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Pakistan less democratic in 2016 than a year before: PILDAT

Uninspiring performances by the country’s parliament and provincial assemblies continue, reads PILDAT’s report titled ‘Assessment of the Quality of Democracy in Pakistan’. It further says that the national assembly continues to be sidelined as a forum for debate, discussion, and resolution of national issues.

Consistent lack of institutionalised decision making has been cited for the poor performance of the federal and provincial governments in 2016. The federal cabinet which is supposed to meet at least 52 times in a year only managed to meet 6 times during 2016.

According to the report, the internal democracy of political parties continued to be a liability for the quality of Pakistan’s democracy during 2016 as well. Even though there were some positive developments to report, such as the intra-party elections of the Pakistan Muslim League – Nawaz which were undertaken as more of a mechanized ritual, and the establishment of the MQM as an indigenous party rather than a satellite being run from London, no substantial improvement was noticed.

In fact, a major setback was reported for one of the parties, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf (PTI). The PTI cancelled its intra-party elections – allegedly because its agitation campaign – in a significant setback to the internal democracy of political parties in Pakistan.

Representative of the PTI, PML-N, and Pakistan Peoples’ Party (PPP) continued to remain in the shadows of their leaders, with little or no institutionalized decision-making in place within the parties on important policy matters.

PILDAT’s assessment on the judiciary states that “with regards to cases of a civil nature, there is a need to introduce various kinds of alternative dispute resolutions methods. With regards to criminal cases, there is a need to reform the criminal justice system, along with improving the investigation and prosecution services.  However, 2016 has passed without institution of major reforms in the legal process despite the clock ticking on the expiry of the 21st constitutional amendment.”

In civil-military relations and democratic oversight of the security sector, 2016 saw the civil-military imbalance tilt even further, with the military leadership be taking leading roles on matters of national security and certain areas of foreign policy, while the elected government appeared to act as an auxiliary.

2016 saw Pakistan’s duality of democracy slide by 4 percentage points from 2015. Instead of a steady transition towards improvement, democracy scores in Pakistan, year after year since 2013, show a somewhat tumultuous trend. Quality of democracy was scored at its highest in 4 years at 54% in 2013, slipping 10 percentage points in 2014 to 44%, regained a little to 50% in 2015, and slipping again to 46% by the end of 2016.

The report reads that 2016 was thought to be the year when Pakistan would have moved forward towards a positive democratic consolidation, but institutions were largely ineffective in resolving systemic issues and concerns such as the Panama Leaks, the elected government’s inability to exercise its constitutional writ on national security and foreign policy, and it’s evident failure and perhaps even reluctance in institutionalizing consultative decision making processes.

PILDAT’s report is based on data analysis and scores compiled on the 11 parameters of a Pakistan-specific framework: performance of parliament and provincial legislatures, performance of national and provincial governments, performance of the unelected executive, performance of the judiciary and access to justice, performance of the media, institution of local governments, constitutional framework, democratic oversight of the security sector and rule of law, electoral process and management, performance of political parties vis-à-vis democracy within as well as outside, and performance of  civil society.

Mohal, Nawaz. Pakistan less democratic in 2016 than a year before: PILDAT. Pakistan Today, January 2017.

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