Pakistan’s Specter of Political Instability – Adfar Shah

Adfar Shah 

There seems no end to the sufferings of democracy in Pakistan. After the recently ousted PM, Yusuf Raza Gilani, the present Prime Minister is now too in quandary and thus Pakistan maintains its perpetual failure of democracy and legacy of political instability. Are Pakistani institutions themselves impoverishing democracy by trying to collapse the system, still remains to be analyzed. Also will the Qadri factor (Dr Tahirul Qadri’s long march for system change and the resolution made thereof) cast any effect or prove merely a failed attempt of a clergy coup after the legacy of the plethora of military coups and judiciary interventions. All remains to be observed as Raja Parvez Ashraf, the PM faces the court for the alleged corruption charges on him in the past.

To the dismay of the State, Pakistan has been struggling with political unsteadiness since the very dawn. There have been serious and threatening problems in its political and social system recurrently which have had its ramifications upon the socio-economic development of the state and the general repute before the international community. The sociological fallouts of the identity and legitimacy crisis of democracy in Pakistan be that trust deficit among masses in successive governments, political leadership crisis, the democracy and law and order deficit  leading to the routinization of political coups (now some christen as judiciary coups) and subsequent forming of military governments and dictatorships, the saga of rampant political corruption, poor economic development, dismal human development indices, poor health care and concern, power woes, sense of alienation among  the common masses, flourishing violent sectarian crisis and hatred, alarmingly growing religious fundamentalism, secessionism and creation of terror factories, maintaining fear psychosis among commons by vested interests, suppression of minorities and general security flaws, etc, have actually manifested as both the means and end products  of the sustained political instability in the south Asian nuclear armed state.

Needless to mention that Pakistan is a state of a strong political culture in terms of the political awareness/sensitivity among the general masses out of the vicious and turbulent historical past. But despite being the zone of high political culture, the nation created in the name of God is a fragile, impoverished and a dilapidated democracy but still not a failed state. Political instability has become a routinised social reality not because of the ethnic conflicts or any resurgent socio-political or cultural encounters in the state (for Pak has learned to live with that) but precisely because of the immature political leadership that goes to any extent when in power and most importantly the factor of identity and personality crisis among its top helmsmen or political elite whose priority is not the nation-building but fulfilling of self motives, quest for enjoying coveted posts, nepotism tendencies, the character of undermining each other and finally the quest for the arbitrary and unchallenged power.

This goes without saying that, Pakistan also owes its culture of political instability largely to its military rulers/dictators who staged coups hassle free against civilian leaders from time to time not because they felt dissatisfied or were concerned about general masses and particularly about the subaltern, neglected or marginalized sections of the society but purely for power hunger and out of the craze of creating non-sense and brutally worth remembering bleeding history, that  prompted them to snatch power and impoverish the already malnourished democracy. Besides a dismal state of relationship and immature disjunctions between judiciary, executive and the legislature that have time and again intruded in each other’s jurisdiction and thus shaped up a dichotomous and dysfunctional clashing relationship. Such a state has shaped up the country’s culture of corruption, politically volatile state of affairs and power hungry military.

Also the society split and social rupture, which is the current social reality of Pakistan and the plethora of  estrangement and dismay of Pakistani populace who sometimes seek rescue in the slain Benazir Bhutto’s return into the political landscape and now in Imran Khan’s valiant entry via his idea of Tehreek-i-Insaaf, is the clear indication of the wide gulf between the institutions of state and society and the story of the continuing political unsteadiness in the country despite a civilian government in power.

History is testimony to the fact that right from the tyrannical regime of General Ayub Khan (overthrowing Skinder Mirza), to the crisis ridden period of Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, followed by the fundamentalist period of self styled General  Zia-ul-Haq  to the corrupt regimes of  Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz Sheriff, to the period of  power hungry Gen  Musharaf’s forced rule and military intervenes, to the hardhearted murder of Benazir Bhutto, Salman Taseer, Shahbaz Bhatti ( more recently the killing of  Manzer Imam, MQM’s MPA from Sindh Assembly, to the carnage of Shia Muslims and other minorities day in and day out, to the unmanaged and crisis ridden presidency of Mr Zardari, to the cold war between Ashraf  Parvez Kayani and Mr. Raza Gilani, to the  ousting of  the former PM Gilani (for rescuing and pleasing his boss  and trespassing even the  judiciary orders) and now the  last nail in the coffin, PM Raja Parvez Ashraf’s call from the Supreme Court in relation to the corruption charges while he was the Water & Power Minister in the past.

Not only this much, now yet another trouble for the so called democracy has started .i.e. the fiery and critical speeches, showers and political activism of Maulana (Dr) Tahir-ul Qadri, a renowned Islamic scholar against the deep rooted corruption and dilapidated situation of the holistic Pakistan in all spheres, giving a call for change. After his resolution with the authorities (delusion/illusion of change in the system) ,Will he prove India’s Anna or Kejriwal remains to be seen but he definitely has a say with impact for his being the top followed religious preacher and chairman of TMQ (Tehrek-I-Minhajul Qura’n). While the cleric praises judiciary that had recently ousted Gilani for the contempt, surprisingly he eulogizes military too for their role in the past, which critics argue that he may be provoked by the military itself for staging the uprising. He is openly critical of the current state apparatus and administration and has been mobilizing masses against the government to stage protests. Such a scenario has again gripped the consistently fragile country in yet another grave crisis (now averted by Qadri’s change maker dilemma, while the status quo still prevails and will prevail in the future too). It also remains to be seen whether the Qadri factor will really work on the ground in mobilizing the masses to shape up a new Pak Spring in future too after the infamous Arab Spring that is still alive in Syria. This all speaks of the legacy and culture of political indiscipline and instability in Pakistan. Of all this mess and saga of mass suffering and uncertainty over a period of time nothing but judiciary has been regaining its status in Pakistan, which is a healthy sign in such a dismal state of affairs. Although some analysts have been highly critical of the judiciary too for they believe judiciary should not come directly at logger heads with the executive and should respect the immunity of the PM in office. The legitimacy crisis has once again brewed up after Giani’s exit between the executive and the judiciary. While Gilani’s contempt was a clear gap and confrontation between the institutions of justice and the power of the leadership, Raja Parvez Ashraf’s arrest will prove yet another strong tussle between the two. Therefore, the break down and legitimacy crisis within the constitutional framework has come to lime light once again. Also the continuing constitutional aberrations committed by successive rulers and the myriad of the broken promises by both military and civilian rulers with the common masses have lead to an unbridgeable gap between Pakistani citizens and her politicians, manifest in the support that Qadri is gaining. Basically the prolonged family fiefdom, poor delivery of the state and weakened judiciary along with rampant corruption in all circles has marred the situation and subsequently shaped up the geography of anger, terrorism, hatred and uncertainty in the state.

The current political state of Pakistan can well be assessed as the leadership of compromise. It is generally concluded that lack of a clear majority of any political party and continued coalition politics is responsible for political instability or coalition governments enjoy less support because it can be safely argued that round the world, Pakistan is not the only country running coalition government (PPP led Coalition of PPP, MQM, ANP and PML-Q) and citing the example of India, whose political system is very much a coalition at the moment but not politically unstable. Also it is argued by some analysts that secessionist tendencies have lead to the general political instability due to internal strife’s and ethnic clashes and politics embedded in it. Secessionist and separatist movements are confronting India (Bodoland demands, Naxalism-Maoism, Kashmir dispute, etc,) and many other countries as well but India or other nations are not facing a total collapse and are not facing any such instability, coups, tussle between institutions and turn-downs like we witness in Pakistan. It is actually the faulty leadership, mismanagement & mishandling of income generating institutions, criminal ignorance of national issues, opportunity politics, the sole greed of accomplishing of individual interests rather than national goals or functional governance, etc, that has been doom spelling since decades and has alienated the common man, as voiced by Qadri now. Also the saga of resource crisis and energy starvation state accompanied by the blunder of entering into the destructive alliances, futile treaties, international agreements just for foreign aid and continuous dollar flow actually  keeps the lamp of instability burning for such a trend is being highly disliked by the Pakistani populace especially Ulema. Moreover, the rampant corruption among Pakistani political elite and identity crisis of leaders enchained in elite family politics and above all power hunger and certain internal forces which work for the disruption of political stability and pseudo-democracy is largely responsible for such a situation.

Tail End

It is usually believed that both politicians and diapers need to be changed often and for the same reason. Thanks to the judiciary of Pakistan for realizing so and continuing its filtering process. Yousf  Raza Gilani had carved history and worked in such a fashion that smoothly shaped up his ousting. Now his successor is facing arrest and creating another history for facing arrest fears even when a PM. The dramatic exit  of Gilani and arrest threat for corruption charges  of another top PPP leader is at least a good indication for Pakistan’s current state of democracy and law and order situation, which has otherwise always been so uneven, chaotic and perceived to be too fragile and corrupt by the international community. At least, it reflects that now judiciary means something in Pakistan and is achieving its lost glory. Though it may also mean the tussle between the two but the autonomous judiciary has to keep its credibility by continuing such people friendly steps. It will also serve a lesson to those men in power there who treat nothing above them. Moreover, it remains to be seen whether Ashraf is arrested or ousted by the court like his predecessor. Simultaneously the whole high drama speaks of the sustained legacy of Pakistan’s erring political leadership which has still not learned any lesson from the history and is still continuing with political, social as well as legal offences in a precarious state of democracy.

It seems, the political stability in Pakistan is turning to be a dream unaccomplished for the country’s first ever government that was expected to complete its full tenure is too in crisis. It may not be wrong to say that judiciary is gaining its due status (though it is debatable whether, Judiciary can even oust the man chosen by the people of the country or can the judiciary clash with the parliament chosen by the masses for a definite period), which is a good sign and has reflected by its spectacular but harsh decision first against Mr Gilani and now and by ordering the PM’s arrest for his past sins. It has become clear that law is turning supreme in Pakistan as well. Whatever Pakistani Statesmen say over the analysis of political pundits (now Salman Bashir calls it fashionable, forgetting that fashion comes into being when a particular thing gets created and recreated again and again), the fact remains that the political stability can only be achieved if authenticity of the institutions, social justice and personal authority/power is recognized properly and perhaps Pakistani populace has started recognizing so. The fact of the matter is that Allama Qadri has not been able to do what was earlier anticipated. (though his signing the deal cannot be treated as triumph for democracy, what Qadri’s critics believe but a petite shiver in the collective spine of the ruling system).The curio is- will Pakistan as a state, ever do something for the sake of democracy or let the culture of instability flourish for all times or let it decay for the death finally?



  1. P.Parimoo /

    Mr.AdfarShah,congrats for a masterly analysis of a complex situation.However I feel the civil rebellion movement started by a cleric in Pakistan has more support from non civil bodies than is visible and hence does not stand comparisons with the Aam Admi antics of M/s Anna,Kejrival in India. The movement in Pakistan can have devastating effects given the conditions you have described in a masterly manner.

  2. Dr.Syed Aijaz /

    Allah Malik Hae (God Bless Pakistan)!

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