Pakistan’s Democratic Journey Must Go On

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Frank F Islam

Pakistan has a long and turbulent history with democracy. Since its independence in 1947, the country has experienced military coups, martial law regimes, and abrupt dissolutions of assemblies. Despite these challenges, over the past two decades, Pakistan has made progress on its democratic journey. The country has held four general elections since 2002. Each election has been more peaceful and democratic than the previous one. This is an achievement for a country with a history of military intervention in politics. One interesting point to note is that each election in Pakistan has resulted in a new political party or coalition forming the government. There are many reasons why this continuation of democracy is important for Pakistan. First, it provides a framework for peaceful and orderly political change. In a democracy, the people have the right to choose their leaders through free and fair elections. This helps to ensure that the government is accountable to all of the people and not just to the powerful. Second, it provides a mechanism for the people to have a voice in their government. This is important in a country as diverse as Pakistan, where there are many different ethnic groups and religious sects.
Third, democracy promotes economic development. Studies have shown that countries with strong democratic institutions tend to have more stable economies and higher levels of economic growth due to the fact that businesses can operate freely without government interference.
Fourth, democracy protects human rights. In a democracy, the rights of all citizens are protected, regardless of their religion, ethnicity, or social status. Despite gains in some areas, Pakistan still faces a number of challenges to its democracy. They include the following. In the past, there had been several martial law periods in the country. This undermines civilian rule and a representative government.
The arrest of former Prime Minister Imran Khan is an obvious current challenge to democracy in Pakistan. Many in Pakistan and the world have criticized the arrest and the trial of the former prime minister. As noted above, a major challenge is the issue of human rights. Pakistan has a poor record of human rights, with widespread abuses committed by the government, security forces, and terrorist groups.
Another challenge to democracy in Pakistan is corruption. According to various reports, corruption is widespread at all levels of government undermining public trust in the political system.
Pakistan is a diverse country with many different ethnic groups and religious minorities. This diversity can be a strength, but it can also be a source of tension. In recent years, there have been numerous incidents of sectarian violence and ethnic conflict.
Finally, Pakistan is facing several security challenges, including terrorism and a weak law and justice system. These challenges can distract the government from its democratic development agenda and make it difficult to hold free and fair elections.The foregoing challenges are substantial. Democracy in Pakistan is at a pivot point. In order to continue to make positive progress on its democratic journey going forward Pakistan needs to put a process in place to overcome these challenges. At a minimum, that process should include the following elements:
The interim government must hold free and fair elections within a constitutional deadline so that a smooth transition to democracy can be ensured. The government needs to ensure that the law is applied fairly and impartially, regardless of who is in power. This will help to reduce corruption and make it more difficult for the military to intervene in politics.
The government needs to be more transparent in its decision-making and more accountable to its citizens. All citizens must be educated on their civic rights and responsibilities and equipped with the knowledge, skills and dispositions necessary for building a stronger democracy for Pakistan and a fair and equitable economy for all of its people. Putting a process in place to address these elements will establish the foundation for achieving economic development and social progress which will promote a brighter future for the people of Pakistan. This is important for all Pakistanis and of most relevance to the younger generation who represent the country’s future.
The latest census conducted in 2023, showed that Pakistan has a total population of 241.49 million. Of this number, 63% are youth, aged 15 to 33 years old. This makes Pakistan one of the youngest countries in the world.
This younger population, properly educated and motivated, can be instrumental in taking the democratic, economic and social growth of Pakistan to the next level. They can become partners with those resilient and determined older Pakistanis who are committed to ensuring that the Pakistan democratic journey goes on. This partnership if forged will make Pakistan an emerging force for good in the region and the world.

The writer is an Entrepreneur, Civic leader, and Thought Leader based in Washington DC.