Why Pakistani Democracies are a Sham? Costs of Controlling a Democracy from Outside

Why we had only sham democracies in Pakistan?
This post identifies eight fundamental tests on which our democracies fail to be called a real democracy. It identifies the forces and the compulsions that did not let them to mature into a real democracy. We will discuss the costs of sham democracies in a later post.

The so called democratic governments were unable to correct these critical fundamentals as they had always been kept out of balance by the powers that be, and whatever limited time they got they were going from fighting one emergency to another through external interference.

[Work in Process]

These fundamental parameters include:

Troika of Power Balance

Ideally the three pillars of a democracy are considered to be judiciary, legislature (parliament) and executive. It is the tension between these three sources of powers that keeps the state in stable condition.

[To understand the context of this post, please read At What Cost! Why Compute Economic Costs of Faulty Political Decisions]
In Pakistan legislature has remained a hand maiden of the politicians in power in the government. Long periods of dictatorial rule concentrated the power in the center and impeded the growth of decentralized independent institutions. Election Commission became a tool in the hand of those wielding the power, and has not been able to conduct free and fair elections providing opportunity for everyone to contest. Most of the elected representatives represent established centers of powers. Instead of Judiciary assuming the role of arbiter of conflicts, this role was arrogated by the establishment that continues to retain a veto power on all the major decisions, even trumping and sending the judiciary packing along with the governments.

Incompetence of the elected politicians and non-experience of the dictators in politics, made the bureaucracy become an invisible decision maker which then arrogated to itself a major role in deciding what needs to go into the fine print of laws, what gets passed and what gets implemented. It is the fine-print of the laws and its interpretation experience which made the bureaucracy come at the top of the politicians and even the dictators. Attempts to strangulate the bureaucracy only led to more and more allegations of corruption. The machinations of bureaucracy are well captured by the famous UK serials, Yes Minister and Yes Prime Minister.

Independence of Constitution and Judiciary 

ZAB’s rule started as a unique case of Civilian Martial Law Administrator taking over the power from the out going General Yahya after he had lost half of the country. Couple of years later in 1973, he had the distinction of getting passed from the assembly the only consensus constitution of 1973. However, emergency was imposed by him the day the constitution got accepted. There were several amendments made by the overwhelming majority that PPP enjoyed in the assembly emasculating the constitution and robbing the judiciary of much of its powers.

Gen Zia’s Martial Law suspended the constitution but revived it through a sham referendum of 1985 in which he added the 8th amendment into the constitution that enabled the president to send the elected government packing out at his discretion. This amendment effectively gave the establishment a veto power on the foreign policy and major policies of the government. This veto power was exercised through the President and Governors for the next twenty years, and would never allow the spirit of the constitution to prevail.

Tenure of Government

The elected governments have been under pressure from day one on allegations of corruption. The coercive power of 8th amendment had been used as a lightening rod that never allowed the governments the space or the full duration to rule effectively. Charges of corruption had never been proved and no one had been prosecuted whether the governments in power had been military or civilians. With the exception of Zardari’s 5-year term, all other terms of so called democratic governments had been terminated prematurely on the basis of such allegations by the establishment in its role as the second umpire. It has taken just a couple of truck loads of Triple 1 brigade stationed in Rawalpindi to wound up the rule of the so called Democratic governments.

ZAB’s rule was terminated on the morning of the night when his negotiations with the protesting PNA had been successful and ZAB had decided to accept the demands of the opposition coalition.

The 8th amendment was used to oust BB’s first and second rule and NS’s first and second rule. GIK who got the presidentship by virtue of being in the position after the death of General Zia. Representing the bureaucracy, he called the shots and protected the interests of establishment and the bureaucracy. BB managed to get his confidante Laghari as president, but he too was forced to side with the establishment-bureaucracy-landed aristocracy power nexus and turn against BB’s second term. NS got the president of choice in Rafiq Tarrar. However, triple 1 brigade got the better of both when the time came.

In this mangled constitution, Zardari was forced to assume the presidentship to protect his government and chose a puppet as his PM. Had the constitution not been mangled, the true spirit of the constitution would have maintained. Eventually, Zaradari managed to repeal the 8th amendment. But, by that time, his tenure was nearing his end and he was embroiled in a fight with the chief justice who became a representative of the interests of the army and bureaucracy and started hounding the government of Zardari and he had to let go of three PMs.

Law and Order 

Typically, military dictators gave way to civilians when it was difficult for them politically to hold on to power much longer. The political turmoil and the frustrations that had been swept under the carpet during the military rule, got the opportunity to come out and express themselves often violently during the civilian rules. Given the experience of secession of East Pakistan, military governments had become shrewd enough to let go before the power keg blew off.

ZAB’s rule was spent trying to suppress the Baluchistan insurgency initially, and later towards the end in suppressing the PNA movement. In the intervening time, his attempt to establish FSF as counter power structure to establishment, back fired due to mismanagement and with the rumors of FSF attempting the likes of SAVAK in Iran.

BB1, NS1, BB2, NS2, and Zardari rule were all plagued by a continuous turmoil in Karachi. Rangers have been in Karachi since 1989. However, Karachi disturbances had grown in intensity and severity all through these regimes and went from bad to worse. This continued till the assumption of NS3 regime and start of Zarbe Azab, which is beyond the scope of this post.

It appears that these disturbances had been partly responsible for keeping these so called elected governments in a continuous off balance, and never allowed them to settle down in to making of policy. This coupled with the incompetence of their administration and lack of political will made the matters worse.

Deterioration in law and order also corresponds to the lack of investment in policing infrastructure and over reliance in the development of security agencies and establishment at the cost of law and order in the country. The nexus with the support of insurgency in Afghanistan and Kashmir may also had been responsible for allowing some of these gangs to roam the country. It is only during NS3 that we seem some commitment from the political government as well as the establishment in tacking this menace of strategic assets.

Corruption Control 

As elections became costlier and costlier the elected representatives realized that they have only a couple of years to earn back the investment that they had made in electioneering. Nepotism, commission culture, induction in government of incompetent people led to a spiraling of corruption. Ghost schools, ghost clinics, ghost teachers, ghost employees became rampant. Rentier class took on the power in every position. Roads, bridges, and development works were done only on paper. Stories of astronomical corruption became common place. The stores, true or false, started circulating every where.

Establishment Role

Role of establishment as the controlling agency of these so called democratic dispensions was quite apparent. As 2nd umpire, establishment was always controlling the happenings in the country through their President and Governors. ISPR became more and more powerful and becoming expert in feeding stories to the press.

Even NS3 rule seems to be hanging by the thread with the threat of 3rd umpire about to raise his finger any time.

Foreign Policy

It has been reputed that the power had been handed over to the civilians on the condition that no change will be brought in relations to the neighbors without the explicit consent of the establishment. During all these rules, the foreign policy continued to be conducted through the GHQ. 

See Also Pakistan History 101: 

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