My reasons for Pakistan’s dismal democratic experience.

Through the 64 of Pakistan’s existence, there has never been a stable democratic government to complete its term in parliament. At Partition, East and West Pakistan were divided by a 1000-mile stretch of hostile Indian territory, and to develop a unified government at this stage “dictated little margin for error and great concern for control” (LaPorte, 1999). The colonial inheritance of the vice-regal system has dominated Pakistani politics from day one, and though it has decreased since then, it is still prevalent in government today. The leadership gap that emerged after Jinnah’s death was not filled until Ayub Khan came into power in 1958. The country has produced three constitutions, each one fundamentally different from the others, and the current one, established in 1973 has been altered by various amendments in a continuous tussle between governments to please the public or solidify their power.

Public decision-making was not open to ordinary citizens under the first two constitutions. Acts of political manipulation such as the One-Unit Plan to create parity and what was widely perceived as favoritism towards West-Pakistan led to the secession of East Pakistan in 1971, and greatly weakened the impression of the government in the eyes of the people. Furthermore, democracy has taken a back seat to military rule for over 30 years – approximately half of the time since the creation of Pakistan. The ongoing struggle between the posts of President and Prime Minister, over the power to dismiss the parliament, has only weakened the State’s legitimacy and authority. Instability has prevented any solid democratic institutions to be formed. Dictatorships fill the gaps between democratic governments, each regime wiping out the progress of its predecessor in an attempt to prove itself the better of the two.

Loopholes and overlooked details in major reform programs such an Bhutto’s nationalization of major industries instead of consumer goods, Ayub Khan’s tilted-one-way economic development policies, land reforms that could be surpassed with a simple change of names on the ownership documents, and of course the simple act of corruption – bribing an official not to report you, bribing a politician to give you an exemption, etc. have led to a weakening of the legitimacy of any government, democratic or otherwise. Pakistan’s democracy has never been given a fair chance at survival.

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