LAHORE - The previous year saw increase in Pakistan’s Quality of Democracy by four per cent as compared to year 2015, says a Pildat’s report.

According to PILDAT’s Assessment of the Quality of Democracy in Pakistan report 2016, instead of a steady transition towards improvement, democracy scores since 2013, show somewhat a tumultuous trend. The quality of democracy was scored at its highest in 4 years at 54% in 2013; the scores slid down to 44% in 2014, regained a little to 50% in 2015 to have slipped again to 46% at the end of year 2016.

The report is based on data analysis and scores compiled on the eleven parameters of the Pakistan-Specific Framework, to assess the quality of democracy. These parameters comprise performance of Parliament; performance of the Unelected Executive; performance of the Judiciary and Access to Justice; performance of the Media; Institution of Local Governments; Constitutional Framework; Democratic Oversight of the Security Sector and Rule of Law; Electoral Process and Management; performance of Political Parties vis-à-vis Democracy within as well as outside and performance of the civil society.

The report states “it was hoped that 2016 would be the year where Pakistan moves forward towards a Positive Democratic Consolidation but institutions were largely ineffective in resolving systemic issues and concerns such as Panama Leaks, elected government’s inability to exercise its constitutional writ on national security and foreign policy domains, and it’s evident failure and perhaps even reluctance in institutionalising consultative decision-making process.”

Amongst the problematic areas for Pakistan’s democracy, an uninspiring performance by the country’s Parliament especially the National Assembly which continued to be sidelined as a forum for debate, discussion and resolution of national issues. Perhaps this is also because there is a huge gap between voters’ expectations of their elected representatives, which includes work that should ideally be carried out by elected members of the Local Governments, and the MNAs’ actual responsibilities of representation, oversight and legislation.

With regards to performance of National and Provincial Governments, a consistent lack of institutionalisation in decision-making on has continued to be a problem in 2016 as well. Consider the federal cabinet, which is supposed to meet at least 52 times in a year, but could only manage to meet 6 times during 2016.

With regards to performance of the judiciary, the Pildat’s assessment stated “with regards to cases of a civil nature, there is a need to introduce various kinds of Alternative Dispute Resolutions methods.” “On the other hand, with regards to criminal cases, there is a need to reform the criminal justice system, along with improving the investigation and prosecution services. However, 2016 has passed without institution of major reforms in the legal process despite the clock ticking on expiry of the 21st Constitutional Amendment.”

With regards to Local Governments, it was observed that it is a positive development that they have been instituted across the country in 2016, except for in FATA, GB and AJK. However, it needs to be seen whether the powers guaranteed by Article 140-A of the Constitution have been devolved to the 3rd tier as was the intent of the Constitution. “This only seems to be the case in Khyber PK, whereas the LG structures in Sindh, Punjab, Balochistan, Cantonment Boards and ICT remain a cause of concern with regards to their autonomy and devolution of powers,” the reports says.

In civil-military relations and democratic oversight of the security sector, 2016 saw the civil-military imbalance deepen further as the military leadership seemed to be taking the leading role on matters of national security and certain domains of our foreign policy, with the elected government appearing to act as an auxiliary.

Internal democracy of political parties continued to be a liability for the quality of Pakistan’s democracy during 2016 as well. Even though there were some positive developments to report, such as the intra-party elections of the PML-N, which were undertaken as more of a mechanized ritual, and the establishment of the MQM as an indigenous party, rather than being a satellite run from London, no substantial improvement was noticed. In fact, a major setback was observed particularly for the PTI, the party’s cancellation of intra-party elections, allegedly because of its agitation campaign was a significant setback with regards to internal democracy of political parties in Pakistan.

Therefore, as noted before, the major political parties with significant electoral success, such as the PTI, PML-N and PPP continued to be lengthened shadows of their leaders, with little or no institutionalised decision-making in place within the parties on important policy matters.

On performance of the unelected executive/bureaucracy, it was noted that especially with regards to the civil service, including the police, that these crucial arms of functioning of the State do not have the same independence that is observed in the case of the Military. Unfortunately no reforms were instituted in this regard during 2016.