Pakistan’s never-ending crush on democracy may come to an end anytime soon. With former Pakistani premier Imran Khan fighting to stay out of jail every day over petty cases, the federal government fighting with the judiciary to postpone the elections in state assemblies, the military fighting with the Tehreek-e-Taliban-Pakistan, and current Pakistani premier Shahbaz Sharif’s ongoing tussle with the IMF and allies to get some dollars to keep their rusted economy moving, Pakistan and democracy are surely not enjoying a honeymoon night right now.
One may think that a state like Pakistan is used to handling such a crisis, but this time the crisis is even deeper, and there is no one around to bail out Pakistan because it’s not just the economy that is failing but also the institutions.
The economy of Pakistan is not merely in a crisis; it is in shambles. Weekly inflation has skyrocketed to a staggering 47.23%, while basic necessities such as flour, tomatoes, LPG, and petrol are both scarce and prohibitively expensive. The number of Pakistanis living below the poverty line is expected to reach 18 million – a figure that exceeds the entire population of 117 countries in the world. To add to the country’s woes, the IMF has withheld funds, with the Pakistani Prime Minister accusing them of continually changing their demands. In the face of these challenges, it is becoming increasingly difficult for the people of Pakistan to survive in what was once called Jinnah’s dream state.
The political parties, like in any other country, are accusing each other of the current state of affairs. Former Pakistani Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi has warned that if political leaders do not sit for a dialogue and find a way forward, the stage is perfectly set for a possible military takeover. A military takeover and martial law are the last things that political parties may desire at this moment. It would cast them out of the center stage of Pakistani politics and instill a general who would be non-accountable, possess absolute power, and would be a nightmare for democracy in India’s western neighbor.
The judiciary, for instance, has been accused of siding with the opposition party, Imran Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf. The recently leaked audio recordings between the wife of PTI’s top lawyer and the mother-in-law of the Chief Justice of Pakistan, Umar Ata Bandial, have only added more strength to the rumors. The government on the other hand has been trying to bring in an ordinance to subvert the Supreme Court by restricting the CJP from taking suo moto cognizance of any matter.
The Army in Pakistan is no longer shielded from criticism, and even the general public has begun questioning the actions of the military leadership in Rawalpindi. This is a significant shift, as the Pakistani army has traditionally not been held accountable to anyone. The political party of former premier Nawaz Sharif, PML-N, accused the then Army Chief Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa of bias and of illegally removing Sharif from power in 2016. When the PTI party was in power, they attempted to defend the army, but after Imran Khan was voted out as Prime Minister, he accused General Bajwa of collaborating with the Americans and contributing to his government’s downfall. In summary, all Pakistani political parties tend to make accusations against the army, but as soon as they come into power, they start wagging their tails around their military masters at the GHQ in Rawalpindi.
Though the survival of Pakistan for 70-odd years in itself is a big feat for a country being run by the elites for the elites, but the recent public-led campaigns against the army, the government, and the political parties have left Pakistan standing on a point of no return. The only way forward is strong and big constitutional reforms. It would be worth watching if the current Pakistani government would bring in the necessary changes or would continue subverting the nation, something they have been doing for too long now.
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