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What ails governance in Pakistan

While critics have dismissed it as a failed state, it remains a nation still in the making, struggling to establish a viable democracy, writes Meenakshi Iyer.

world Updated: Sep 11, 2007, 17:05 IST
Meenakshi Iyer
Meenakshi Iyer
Hindustan Times

Allah, Army and America are the three pillars on which Pakistan rests today. But 60 years after its creation, these three elements haven't contributed much to the country's development. While critics have dismissed it as a failed state, it remains a nation still in the making, struggling to establish a viable democracy.

"Pakistan faces massive problems of human development: Poverty, nutrition, literacy and education. Civil society remains fragile in relation to the state's coercive capacity," argues Veena Kukreja, co-author of Pakistan: Democracy, Development and Security Issues.

The Army

Ever since its creation in 1947, Pakistan has tried about half-a-dozen different political systems and formal constitutions, promulgated in 1946, 56, 62 and 73. "One military intervention in fifty years could be seen as an incident and two as an aberration, but four spells of military rule indicate systematic problems," says Stephen Cohen in his book, The Idea of Pakistan. Democracy, which is an urgent need in Pakistan, has been throttled time and again by the periodic imposition of martial law. The civil society, which is crucial for consolidation of democracy, has been eroded by years of military rule, say policy experts.

The Islamists

The Islamic state, religious leaders and the radical elements, have, time and again kept a leash on the government and the army. Being totally anti-US and pro-Taliban, they want Musharraf out as they consider him US President George Bush's poodle! The mullahs, Washington argues, are against development in Pakistan. They have banned media, radio stations and the screening of films.


The relation between the US and Pakistan has been more or less governed by strategic interests – during Cold War and post 9/11. "No American administration thought it important to ask why Pakistan's education system was collapsing and why Islamic schools were replacing them," argues Cohen. This was till the 90s when the superpower was yet to get a thunder jolt from Al-Qaeda. The US, more of less, has only strengthened the Pakistan Army time and again and thought less about the civilians. The Army, in return got heavy aid from US, much of what was spent on bolstering country's defence rather than health or literacy.

What Pakistan needs?

Democracy. "The roots of democracy lie in egalitarian socio-economic structures and a large middle class. It also needs an expansion of civil society, namely an independent judiciary, free press and rule of law," explains Kukreja. A way out for Pakistan would be to conduct immediate elections. The ultimate say should be that of the people in Pakistan, not any superpower.

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