The murky trial of democracy seemingly endures in Pakistan. The haphazard trajectory of democratic dispensation impends a botched situation. The apparent chaotic mayhem is disturbing, and its manifestation through the rampant institutional strife is even more upsetting. The matrix of democratic rule is not only posing some serious questions but has taken the debate of the functionality of democracy in the polity to a next level.
It takes Pakistan further closer to the edge, and the worst state of disrepair is crumbling faith in the democratic future for the country. Unfortunately, the lawmakers and the intellectual camaraderie have come to naught in dissecting the entire debate in a scholastic and theoretical manner. The apparent impasse of the state and system is in better juxtaposition with the pretext of the ‘Doctrine of Checks and Balances’ and ‘The Doctrine of Parliamentary Mandate.’
These two school of thoughts emerged in the mid of the 19th century when post-enlightenment Europe was making a transitory change towards the parliamentary form of rule, and the U.S. was precipitating the Presidential form of government. According to the doctrine of the democratic mandate democracy primarily refers to the powers in the hands of the elected government and the empowerment of the government to change the society according to the wishes of the majority.
The modus operandi will be supporting a political party through votes, and the elected party will legislate according to the wishes of the people. On the contrary side, the doctrine of check and balances more in line with the presidential form of government underpins a more significant role to the institutional accountability and tends more in favor of the separation of powers. American political system is the citation of this idea, and the longevity of this political system has garnered much praise, legitimacy, and acceptance around this idea even in those countries who accede to the parliamentary form of rule.
The dwindling influence of the doctrine of the parliamentary mandate is amid a perception that doctrine of the mandate is vulnerable to political abuse of power by the elected representatives. The theoretical annotation of democracy apparently across the globe dismisses the role of collectivism and more pivots around the premise of an individual where the climacteric proposition is the protecting an individual from the abuse of the government and to limit the state power. In postcolonial states, the coercive state machinery has encroached nearly all the ambits of social and political life hence convoluting democracy to quasi-authoritarian setups. Democracy in its essentiality means the rule of law, accountability of the rulers and the welfare of the masses rest assured the civic liberties, human rights, and democratic institutions.
Pakistan, in its chequered history of the political rule, not only confronted antidemocratic systems but the norms and value structures which shape a cognitive discourse of non-legitimizing democratic undercurrents. The democratic masquerade was at odds with the attitudinal parameters which are hostage to power and authority. The anecdotal frame of reference also suggests that democracy was a mortgaged idea in the region. In the contextual niche of the civilizational mindset wedded to power and authority, the presidential form of governance could have been a better alternative for Pakistan. Unfortunately, Pakistan experienced all dictatorial presidential systems, so this idea never garnered mainstream acceptance. Civilian presidentialism may be a recourse given a precedent of Brazil’s Lula De Silva who left an enduring mark on Brazilian politics.
The prevalent forms of governance in the democratic states are either inspired by the idea of the separation of powers or the coordination of powers but ironically what Pakistan has transpired over the years is an outright confusion of powers. Institutions hustling for dominance and assertion are the perceptible explication of this trend. Delimitating the powers of the institutions will not come through a scorning tirade against the institutions but concur before a postulation of the supremacy of law. In a dysfunctional state with the blasé legislature and sluggish executive, the propensity of one institution maneuvering becomes palpable.
The ouster of the Prime Minister form the office, and the following diatribe will impinge the plausibility of the democratic order. The institutional trenchant will pave the trajectory of the democratic consolidation. Institutional vibrancy had been a seldom and uncongenial phenomenon in Pakistan. The autonomous political process without the uniform applicability of law and robust institutional order is likely to hit the skids.
Democracy runs in equilibrium when all concerned political forces and stakeholders submit their interests to the intrinsic vulnerabilities of the democratic system. Democratic institutions need real-time backing otherwise the tendency of manipulation will give carte blanche to the heads of these institutions resultantly making personalities stronger and system weaker. The need of the time is to think on the alternatives besides the hegemonic and redundant ideas. Democracy becomes a consolidative phenomenon with the active support of the middle class which catalyzes a political change.
In Pakistan, the perpetuation of elitist and plutocratic political order has retrenched the possibility of middle class becoming a potent stakeholder in the system. Democracy and constitutionalism work side by side. Warranting procedural democracy as a panacea may not guide substantive democracy. The substantive/consolidative democracy is only achievable through the rule of law, better governability, and functionality of institutions.
DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy and position of Regional Rapport.