Making Democracy Work – by Mustafa Kamal

The citizens of third world countries lurk between despair and hope. Their shattered hopes have made them more indifferent to the state affairs. In 21st century, when the developed world is benefitting from the tested wisdom of democracy, people in the developing countries are either looking towards military dictatorship or a narrow fundamentalist version of electoral democracy as the only way of salvation.

Pakistan, like other developing countries has been facing constitutional crisis since its inception. Our failure in drafting a cohesive constitution has paved the way for military despotism. In recent past frequent change of governments has been as common in Pakistan as it used to be in France during the 17th century.

There are no failed states, but failed democracies. The failure of democracy is the cause of state failure. Saving the states can be achieved only by saving democracies. It doesn’t matter which particular party heads the democratic governments.

One of many qualities of democratic governance is its self-correcting nature. Accountability of their elected representatives by public through transparent voting is still the best way of political transformation without hanging politicians, bloody violence and fancy revolutions. We should use no other means for political transformation than relying on conventional wisdom of people.

As some people are blaming democracy for all our national ills, amidst such confused narratives, our aim must not be wrapping democratic institution and seeking alternative ways as a governance model but to seek for ways whereby democracy works better.

Informed public opinion is one way through which democracy can flourish. Pakistan has changed. People now don’t have only one state sponsored television to influence public opinion. The thriving media industry can play huge role in shaping public opinion in favor of democracy. The more informed citizens Pakistan has, the more political and policy options will emerge.

Devolution of powers and emergence of regional political parties and groups will strengthen democracy. The 18th Amendment which empowers provinces by decentralizing administrative powers will have the most significant impact on democracy in Pakistan. Blaming federation for usurping provincial authority and misleading people on the bases of such rhetorics will not influence public opinion anymore. More practical policy oriented parties will emerge to lead the people in right direction.

Democracy fails because of high expectations of people. People have high expectations with political parties because they invest their time, energies and money at grassroots levels for them. Failing fulfilling such expectations create annoyance and resentment among people. That is not the case with dictators as they come to power by force and people have less affiliation with them. The expectations of people can be fulfilled by delivering result and fulfilling the political promises made with them. Democracy, in other words must be result oriented, not a mere blame game rhetoric aiming to malign the opponent political parties.

Fostering the cooperation with civil society organizations can lead to a strong democracy. With their international agendas of human rights, pluralism, good-governance, capacity building of communities and humanitarian aids, these civil society organizations can offer innovative ideas and ideals to governments and politicians as per their international exposure and their experiences of working with various national, international, ethnic and linguistic groups.

Pakistan, unfortunately, has always been at odd with civil society organizations. Public-Private partnership should be articulated as a top policy agenda for a viable and result oriented democracy.
In the last analysis, it is not the responsibility of politicians and parliament alone to uphold the democracy and work for its sustainability. The behavior of each state institution, particularly the judiciary and media to act in a democratic way and according to their prerogative authority and minimal interference with other state institutions can foster democracy in Pakistan.

(The writer holds a degree in Public Policy and is an Independent Researcher based in Islamabad who can be reached at



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