At a virtual dialogue organized by the Pakistan Institute of Legislative Development And Transparency (PILDAT) on how has democracy fared in 2020, it was agreed that quality of democracy in 2020 has been far from perfect and that the constitution must be the guiding principle in setting rules of the game to address rising political polarization and improving democratic governance in Pakistan.
Panelists at the PILDAT virtual forum included former Senator Javed Jabbar, analyst Syed Talat Husain, President and founder of PILDAT Ahmed Bilal Mehboob and Joint Director PILDAT Aasiya Riaz.
Javed Jabbar while winding up the debate said he endorsed the point that in absence of effective local governments as a major weakness of the system of democracy in Pakistan, we cannot expect much from democracy. While the military’s role in politics is criticized, even if it were to be removed, Pakistan’s administrative structures are so weak that democratic governance cannot be improved without major reforms.
Multiple rounds of questions were posed to panelists on models of democracy Pakistan might look at, at what is the central issue weakening democracy in Pakistan, role of political parties, political polarisation and the possible way forward for improving democratic governance in Pakistan.
Syed Talat Hussain said all international indices on democracy, justice and media freedom in 2020 paint a bleak picture of quality of democracy during the past year. How little attention Prime Minister has given to Parliament and how much the Federal Government has relied on ordinances in 2020 instead of legislation also points to deteriorating quality of democracy while kidnapping of IG Sindh presents a picture of rule of law in Pakistan.
Earlier, while setting the stage for the conversation, Aasiya Riaz said 2020 had been a year of global chaos and uncertainty due to the coronavirus pandemic. Where the world has seen autocratic tendencies in many democracies, Pakistan too has seen institutionalisation of its hybrid governance model be it in the shape of NCOC, elimination of locust threat or polio vaccination. Birth of PDM as an alliance by opposition political parties appears as the only silver lining for democracy in 2020.
Ahmed Bilal Mehboob said he believed that the quality of democracy in Pakistan had deteriorated in 2020. Parliament and Provincial Assemblies have not played the required role of oversight especially in managing the impact of coronavirus.