A Failing Democracy?

The political enterprise of Pakistan, led by the Sharif-Zardari-Maulana conglomerate, is not working. Well, it's working to the extent that (in theory) we have a government; however, judging by any credible measure of public acceptability, this government neither enjoys the confidence of the majority of our people, nor that of our friends and allies, nor that of (dare I say) our state institutions.

According to numerous recent polls, carried out by domestic as well as internationally credible organisations, public confidence in this government is dwindling in the low 30s percentile. Put another way, almost seven out of ten Pakistanis who are eligible to vote, do not repose confidence in the legitimacy and functioning of the incumbent government.

And yet, empirically, this government was formed through the stipulated constitutional process (vote of no-confidence) and enjoys a simple majority in the Parliament (174 votes).

In the circumstances, it is important to ask why, despite constitutional legitimacy, the incumbent government enjoys so little political and moral authority across Pakistan.

In order to answer this question, it would be pertinent to revisit the philosophical underpinnings and virtue of a democratic dispensation. Democracy-the least worst form of government, in the words of Sir Winston Churchill-derives its legitimacy from three fundamental principles of self-rule: 1) that the people have, through a transparent and legitimate process, chosen the guardians of their freedom; 2) that these representatives adhere to minimum societal standards of moral and political integrity, in personal as well as political conduct; and 3) that the legislative and administrative decisions of the democratic enterprise shall be geared towards the well-being of the constituents (who are the real custodians of political power).

Let us attempt to assess the incumbent government, and its democratic legitimacy, on the touchstone of these 3 democratic principles.

There can be little cavil with the fact that the incumbent government (for whatever motivation) came to power through a constitutional process. In this regard, from a procedural perspective, a vote of no-confidence was moved against the former Prime Minister Imran Khan, in accordance with Article 95(1) of the Constitution, and thereafter passed by 'a majority of the total membership of the National Assembly', in accordance with Article 95(4) of the Constitution. Upon removal of Imran Khan as...

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