The political turmoil in Pakistan is as old as its birth. Pakistan came into being in 1947 against the backdrop of the partition of Indian subcontinent. Right from the beginning of the unfolding of its history, we see Pakistan always in the lurch and often in a very fragile condition, though somehow surviving all the time.
Unfolding of Pakistan’s political history
To begin with, Pakistan started with a very feeble infrastructure after, where it found itself in a very desperate situation in its initial days, the very famous initial problems of Pakistan, that included problems regarding administrative, economic and military shares. Thanks to the very capable bureaucracy that it inherited from British India, which proved to be the cause of Pakistan’s survival in its initial stages.
With the passage of time, along with all the political problems and crises, coupled with the delayed first constitution, a new problem arose in the form of disparity between East and West wings of the country. To solve this, numerous steps were taken, but to no avail, and ultimately, the war of 1971 resulted in the fall of Dhaka, which proved to be the last straw on the camel’s back.
The night of 16th December, 1971, marked a new start to the journey of Pakistan with respect to its politics, economy, and administration. People, for the very first time, saw a civil martial law in Pakistan headed by the civilian martial law administrator, Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto.
The Nervous 90’s
In the times to come, general Zia took over since 1977 and continued with his islamization policies until his jet was caught crashed, and that marked the end of yet another martial law in the history of Pakistan. This was followed by the nervous 90s, where the only constant in politics proved to be the constant change of regimes, and it looked like each successive government wanted power just to get the opposition party ousted. Then came the twenty-first century, which proved to be arriving with good fortunes for Pakistan with respect to its economy and, at the later end of its first decade, politics.
The martial law ended, and it seemed that the coalition of political parties would bear some very desirable and fruitful results for the betterment of Pakistan, but, again, to no avail. The crises continued, and Pakistan saw 2 more elections, elections of 2013 and of 2018 when the common masses hoped for political parties arriving at a consensus but each time the elections ended with the labelling of the winning party as traitors and favourites of the establishment.
Lack of democratic norms
This short go through at the unfolding of Pakistan’s history throws a very limpid light on the fact that Pakistan lacks the very essence of democracy and democratic norms, inordinately.
For any democratic country to progress with stability, the biggest prerequisite is to keep the public interest at a higher level than ones own personal interests but, here in Pakistan, the only constant pattern that we saw was the policy reversal of all the policies that were just about to give its results.
Any policy implemented by any government ought to take more than 5 years to bear its fruits but with every new regime, be it of a military regime, a political one or a quasi military, the first and the foremost thing they did was the reversal of policies, and this is the least of the Pakistan’s problems.
Who holds power in Pakistan?
Another problem that is deeply rooted in Pakistan’s history and its politics is the major share of power that each institution has on the political stage. From the beginning, for almost 6 decades, if one had asked from anyone about who holds power in Pakistan, the very obvious answer to the question had to be the military, being the only organised institution left in the country.
But since 2007, the political stage and power has been shared by 2, if not 3, other powerful institutions, namely Parliament, the Judiciary, and, to a larger extent, now media.
In 2007, the lawyers movement, to reinstate the chief justice, against general Pervez Musharraf was one of the first movement to be initiated by anyone against the military. It was flexing of the muscles by the Judiciary for the first time on a political stage and that too against military.
After this, numerous judgments has been passed by the Judiciary against the military and the very famous Asghar Khan case has probably been the icing on the cake.
Parliament and media have also flexed their muscles in criticising various military takeovers over the time since 2007 and it can be observed in almost every session that commences in the Parliament of Pakistan where if not others, General Pervez Musharraf is always on the criticism list of different politicians.
Different contenders for power?
What it all means is that in Pakistan there are different contenders for power in Pakistan. And, this leads us to the current turmoil that we are suffering from today as a country.
There is a saying that one never learns until a complete failure and same is the case with Pakistan. Every time Pakistan is in danger, a deal of IMF saves it from complete demise and collapse.
But this time, things are not heading towards an enlightening path and keeping in view all the scenarios, the dare need of an hour is a consensus of political parties for the betterment of the country and common masses rather than fulfilling their personal interests.
Conclusion and takeaways
The bottom-line is that today, where elections are very much on the cards and we are about to have elections in the near future, one must be fully aware of Pakistan’s history and the way it had unfolded, and they ought to think about the future, for them and for the future generations to come, while using their right to vote because the biggest and foremost prerequisite for democracy is clarity of thought and clarity of mind.
The Author is an undergraduate student at the department of History, Quaid i Azam University, Islamabad.