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Five Years of Political Rule in Pakistan

Discovering Democracy

The fact that a democratically elected government in Pakistan has completed its five-year term is surely an achievement. However, the ruling Pakistan Peoples Party, focused solely on surviving these five years and not being deposed by the military, did not focus on governance or on reading the changing political currents in the country. Thus it could not convert a democratic transition into a democratic transformation of the country.

As some in Pakistan celebrate completing five years of democratic rule, others wonder if it is really a moment to celebrate completion of Parliament’s term for the first time in the country’s history. The country’s politically strong military has a history of booting elected governments out and not letting them complete their term. The previous Parliament elected in 2002 finished its term in a sad manner with Pervez Musharraf imposing an emergency. What makes this change relatively spectacular is the fact that, unlike the past, the army did not have a military or military-sponsored president who could use the controversial Article 58 (2)(b) of the 1973 Constitution to dissolve Parliament or dismiss the cabinet when it wanted. Thus, the political parties consider this to be a moment to celebrate. However, it still does not reflect on the utter mismanagement, poor governance and corruption that took place in the past five years.

My argument is that the gap between the achievement and Parliament’s performance was inevitable due to two factors. One, political parties not being prepared for the change in public expectations, and two, from the very beginning the government aimed at a transition rather than a transformation. Its office holders talked about their capacity to negotiate power with the Army general headquarters (GHQ) in Rawalpindi and sustain that rule rather than bring structural changes that would make democracy sustainable.

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