Political culture is the set of attitudes, beliefs and values, which shape the behaviour of individuals in a particular political system. It plays a pivotal role in determining political ideals and operating norms in any polity. Without adequate knowledge of political culture, there cannot be any qualitative or comparative analysis of the political system of a country. The democratic political system of Britain cannot be understood without evaluating the entire evolution of the political conventions and traditions prevailing in the country over a certain period of time. In the absence of a written constitution, it is only the political culture of Britain that ensures and explains phenomenon, like the supremacy of the parliament, collective responsibility of the cabinet and independence of the judiciary etc.

So far, Pakistan has successfully achieved many constitutional milestones in the form of the objectives resolution and the constitutions of 1956, 1962 and 1973. On the other hand, we have miserably failed in evolving and introducing any dynamic or healthy political culture in Pakistan. Despite having a comprehensive, exhaustive and written constitution, there have been a lot of constitutional and political crises in the country. The current political impasse between the government and the protesting parties, the PTI and PAT, essentially represents this problem. The pervasive and prevailing authoritarian, undemocratic, and totalitarian tendencies in our politics are the major hurdles in the way of evolving a democratic political culture.

Political parties in Pakistan are mostly being run on a very personalised and dictatorial manner. They have significantly failed in rising above the cults of personality and family influence of political dynasties. The incumbent PML-N government is frequently criticized and termed by its opponents as a ‘family limited company’, for offering key political and administrative positions to certain members and close relatives of the Sharif family. The PPP cannot be separated from the Bhutto family. Additionally, all other political parties also don’t have any identity independent of their leaders, including PTI. This aspect of our politics has shattered the basic concept and spirit of the participatory democracy.

In the form of Article 6, the provision relating to high-treason has been inserted in the constitution of Pakistan to prevent any extra-constitutional step taken against the political system. So far, this provision has twice been violated by two different military dictators. In contrast, the constitutions of western countries do not specifically oppose any military intervention in their respective countries. However, the political culture and strong democratic norms prevailing in these countries have made any such intervention almost impossible. Today, if there is any check on this Bonaparte tendency in Pakistan, it is only because of the growth of judicial activism, a vibrant media and strong public opinion against military intervention, instead of Article 6 of the constitution.

Phenomenon like constitutionalism, fair play and the rule of law have no place in the current national political discourse of the country. The brutal and excessive use of force in the Model Town incident to deter Allama Tahir ulQadri, the subsequent attempt to put a cover on it and the non-registration of the FIR of this incident for a long time, speaks volumes on this tendency. In the event of any tragic accident, the highest person in authority of the government prefers to resign in other countries. Regrettably, no one ever bothers to feel such a moral responsibility here. Likewise, it is only in Pakistan where a parliamentary political party can, by disregarding altogether all constitutional and moral norms, pressurize and ask an elected prime minster to step down on the basis of unsubstantiated accusations.

In London, by signing the Charter of Democracy in 2006, both Nawaz Sharif and Benazir Bhutto pledged to show political maturity, and not to repeat the mistakes and of the last decade. But as soon as PPP came in power in 2008 the old tradition of making personal attacks was resumed at once. Now, another political party, which stands for “change”, is openly using insulting and abusive language for its opponents. Imran Khan equally and publicly bashes the leadership of the PML-N, including the prime minister, other parliamentary political leaders, judges of superior courts, officials of the election commission and the owner of a media house. In addition to this, comparing politics to cricket and using the cricket terminology has also become an essential part of the political culture.

Recently, containers have also occupied a central place in the whole political scenario. Instead of Parliament, they have been chosen as a place to debate and discuss the vital national issues, and to settle political differences between politicians. The leaders of PTI and PAT are leading their marches through these containers. They are addressing their followers from the top of the containers, and making consultations with each other while staying inside. These containers are also facilitating them to negotiate with the government. On the other hand, the government has also been using these containers as a primary instrument to contain the long marches by blocking the roads.

In the name of purging the system instantly, the political tradition of throwing the baby out with the bathwater should be stopped. Between the Glorious Revolution and the present-day’s Britain, there lies three and half centuries worth of a continuous and consistent period of political evolution. Therefore, instead of being obsessed with the phenomenon of revolution, the political system should be given a fair chance to take roots by setting positive political traditions and evolving a healthy democratic political culture. A poor political culture can by no means be the basis of a progressive democracy.

The writer is a lawyer.