than bottom-up. Throughout history, politicians have shaped stories and popular perceptions. Power corridors that permeate society and divide the populace are the key to political polarization.
Political parties vying for control and state elites like the judiciary and bureaucracy are the main causes of political division in Pakistan. Pakistan’s discord and fragmentation have made it possible for state institutions—such as the military and the judiciary—to meddle in political affairs.
There have only been a few instances of political harmony and cooperation between political parties and governmental institutions throughout Pakistan’s 75-year history. It took nine years to write Pakistan’s first constitution because state institutions couldn’t agree on how to run the country. Parliament, which is meant to represent the people, frequently gives in to external pressure.
Ruling parties stay within certain bounds to avoid upsetting institutions. The lengthy history of martial law has further divided political parties into factions that support and oppose the status quo.
Pakistan’s democracy is insecure despite being established on democratic principles. There have been many democracies in Pakistan. According to Mohammed Wasim’s book Political Conflict in Pakistan, democracy is “establishmentarian democracy.” He talks about democratic variations in brief:

Direct military rule in Pakistan:

Pakistan’s political history is marked by the coexistence of a variety of political systems. There were four separate periods of military control totaling 17 years: 1958–1962 under General Ayub Khan, 1969–1971 under General Yahya Khan, 1977–1985 under General Zia-ul-Haq, and 1999–2002 under General Pervez Musharraf.


Military-bureaucratic oligarchy:

For the first eleven years of Pakistan’s independence, from 1947 until 1958, the country was governed by an elected bureaucratic administration.

However, this era was distinguished by a military-bureaucratic oligarchy, in which these two bodies exercised disproportionate power.

Military rule under a civilian president:

Military rule was instituted in Pakistan in a manner similar to that of the King’s Party. Generals Ayub Khan (1962–1969), Zia-ul-Haq (1985–1988), and Pervez Musharraf (2002–2008) each served as president for 16 years.

Elected governments under civilian presidents:

The Trica model was utilized by democratically elected governments led by civilian presidents. Presidents Benazir Bhutto (1988–1991), Nawaz Sharif (1990–1993), Benazir Bhutto (1993–1996), a caretaker administration (1996–1997), and Sharif (1997–1999) served a total of 11 years.

Governments that continually faced military conflict:

The Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) held power from 2008 to 2013, and the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PMLN) did so from 2013 until 2018.

Two years of an elected government and the establishment seemingly on the same page:

Under the PTI leadership, this transpired between the years of 2018 and 2021. The hasty union did not last, and it ended on a sour note.

Former Pakistani Prime Minister and PTI leader Imran Khan was ousted from power following a vote of no confidence in the Senate. He initially suggested that the United States government was behind his claimed demise.

A few months later, he ceded power to the Pakistani military and gained support from political figures who were vocal in their opposition to the armed forces. Mr. Khan’s populist policies make him unique among lawmakers. Khan’s populism has never been clearer.

It would appear that Imran Khan embodied every characteristic of a populist leader, from challenging and attacking constitutional structures to polarizing the public into outsiders and insiders to bypassing constitutional processes.

Mr. Khan has an unrivaled delivery and manner in Pakistani politics. Many political analysts and journalists have suggested that the current political crisis in Pakistan is merely the latest iteration of an endless cycle. Incredible, bizarre things have been reported. This controversy is unprecedented in its level of public transparency, and it has sparked significant public outrage directed at military organizations.

A warrant for Imran Khan’s arrest on corruption accusations was issued by the Islamabad High Court on May 9, 2023.

General Headquarters (GHQ):

Many PTI supporters found Khan’s detention to be totally unacceptable. Attacks on the Army General Headquarters (GHQ) in Rawalpindi and the Corps Commander House (Jinnah House) in Lahore exacerbated an already volatile situation. Both the attackers and the PTI’s political leadership were shaken by what happened.

Many of the PTI’s top officials have been arrested; others have been released on bail only to be re-arrested, and others have just departed the party. Military justice is currently being administered to those responsible for the attacks on GHQ and the Corps Commander’s House.

A week ago, hundreds of PTI supporters were detained. These behaviors are not acceptable, but it is also important to identify what is causing them. While in power, the PTI falsely accused its opponents of several misdeeds. There was an alarmingly high rate of wrongful convictions and imprisonment.

When it served its goals, the PTI did not intervene or protest the maltreatment of its political opponents. The political opposition was threatened with terrible consequences if they did not support the plan, but they did support it.

As expected, political opponents are feeling the wrath of those actions taken against them. The present government is following in the footsteps of the last one.

General Qamar Javed Bajwa :

The Pakistani army, which was hitherto kept under wraps, is now discussed. As he approached retirement, former Chief of Army Staff General Qamar Javed Bajwa shamelessly accepted full responsibility for the political pandemonium.

The army would stay out of politics and concentrate on its core responsibilities, he informed the populace. For starters, this announcement was a breath of fresh air. Relief was fleeting.

Finding a Way Forward to Bring the Country Back on the Path of Development:

Suggestions are few and far between due to Pakistan’s problems and troubles. Because the problems are complex, so too are the solutions. Despite the fact that specialists have offered a number of solutions throughout the years, there doesn’t seem to be much political will to address these issues.

This apathy arises because short-term and personal goals always take precedence over long-term and national objectives. Pakistan must, nevertheless, act to reestablish institutional boundaries and enact democracy. Above all, Pakistan’s army needs to be unbiased and avoid getting involved in politics.

A move like this could alter Pakistan’s democratic course. Aristocracy and assertive judicial action should be avoided by the Pakistani court since they can jeopardize political sovereignty. It ought to be directed by a sensible structure that upholds the division of powers. Legislative assemblies should be used to enact political reforms in order to strengthen democracy and lessen external influence.

In a democracy, political parties are essential. A code of conduct and common norms ought to encourage political consensus. Free and fair elections, civil liberties, unrestricted media, equality, and a smooth handover of power are all essential components of party consensus. Politicians of all stripes must acknowledge the democratic process and outcomes.

Aim to win over the public by staying away from populist rhetoric that threatens democracy. As a result, everyone involved needs to acknowledge how serious the problems are and cooperate to find solutions.




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