Is Pakistan a democratic state?

by Jamil Junejo

Pakistan is a democracy on paper not in reality. It fails altogether to qualify for standing into queue of democratic states of the world. Neither from procedural nor from substantial point of view it is a democracy. It has completely failed to deliver what a democracy promises.

Only governments are not democratic. In fact, the phenomenon which determines more the state of democracy is state and societal structure. Unless the structure and nature of society and state are democratic, governments can’t emerge and responds democratically. For Government is mainly expression of both these structures. Any government which is in contrary to these structures can’t endure long; its end is extinction. Therefore what is more pertinent is to evaluate state and society of Pakistan rather than its governments on the internationally established and accepted parameters so as to know its democratic health.

Those who study that how political and societal compositions interplay and influence each an other are called Political anthropologists. They argue that societal structures transform itself into political structure; political institution don’t emerge into vaccum.It is socieat structure that determines their structure and nature of political institutions.

Pakistan is in dire need of political anthropologists to study the politics from this angle so as to extend accurate and correct input from time to time accordingly.

Keeping aside societal aspects of Pakistan and leaving this job to political anthropologists, let’s pick some elements of Framework of Democracy developed by IDEA and evaluate state of Pakistan to measure the extent of its democratic structure and nature.

How far is the rule of law operative throughout the territory?

No any state can sustain successfully unless it guarantees and practice rule of law .State without rule of rule of law is in no way a state. Because state in one way is name of politically organized society whose job is to regulate and organize society and political institutions to prevent them from degenerating into anarchy. Secondly, State without sovereignty is in no way a state and Sovereignty means writ of states on its territories and its ability and its outreach to its territories to implement its rule. If we see Pakistan from this angle, it fails to give image of a successful and democratic state. It is not law of the state that rules throughout Pakistan, but these are aspirations, needs and wishes of internal and external influential players that rule the country. Ironically, Sate institutions can’t implement even a decision of judiciary to ensure price of wheat and sugar. In this backdrop, what can be expected from the state of Pakistan regarding rule of law. Despite the frequent decisions and orders of Judiciary, security agencies are persistently denying to submit missed people into the courts.Hunderd and thousands examples can be cited in this regard.

How inclusive is the political nation and state citizenship of all who live within the territory?

The state of Pakistan and its apparatus has been constitutionally, politically and administratively disclusive and non accommodative from its inception. Civil and military bureaucracy has been giving importance to only one language Urdu and one nation Punjabi in every walk of life from its inception. It has been carelessly neglected that Pakistan is a federation which can’t not last long without being inclusive, accommodative in its nature based on principles of decentralization, justice and equality.Its has been neglected that four federating units which together make Pakistan are not only mere administrative units but also nations whose life is far more than Pakistan.

In principle, the Centre has to provide every opportunity and create space for development of multifaceted identity of these units. Contrary to this, only one nation viz Punjabi and only one language viz Urdu has been projected from very inception. Neglecting the fact that Bengali was language of majority and with literay, intellectual and historical heritage of thousand of the years; Urdu the language of approximately 5 percent migrants, language of no any nation of Pakistan was made national language of Pakistan. This was the cause that laid foundation for separation East Bengal from Pakistan.

How far does the composition of the army, police and security services reflect the social composition of society at large?

The state of Pakistan nakedly repudiates this principle”. According to a calculation its army comprises 79 % at upper level and 68 % at lower level of punjabis.From very Inception centre has been neglecting populations of nationalities other than Punjabis to be recruited in Army. Bengalis were subjected to this misconduct which instigated and sharpened their feelings of separations.

How much confidence do people have in the legal system to deliver fair and effective justice?

People have lost their confidence into legal system in Pakistan. Composition of national judicial council and a point of “restoring trust of people” in legal system is the argument that Judiciary is conscious of the fact that that it has eroded trust of masses into its legal system. At lower level, judiciary is submerged into corruption. In addition, cumbersome legal procedures and inefficient officials have added to mistrust of masses for easy, swift, fair and transparent dispensation of justice.

How effective and equal is the protection of the freedoms of movement, expression, association and assembly?

Freedom of expression, movement and association are inalienable rights of human being. The state of Pakistan has always been remaining suppressing the actions and voices of masses. Despite the fact ,current Constitution of Pakistan guarantees these rights, but in practice sate nakedly and frequently violates them .Thousands of people are missing owing to their expression demanding their rights. Zia regime left no stone unturned to censor voices and enchain actions of massess.Various magazines were baned.publications and newspapers were censured, political parties were baned.Musharraf was however somehow flexible in this regard. But as the case of expression, thousand of people got missed in his regime too.

It seems that state in Pakistan is end and its public is mean contrary to the fact that state is established for masses where people are end and state is mean, where sovereignty ultimatle lies with people. The states which consider people as end and themselves as a mean guarantees all these freedoms in letter and spirit.

How effectively are the basic necessities of life guaranteed, including adequate food, shelter and clean water?

The genesis of creation of State is to provide shelter and other basic necessities of life. The basic responsibility of state lies in provision of these rights .States which fails to provide these rights are in way called states. In this regard, the state of Pakistan depicts miserable picture .Majority of population is deprived of clean water. Two third of its population is below the poverty line.Million of people are shelterless.

“Two-dollar income of a person per day is considered the poverty line. All the persons who earn less than two dollars per day live below the poverty line. According to a UNDP report, 65.5 per cent population of Pakistan earns less than two dollars per day. According to the Social Policy Development Centre (SPDC), 88 per cent of Balochistan population, 51 per cent of NWFP, 21 per cent of Sindh and 25 per cent of the Punjab’s population is prey to poverty and deprivation ”

To what extent is the health of the population protected, in all spheres and stages of life?

The health sector has been badly neglected in Pakistan.“Pakistan spends less than one percent of its GNP on health in public sector which is one of the lowest in the world” .This sector of highly short of staff and facilities at all levels .Ironanically “The expenditures in health sectors are overall regressive in rural Pakistan as well as at provincial and regional levels. Mother and Child subhead is regressive in Punjab and General Hospitals and Clinics are regressive in all provinces. Only the Preventive Measures and health facilities sub-sector is progressive in Pakistan. Public health expenditures are pro-rich in Pakistan”

How independent is the parliament or legislature of the executive, and how freely are its members able to express their opinions

Sovereignty of Parliament is one of indispensible element of democracy which has been mercilessly infringed from very inception of Pakistan. It has been left dummy and ruber stamped. Even the decisions that determine the existence and future of state are not made into the parliament but into Drawing rooms of Civil and military bureaucrates and political elites.Neither it has been allotted sovereignty in practice not its member are left free to formulate peoples friendly policies .How ironic and pathetic is that a Sitting female MNA cried in media that their mobile calls are tapped by security agencies.

How effective is civilian control over the armed forces, and how free is political life from military involvement?

This seems childish to ask about Pakistan that how far its armed forces are controlled by civilians.Armed forces in Pakistan are visibly all in all.Neither they work under any ministry in practice nor its budget is discussed and passed by parliament,and nor it consult with civilians before resorting to war or fight. Ironically, militarily has been playing with political life of Pakistan. Half than political life Pakistan is ruled by military regimes of Ayoub,Yahya, Zia and Musharraf and remaining period of so called civilian governments has also been covertly and some how overtly interved and controlled by them.


To conclude, Pakistan is a democracy on paper not in reality. It fails altogether to qualify for standing into queue of democratic states of the world. Neither from procedural nor from substaial point of view it is a democracy. It has completely failed to deliver what a democracy promises.


Muhammd Kabir “57m people living below poverty line in Pakistan”Povery News Blog.

“Health Situation in Pakistan”

Fahim Jahangir Khan “Health Care Services and Government Spending in Pakistan”

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