Democracy is the one of the basis on which Pakistan came into being in 1947. Democracy is one of the ideologies upon which Pakistan was established in 1947. In the Muslim world Pakistan is considered as the world largest Islamic democracies. Democracy is about choosing their leader and have active involvement in the government decisions. Pakistan constitutionally is a democratic parliamentary republic.

The term democracy was appeared in the 5th century BC, was used in the political systems of Greek city states, more likely in Athens. The ancients Greeks were the first to create a democracy. This means the “rule of the people”. The word comes from demos which means common people and kratos which means force/might.

Pakistan follows its on ways of democracy. Due to instability in Pakistan, the fluctuation in Pakistan’s democracy has been observed from the start. We could not understand the real meaning of democracy, reason behind is the less knowledge of the public regarding this system and how actual democracy works. This is and this can effects the future badly. The progress of democracy has been unsatisfactory. However, democracy was not allowed to work well in Pakistan. Pakistan adopted democracy within an Islamic framework as a form of government since its independence. The application of the democracy was unfortunately remind irregular in in the country due to many reasons and factors.

Pakistan experienced democracy under the constitution of 1956 and 1973. The process of democracy was again and again derailed in Pakistan.


1947-1956: An incipient democracy struggles to assert itself as the specter of dictatorship looms.

After the independence, the first decade was marked as struggling democracy. Democracy was trying to impose on the landscape of Pakistan. This time period was considered as the groundwork for the civil-military imbalance. It was though for the Pakistan to handle the new established state as Indian was fearing Pakistan for the threatening actions. The diverging paths of military and civilian government eventually created two forces in a conflict, only one was likely to win that situation. Pakistan first experiment with democracy came to an end on 7th October 1958, when the President Iskander Mirza dissolved the assemblies and declared the first martial law in Pakistan.

1958-1971: The years of development, conflict and direct military rule.

Iskander Mirza took the control of the government and took all the charges of the democratic government. The army chief Ayub Khan took all power from his hands and sent him on a vacation. Ayub declared himself a president and governed for a decade. This was defined as a turning point in Pakistan’s economic trajectory. During his time period Pakistan fighting a war against India in 1965. The economic policies and other policies of Ayub were also play a responsible role in East Pakistan breaking apart from Pakistan.

Ayub faced a lot of criticism when we gave the constitution of 1962. In this constitution initially did not include the “Islamic republic”, in its title. He introduced the “basic democracies” system, which was a complex system. Through this system he was elected indirectly. Ayub belief that the Pakistan was not suitable for the parliamentary democracy. Ayub economic policies were also like his predecessors which cause him a lot of problems. He set Pakistan on the path of unprecedented industrial development. This gave birth to the regional inequalities. These inequalities gave birth to the social unrest that forced Ayub Khan to resign in1969. The elections were not held and power was shifted to then army chief, Yahya Khan.

 Yahya was also a enigma like others. Yahya was the first to hold direct elections in Pakistan on the basis of “one person one vote”. This causes a lot of problems for him. The situation of East Pakistan goes into the worst. He played a biased role in the conflict of East and West Pakistan. Due to many issues and influence of India on the East Pakistan, the tragedy of East Pakistan happened. And was separated from the West Pakistan in 1971.

1971-1988: The year of self-avowed “socialism” and military rule.

Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto and his party were ruling/governing the country. Bhutto had popularity on his socialist mandate of, “roti, kapra, makaan”. He nationalized many industries in the country.

He was failed in land reforms and had an economic crisis that gripped Pakistan. His action against prominent trade unions causes him a lot of trouble. The floods in 1973-74 and oil crisis and some others factor all contributed to decreasing Bhutto’s popularity in the country. At the time of his government, he had some serious issues with the the military and specially from the chief of army. Opposition and the army chief were allied against Bhutto’s government. They blamed him that he rigged the elections.

General Zia-ul-Haq led ‘Operation Fairplay’ on the 5th July 1977, and ended Bhutto’s rule. Zia’s oppressive rule haunt the political and social system of Pakistan. Zia abrogated the 1973 constitution and added infamous ‘eighth amendment. Zia rule was blended by the views of Islam, which gave birth to many radical movements.

Zia also took the decision to part in the American war against the Soviet invasion in Afghanistan.

His tenure was another setback for the democracy and the democratic projects in Pakistan. He died in a mysterious plane crash on the 17th august 1988.

1988-1999: Controlled democracy and the decade of presidential high-handedness.

Pakistan’s 1990’s time period was ruled by Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif. This time period was like a musical chair, one was in and other was out. It was between two political parties or between two personalities. Two parties were ruling, this time period plays a very vital role in today’s Pakistan. One was trying to achieve the seat of prime ministers. Backdoor games were played against each other.

Benazir Bhutto came back from the aboard and took the charge on party, took part in elections. She make a remarkable came back and won the elections. Benazir Bhutto came with the direct conflict with president and army. It was due to the eighth amendment that president Ghulam Ishaq khan dismissed the Benazir’s government.

In the election 1990, Nawaz was elected. He came to the power and make some decisions. He also had some conflicts with military and president. Ghulam khan forced Nawaz to resign in 1993.

1993 Benazir won the elections and again became the Prime Minister. And later in 1996 elections Nawaz won the elections. Again same cycle was repeated by both, they both have conflicts with military and their governments was dissolved by the military rulers.

During this time period new political terms were used for position. Use of inappropriate language was used for others. Both government and position play the dirty politics. They violated the rules of democracy.

1999-2008: ‘Enlightened Moderation’ and a period of seismic changes.

Pervez Musharraf rule was another period which can defined in many ways. Pakistan witnessed the unprecedented economic growth. Pakistan participation in War on terror. Digital media gained immense growth. This step was/is considered as a downfall for the Musharraf. This digital media growth and exposure of Pakistan’s towards democracy proved that Musharraf was miss-fitted on this landscape of Pakistan’s politics. This led to the lawyer movement and emergency which led Musharraf to give up his power on 3rd November 2007.  

2008-Present: Democracy gaining a foothold in the country?

From 2008-18 this decade is marked as uninterrupted democratic rule. This period is marked as a tremendous period as they achieve a democratic gains such as ‘18th amendment’, ‘FATA’ merger in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

Elections of 2018 is a positive democratic step. Democracy is entrenching in Pakistan.


The current system of Pakistan is established in 2003. Pakistan now considered the youngest democracies in the world. Pakistan is constitutionally a democratic parliamentary republic. Elections held in 2008 were the first to conclude a complete 5 years term in 2013.


The democracy demands those promises which has not been fulfilled in Pakistan, and still are questioned about those demands and promises.

Quaid-e- Azam choose the democratic form of government for Pakistan, but it could not meet the levels of others democratic countries.

Pakistan snice its independence goes through many ups and downs and experienced many problems. Pakistan had its first constitution after the nine years of independence. Whenever the new constitution was formed military dictators came and finished that democratic rule and country was under the martial law. These dictators came one by one, their tenure was full of economic crisis and people were not free to express their feelings. The democratic rights were taken away from the people. Democratic governments were sent home by these military dictators. The military rules destroy the political institution in the country. The conflicts between civilian government and military was a great problem that democracy could not function properly in Pakistan.

Even politicians were also not aware of what democracy means. They were just fighting for the government. Even elected democratic governments plays same rule which dictators play for the democratic system but in different way.

One main cause of weakness was our social and cultural diversity. People were and people are still not aware of the true democracy. The problem was not in the system, problem was that they could not adopted the democratic system properly. The system is still weak to adopted proper democracy. Democracy is failed or it is weak in Pakistan due to different problems. Such as military rules, inequality in social system, political parties and non-serious attitude to leaders towards people and government.


Since independence Pakistan has been facing imbalance in institutions and other problems. Conflicts between civil and military bureaucracies was a result of weak political system which could not hold the regular elections. Democratic system was lacked among masses.


The suspensions of constitutions and the rule of military dictators is a great reason which has cause many problems in democratic system. Military rules imposed martial law, suspended the constitutions and rights of citizens, ban on political parties destroy the political system in the country. Their polices were not so efficient for the growth of Pakistan. Economic growth, political growth and development of the country was stopped, these were the reason that democratic system and political institutions could not perform the good governance.


Democracy is the phenomenon, it is for the people and democratic in nature. The social structure of Pakistan is nondemocratic. Feudalistic fares are still in deep roots of Pakistan before partition. Feudal system in Pakistan could not be eradicated as it is in the deep roots. Many leaders and politicians have a feudalistic approach and background. Snice independence Pakistan has been at the mercy of military dictators and feudal politicians. This system of feudalism is biggest obstruction in the process of democracy. In this nondemocratic process of feudalism democracy could not functions effectively.


It is a rule of people to elect their representatives through free and fair elections. This element of democracy was manipulated by different means. The violation of election commission rules and rights of voting exists in the system. Elections were rigged in past and the right of people was manipulated in this process.


For past 70 years, the country has alternated between military regimes and ineffective elected civilians. A small group of elites were/are ruling the whole country’s pollical scene under civilian and military rules as well. Over the years many people from military, religious and feudal background emerged in the political scene. These are totally unaware of the main and complex problems of system. As the system of Pakistan is complex from the start. It needs a fundamental structural political reform. The crisis of Pakistani democracy is rooted deep in the political, social and structural lines.



The biggest challenge to democracy in Pakistan is feudalism. The feudal loads are in the deep root of political system of Pakistan. For more than of 70 years these feudal loads are in the politics and in parliament. They are the biggest challenge, democracy and feudalism could not work together. They both are opposite to each other. These feudal loads not allowed anyone to interfere in their matters. They are all in all authority in their areas. They violet the basic rights of people. While democracy gave equal rights to all the citizens.


The biggest issue of Pakistan is corruption. In democratic system mostly people are charged with the blame of corruption. Ministers are directly and indirectly involved in the mega corruption scandals. This corruption is the reason behind the economical unstableness. Mostly members are involved in corruption.


Lack of education is also a problem or challenge for democracy. People are not aware of their basic rights. They are not educated enough to understand the matters and policies of government.

If citizens have the good education so that country can achieve the democratic goals. Educated citizens plays an active and vital role in promoting the democracy. As education lies in my heart of democracy.


In Pakistan there is still a lack of democratic norms and values due to many reasons such as clashes between governments, conflict between two civilian groups, conflicts between military and civilian. The real problem is not in the system but in the attitude in leaders and politicians.


In Pakistan the freedom to speech was miss used. The democratic parties specially miss used the freedom of speech. People complain about the rule of military dictators and their polices but these democratic parties and leader language was too inappropriate and vulgar.

The use of abusive language towards each other and character assassination was done by these democratic leaders. This portray the negative impact on the pollical system and on the general public. The abusive language was mostly used for the women politicians. The respect towards women was totally ignored by the male members. If someone talk against the policies of government he was targeted very badly.


In this political system, two women were targeted very badly and disrespect fully. Madar-e-Millat Fatima Ali Jinnah and Benazir Bhutto were targeted. Many other women were also targeted. Male politicians used disrespect full wording for them.


Despite of many negative things, democracy of Pakistan has some positive aspect also.


when male politicians were strugglingly against military dictators, women were also facing them bravely. They were in front to fought for the democracy. They were not afraid of anyone. They break away all the stereotypes in Pakistani politics that politics was never a field for women. They proved them all wrong. They worked and fought for the democracy.  They make their places in assemblies. From national platforms to international platform women played a significance role in Pakistani politics.

It was because of democracy that Benazir Bhutto was elected as a First Woman Prime Minister of Pakistan, not only of Pakistan but first woman leader in the Islamic countries. She was elected twice as a Prime Minister of Pakistan.

Fahmida Mirza was the first women speaker of the National Assembly of Pakistan.

Many other women contribute a lot in the progress of democracy in Pakistan.


  • In Pakistan people have liberty of speech.
  • People protest against the policies of government. Public questions about the policies and decision of government.
  • People choose their leader through general elections.
  • In the parliament and in provincial assemblies there are some seats for the women and minorities.


  • Expensive mode of government. It is a expensive form of government because elections have to be conducted it cost a lot of money of the government.
  • Violence during elections.
  • People choose members on the basis of caste and creed.
  • Corruption of all officers and ministers.
  • Public elect some illegible persons.


  • The system of Pakistan is not much stable. Leaders and governments are changing in this system and specially in Pakistan the leaders and government changed frequently. This leads to instability.
  • In Pakistan democracy is all about power play and competition. Morality and moral values have nothing to do within a political system.
  • This system leads to corruption. In democratic system people have more charge of corruption.


The problem is not in the democracy, the problem is in how democracy is being adopted in the country. Democracy itself is not a problem, the democratic system in the country is the biggest problem. The conflicts which took place in the past were because of non-serious attitudes of state holders towards the government affairs. The cold war which was started between civil government and military was because of both were not taking anything serious. The four martial law in the country bring a lot of change in the meaning of democracy in Pakistan.

In my view point Pakistan has not experience the real democracy from its birth. Pakistan is still not aware of the proper meaning of democracy. From 1947 to 2021 there are a lot of problems which Pakistan faced in the democratic system. Pakistan yet to have experience the real democracy.

                                                          ASHBA AHMED

                                                       BAHRIA UNIVERSITY ISLAMABAD