Democracy Is Not A Universal Fix

By Suhail Khan Mandokhel.

Democracy is not a universal fix. Political scientists have no any objection to this introductory statement. People in different countries are happier under authoritarians than they are under democrats. Most relevant example in explaining this paranormal fact is Rwanda, an African country, where economic structure once beset with problems under democracy is now moving ahead with strides under dictator Kagame. Reason is far clearer. Democracy promises more than it delivers. However, this fact doesn’t provide us a rationale to write that democracy is failure everywhere. The present stable world order is after all the progeny of democracy. Freedom of people is rather inviolate under democracies. Unlike dictatorship, people are always at the receiving end of dividends in democracy.

Case of Pakistan

In Pakistan, however, tale of democracy is rather different. Perhaps, Iskandar Mirza was not off the mark when he argued that Democracy doesn’t suit the genius of people in Pakistan. His statement was in tune to his latter days when Army was looking for a crisis management to take over government. Without giving this opportunistic statement undue value, Democratic weakness of Pakistan is to be explained with academic approach.


Unlike the true democracies of Europe and America, the path to democracy in Pakistan is messy non-linear. Instead of following the straightforward authoritarianism-liberalisation-transition-consolidation pattern, Democracy in Pakistan is moving defectively. Punctuated and chequered accounts of democracy have been preventing the piecemeal growth of institutes. The inherited democratic version of Great Britain was not let to consolidate.  Consequently, institutes are becoming extractive rather than inclusive. This incompatibility of Pakistan with democracy can be ascribed to many factors

1. Lack of civility:

It is fitting to write that democracy can deliver amongst People who are characterized by tolerance, diversity, accommodation and compromise. Very Unluckily, People in Pakistan lack these subjective features. These characteristics, however, are not indispensable. Jeff Haynes asserts in his book ‘Democracy and political change in the third world’. “It is not necessary to have a certain set of cultural norms present before democratic practices  and institutions can emerge and develop”. Based on this scholarly opinion, the societal qualities can’t be called as imperatives but aiding legacies to the democratic process. It is no hiding the fact that Pakistani nation, by very nature, repels the idea of civic culture. They can never be found assessing state polices dispassionately in self-reformatory approach because to them, questioning institutes is tantamount to committing treason. Why do they believe in such blind play of state? Answer to this question lies in the false indoctrination of people through using media as a weapon of mass deception. Winding up this factor, it can truly be asserted that one of the reasons behind the facade democracy in Pakistan is social naivety.

2. Monopolistic set-up of parties

Next to this interplay of factors is the illiberalism of political actors. Though Democratic in name, parties in Pakistan are based on the concept of authoritarianism. Through dominant party system, co-option, legal fine-tuning and vote-buying;  parties in Pakistan make their way to parliament and afterwards, power-holders from these parties spend tenure in merry-making. Explaining idiomatically, methodology of our political parties is based on the policy of “bait-and-switch”. It is not until the end of their tenure when they begin appeasing downward rungs of their parties through jobbery. Such mode of operating by political parties is inconsistent with true democracy. Lower units of parties are not authorised to critique the policies of their members. If they dare bring parliamentarians into question, they are either rebuked or disregarded for good . This is worse sort of illiberalism. Non-democratic parties can’t bring out real democracy among people. Unless both ethno-nationalist and State-wide parties are democratized on real terms, Pakistan can’t get out of these worse sub-types of government.

3. Military activism

Another detrimental factor to democracy is Reactive Militarism,  insuperable due to institutional clash and  patronage from international actors. These two driving factors enable well-organised institute, that is Army in the case of Pakistan, to count on theory of vacuum.  To this may be added another fact that  rapt eyes of super-powers are invariably directed at the strategic location of Pakistan and in order to make the best of this outclassing geostrategic point, superpowers want their diktats to be accepted without any challenge. For this very purpose, dictatorship is sometimes propelled at the expense of democracy and by doing such, the directives of big powers often go unchallenged and unexamined just as it happened after 9/11 when a fateful decision of a military dictator sowed the dragoon’s teeth by incurring the extra-territorial warfare. The dominance of military bureaucrat oligarchy aided by foreign powers can be attributed to the weakness of democracy in Pakistan.

4. Role of religion

Furthermore, politics coupled with religion has landed Pakistan in absurd frenzies. Contrarian voices, in the name of puritanical religion, are silenced or compelled to leave Pakistan for abroad. Islamization of state institutes has made people consider Jihadism as the holier instrument of state craft. As a result, secularism is often equated with irreligiousness. The liberal body of state, as it exists in every developed country, is anointed with religious colours in Pakistan. This fact halts the progressive growth of institutes.

5. Ill-defined Civil society

Last but far from the least, the ineffectiveness of civil-society-oriented movements procures the weakness of democracy in Pakistan. With very limited range of activities, our civil society mostly relies on seminars and other cosmetic activities. It fails to raise an impressive voice against Bonapartism because members of civil society in Pakistan lack much-needed traits of versatility and social participation. They raise selective voice keeping in view ethnic affinities. For example, Punjabi activists can rarely be seen defending the rights of Pashtuns and vice versa. More to this point is the narrow recruitment base of civil society as compared with bureaucracy. Talented youth mostly aspires of joining the ranks of administrators which in turn, dissuades them from joining the ranks of social activists.


It is suffice to say that democracy of Pakistan needs stocktaking.  The phraseology of ‘national security’ should be replaced by ‘narrative-building’. People should be considered the prime movers of government and besides this, the hierarchical and inegalitarian teachings of religion ought to be given up. Moreover, phenomenon of political socialization should be made the permanent part of university culture so that students would be able to differentiate between chauvinism and patriotism. Now is the time we should start the stocktaking of political issues by undoing the quicksand of military activism and coups.

NOTE: The views and opinions expressed in this article are of the writer and do not reflect the policy of The Weekly Pakistan.

About Author:

Suhail Khan Mandokhel hails from Zhob, Balochistan and currently doing Law at University Law College, Lahore. Contributes regularly to different dailies and weeklies like Balochistan voices, Balochistan point and young-diplomats. He can be reached at twitter at SuhailMandukhel

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