Needed: Democratic Infra structural Changes in Pakistan

This is a Pakpotpourri Exclusive

By: Yasmeen Ali    

Since it’s inception in 1947, Pakistan has been riddled with the question of finding a system of governance tailor made for her needs. In the quest,Pakistan has had affairs with Parliamentary System, Presidential System, semi-Presidential System…..but has been unable so far, to determine what suits her best.

All shades of governments and rulers came and went. Democracy was replaced by Dictatorship and Dictatorship by Democracy. Governments formed, mostly in coalition by the winning party joining hands with one winning provincially to form a majority and set up government.

If we look at the 2008 General Elections results, it provides an enlightening picture. Pakistan Peoples Party won a total of 94 seats excluding 4 for minorities and 23 reserved for women, bringing the score up to 130 seats. Pakistan Muslim League- N bagged 95 seats, including 3 for minorities and 17 reserved for women. Pakistan Muslim League-Q secured 55 seats including 2 for minorities and 10 reserved for women. Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) walked away with 26 seats, including 1 for minorities and 5 for women. Pakistan Muslim League-Fazlur Rehman Group nabbed 5 seats including one reserved for women. Pakistan Peoples Party –Sherpao Group took 1 seat as did the National Peoples Party. Baluchistan National Party-Awami, bagged a whooping 18 seats .

Thereby, a total of 226 seats were contested for and won by various parties in elections, 60 reserved for women, 10 reserved for minorities, bringing the total to 336. Jamiat-Ulema-e-Islam (F) did not contest.

The picture becomes clear as the mist clears by figures quoted.

Collaboration and partnership of Muttahida Qaumi Movement becomes mandatory if the party bagging most votes needs to set up a government in Sindh. Once done,there are the constant tantrums thrown, and the provincial party, following in the footsteps of  a film heroin, falls out with her lover, then is  cajoled with sweets, flowers, and more expensive offerings. There are situations leading to a near complete break up of the love-hate relationship, only to realize, by both, near the brink ,how important the partnership is,managing to pull back and embrace- letting bygones be bygones- till the same cycle happens all over again!

Likewise, in Baluchistan, the active support of Baluchistan National Party (BNP) is mandatory to form government in province.

In Peshawar, it was Awami National Party that won 13 seats, but none from Hazara. To form government, support by ANP to the party forming the provincial government is needed.

What clearly emerges from the above scenario was that no single party is, across the board acceptable to the people of Pakistan. PPP emerges as the only party with representation in all four provinces securing half the seats in Sindh, one-third of seats in the Punjab, and roughly 30 per cent seats in NWFP and Baluchistan. PML-N, the second largest party is routed to Punjab only, with no representation in Sindh and Baluchistan, and, in NWFP, secured seats only in the non-Pushto speaking Hazara area.  Ethnicity has started playing a big role in electing candidates-a dangerous trend.

The net result of this scenario is the following of an Appeasement Policy in dealing with the parties on board by the ruling party-whichever party is in the steering position, the 2008 General Elections results used as an example only. Instead of focusing on issues that should be focused on, time , energy, funds and  resources are misdirected towards keeping the coalition partners happy and willing to keep government intact. Good governance suffers. It becomes relegated to the back burner. Insults are hurled at each other, accusations, counter accusations hold the day. Then miraculously, a ministry here, a promise there, and the sun comes out, bright and clear, till the next round!

The interests of these small pockets of seats won by local parties may,and do, differ widely on issues from that of the ruling party. In the long run, it may be the national interest that is sacrificed at the alter of Appeasement!

Who is to be blamed? The smaller parties? The ruling party? Or both?

I think it is the wrong system that is to be held responsible. So long there are smaller parties nibbling in the pie, demanding a slice, good governance will continue to suffer.

Pakistan must seriously look at changing over to a Two Party System rather than a Multi-Party System it presently is. This is something we have never tried. Something so basically, glaringly wrong in our whole approach to democracy, that that it has effected governance by whomsoever government has been in power.

Yes! It is time for those democratic infra structural changes in Pakistan.

(Yasmeen Ali is a lawyer based in Lahore. She also teaches in a University and moderates her blog Pakpotpourri2).

Post a comment or leave a trackback: Trackback URL.


  • Raymond Durrani  On March 14, 2011 at 4:22 pm

    Good Analygy, Yasmeen.

  • SQ  On March 14, 2011 at 4:23 pm

    Well done! That is as beautiful a post as you could be.
    Take care, Jasmine!!!

  • Peter Chamberlain  On March 14, 2011 at 5:00 pm

    Yasmeen is a national asset of Pakistan. Pakistan needs hundreds and thousands of dedicated patriots just like her to give Pakistanis a chance to establish true democracy and overcome the tribal politics and international intrigues arrayed against them. The author decries the minority-dominated politics that prevent national unity, but from my perspective, this is a problem which all open democracies must face and deal with equitably. Our history is much the same, with extremes of political parties running the gamut, even including a national political party based solely upon racial hatred–the Ku Klux Klan. We overcame all of that and so will Pakistan, as long as there are people willing to devote the time towards saving their nation from the forces of chaos. Whenever the issues of minorities are dealt with by coalitions, finding the common paths that both sides tread in every issue, political issues become sorted-out into plus or minus opinion groups. This is the two-party system, arrived at only through dedication to pragmatism, everybody cooperating on everything, at some level .

    Good luck

    • Archie Haase  On March 14, 2011 at 5:16 pm

      Peter —- What a great summery of Yasmeen’s writing and my own county assuming yours also the United States. Pakistan needs time to sort itself out from it’s inner, and outer conflicts.

      Sadly the war in Afghanistan is preventing this by spreading the conflict into Pakistan itself. Provoked instigated chaos is the right word in describing Pakistan Peter, I think.

      • pakpotpourri2  On March 14, 2011 at 7:21 pm

        Dear Archie
        Thank you.Peter is way to kind. Yes he is an American & someone I have come to value as a friend. He has posted this article on his well read blog)link posted by him below).Let me introduce you to him:
        Peter Chamberlin has been actively opposing all non-defensive war most of his life. Peter’s first petition (as a teenager) was a success in his local community, raising several hundred signatures protesting Nixon’s scapegoating of Lt. Calley for the My Lai incident. He has been very active since 1982 writing letters to newspapers and magazines, as well as recalcitrant national leaders, speaking-out against war, nuclear war, and the impending violent collapse of the Western empire (that is now at hand). Chamberlin has had several hundred letter-to-editors printed in this time, followed by one hundred or more Internet articles. Peter started There Are No Sunglasses in June of 2008.
        You may read his articles on the following link:

  • Ayesha Khan  On March 14, 2011 at 5:32 pm

    Yes, infrastructural change is needed and for better governance a two party system seems as if it would be easier to manage. Yet surely the type of electoral system plays a role in determining the type of party political system. Also whereas the two party system such as in the US encourages political stability and are simpler to govern, it is inherently less open representation to views of minority parties which is part and parcel of a parliamentary democracy (a la UK) as compared to the constitutional arrangement of the US. Multi party systems also lead to “hung parliaments”.

    Cynically speaking for me the issue lies with the voters and our ability to hold our leaders accountable. This situation is further complicated by the degree of “interference” space that external stakeholders have and the level of “aid” addiction of those to whom we have entrusted our country and our posterity.

    Having said that yes, we cannot underscore enough the importance of infrastructural changes in the systems underpinning democracy. Political stability is critical for economic and social development. My only caveat would be to think through and be aware of all the advantages and disadvantages that come with change and establishing different systems.

  • Iltifat Lone  On March 14, 2011 at 6:14 pm

    I agree that infrastructural change is not only a need but a way forward for better governance. The two party system will be easier to manage. For doing this the role of electoral system will play a vital role in determining the type of party political system to be developed.
    Apart from this we need strong character, educated, disciplined and honest “Leaders”. Am always praying to Almighty Allah to accept my prayers and bless us atleast one leader. We also need visioned writers like Yasmeen.

  • siddiqui my  On March 14, 2011 at 6:46 pm

    Ms Yasmeen has raised a question which should have been raised 60 years back; on the eve of partition the Quaide has been mulling over this question ( his hand written note can be seen in the Quaide’e Corner in the Maritime Museum and it is totally authentic !( duly signed and sealed by the Cabinet div archives)

    The Quaide rejected the West Minister democracy outright saying it is not practiced anywhere in the west ( how true )

    He proposed Presedential system more suited for Pakistan.

    India & Pakistan both adopted West Minister model and it has failed in both countries; it seem to be working in India because (a) with so many nationalities etc it was their compulsion and (b) it is working because Congress was over 100 years old political party , highly organised and established traditions of democratic norms eg yearly and regular party elections for the Congress Presidents and working committee etc……..

    What is India today was more educated and industraliased eg only Utter Perdesh had 7 universities on 14 aug; Birlas,Tatas ansd Ambanis etc were not only well established industrialists but were running international trade………………..How many universities pakistan had on 14 Aug ? How many factories Pakistan had on 14 Aug ? Saigols. Habibs and Dawood’s & Isphanis were invited by the Quaide to set up businesses……………..

    Most West Pakistan (todays Pakistan ) was a tribal society with little education and no industry worth its name. Pakistan provided the British with fodder for their wars… a soldier was paid Rs11/month….you could not find a man so cheap to lay down his life in foreign lands………

    For whatever reason, despite set backs and failures we are hung upon West Minister Democracy…I just do not understand it…we are not British; they even do not have written constitution……so why emulate a syatem which is TOTALLY alien to OUR NATURE ?
    Fail we had and we shall continueto fail as long as we follow what is alien to our nature & psyche!! Even if we have 2/3 parties we shall still make a mess!

    Solution ? There are no short cuts. First we have to change our Feudal and Tribal culture and psyche…How ? EDUCATION with all capital words and Industrialisation……..and then Faith in our OWN culture and values and become ONE NATION !!!!!!!!!!!!! We have to un hinge with Kashmir problem; Kashmiris must fight for their freedom; they must win elections to show public support in real sense; surely we should and must give them moral and political support but should not commit suicide for their sake……
    Muslims of the sub continent have made tremendous and earth shaking contributions to the history and Civlisation..why do we feel inferior and why do we ape valgur and cheap indian culture ??

    In a way Ms Yasmeen is right in her concluding remarks in that “Infra structural changes” are essential. No of parties is not a problem. First there MUST be a drastic and revolutionary change in our Education system and the FEUDAL systen must be abolished a la India…….We should not feel inferior or sorry for ourselves…no system of governance is perfect; it is the people who fail it or make it work; self respect and self confidence shoud be the buzz words…presently we are like monkeys!!!!!! aping every tom Dick and Harry and know nothing of our great and glorious heritage and capabilities…………Taj Mahal stands upon unseen simple bricks…Its beauty will be lost if the founding bricks fail ?????????????????? All of us dont have to be Rich and Beautiful to be recognised…….

    Do not blame the system; we are at fault; system does not control humans ; we control the system….are we capable of contorl ???????????? Mercedes or BMW does not control the driver……bad driver can smash an armoured Mercedes??????????????

    First we must produce good drivers and THEN think of buying BMWs

    Ms Yasmeen has certainly given us food for thought ; are we ready and willing to partake of it ???????

  • siddiqui my  On March 14, 2011 at 7:08 pm

    Ms Ayesha is correct in most observations. I feel for us ie Pakistan a constitutional system based upon a mix of US and French Model could be answer ie A Presedential system like USA who is to be directly elected with more than 50% cast votes like the French ( re run unless one candidate gets the required % )
    President should exercise certain powers eg appointment of Judges and Service Chiefs …….
    Assembly to elect the PM who should form his govt with constitutionally sanctiond number of ministers who should be non political but answerable to the Assembly
    President have the authority to dismiss the PM but not the Assembly which is to elect a new PM….A constitutional Court of 5/7 retired judges of the Supreme court hear Consttutional cases; judges should have lifeterm unless declared medically unfit ( ie mentally !)
    Provences to Elect their governors etc….
    This is a broad brush proposal which can be improved But we must get rid of West Minister model

  • Akmal Shah  On March 14, 2011 at 8:37 pm

    If not already done so, suggest you read the party website of Mustaqbal Pakistan ( also favours a change, through the ballot box, in the present system.

  • Salim Ullah  On March 15, 2011 at 1:02 am

    Yasmeen G: Even today although we claim to have a Parliamentary system but the the President who is suppose to be only a ceremonial figure is poking his nose in every issue. All the so-called politicians and media are playing the role of silent observers. Ever one will start shouting at the top of their voice, one he is gone.

  • Tan  On March 15, 2011 at 3:57 am

    Well Done YAA, I agree with your analysis. Your communication skills really showing. Keep it up.
    Best Regards

  • Aamir  On March 15, 2011 at 6:01 am

    Excellent One. Aamir

  • Syed Ataur Rahman  On March 15, 2011 at 8:01 am

    The issues named by Yasmeen is exactly what the problem in Pakistan is. But do we really need democracy? We need poverty elevation, better the economic condition of this country, provide clean water to our people and let them be proud to be Pakistanis. So why don’t we have a technocrat government with representations from all the provinces on the basis of both population and area? The main purpose of this governments should be to emphasize and create means to have 100% literacy in Pakistan. The stress should be on education, education and more education. When this is achieved we can think of democracy or any other form of government.

  • S M Anwar  On March 15, 2011 at 10:51 am

    Two party system is ok, but it would require constitutional changes to do away with the nuisance of the smaller parties. But to have the constitutional changes you need the support of these smaller groups. It is a catch 22 situation for the time being.
    The crying need at present is how to prevent or at least minimize bogus voting which according to NADRA had reached an alarming proportion of about 44% during the last 2008 election.We need regular exercise of elections whether in a two party or multi-party system and hope that that present BIRADRI and feudal based society will one day grow up.

    • pakpotpourri2  On March 15, 2011 at 11:40 am

      Your point on bogus voting is very true.Currently a case in under hearing at the Supreme Court for nearly 2 crore bogus votes cast in the elections.
      However,an over haul of the system is imperative to weed out the problems as well as nabbing the law breakers.

  • Ayaz  On March 15, 2011 at 12:22 pm

    When Mr Moin Qureshi was the PM and Wasim Sajjad was the Acting President, after a presentation by the Chief Election Commissioner, in the GHQ hall, I had suggested that as Pakistan had 102 political parties, there was no way any one party could get even a simple majority. hence the basis of horse trading and corruption is inherent in the system.
    i had suggested that we have only two parties – the PPP and ML. The President could issue an ordinance to the effect. Hold the elections and ask the assembly to ratify the ordinance. All those elected would happily pass. That would therby become Law immediately.
    Moin agreed. He and I, and some of the attending Corps Commanders, pressed wasim Sajjad to do so for the sake of the furure of Pakistan. Wasim Sajjad blankly refused. Wouldn’t even give a reason.
    That one step could have changed the history and future of Pakistan. WS failed to come up to the occasion.
    If only we had a military man as acting President at that time.
    I would support your suggestion fully, in any way I can. Take up the cudgels. Let a younger lawyer do what an older one failed to do.
    Good luck

  • Inam Khan  On March 16, 2011 at 1:32 am

    This is the best time to install two party system ,left and right provided Zardari and Nawaz Sharif can handle the situation like two statesmen and not the warring dogs.If they continue to squabble,I’m afraid the situation will get out of hand.Now the rabble rousing is going on in the Punjab Assembly.It may later spread to other Assemblies and God forbid on to the streets as in the recent case of demonstration against the Supreme Court decision against the appointment of Justice(R) Deedar Haussian Shah as Chairman, NAB.There is no shortage of spoilers like Zuliquar Mirza,who is very parochial……………………..Inam Khan

  • pakpotpourri2  On March 16, 2011 at 2:58 am


  • Nasir  On March 16, 2011 at 8:28 am

    Yasmeen….wonderful article and something many of us have talked about
    over the years…..but I would go one step further and give the 2 party concept
    what the US has : a presidential and not a parliamentary form .

    But most importantly the ‘Judiciary’ must be reformed and again in a nation of
    300 million (the US) there are ONLY 9 permanent Supreme Court Judges..and we
    with smaller population have ? how many !

    The WHOLE system MUST be overhauled but will it ever happen…and do you think the
    ARMY will not want to have a say in all this !

    Dr Nasir Ahmad M.D.,FRCS(C).,FACS.,
    Flint, Michigan.

  • gh haider  On March 16, 2011 at 8:29 am

    A good proposal dealing with a very important issue facing the country. Because of the multi-party system we mostly get a hung parliament. This results in a government which is always constrained to spend its energies and national resources in appeasing its coalition partners rather than in the best of national interest. Smaller parties with vested regional and ethnic interests behave and act more like pressure groups than political parties and thus practically create impediments in the way of national progress. In the final analysis we see the manifestos of national parties being put aside and those of the pressure groups being actually implemented, which is not a very happy situation for the long term national aims and objectives.
    Most of the modern developed countries where democracy has matured and taken firm roots, are working on two party system. There is a dire need in Pakistan also to introduce necessary amendments in the constitution and switch over to two party system.

  • M Shahbaz  On March 17, 2011 at 8:40 am

    good one anyone reading?

    Muhammad Shahbaz Thuthaal

  • Salim Ullah  On March 17, 2011 at 12:39 pm

    Dear Yasmeen,

    Many thanks, indeed.

    One couldn’t agree more. It’s about time the 1973 Constitution was re-visited, like the author(s) had advised. However, given the present charged political environment one wonders whether this is an opportune time to open the Pandora’s box.

    A two-party system is certainly desirable. It should, however, evolve through regular and uninterrupted elections; the answer to weak democracy is more democracy.We nearly attained it in the decade of 90s. If thrust through an ordinance or extra-constitutional measure it would be rejected by smaller provinces/parties and would encourage centrifugalism.

    An immediate measure within the existing constitution could be the adoption of proportional representation (PR) system of elections wherein voters vote for parties instead of candidates. This will gradually eliminate several smaller parties.

    Further, within the PR system, open – list system could be adopted in which it is the voters that decide which candidates within a party win the seats. This will also help root out political Bonapartism leading to reduction of parties.

    A party must poll (an agreed mean) aggregate of votes in each federating unit. Failing that, the party is disqualified to contest elections; its winning candidates contesting bye-elections afresh from other party platforms.

    No candidates should be permitted to contest independently. They must represent a party.

    Any legislator deserting his party must seek fresh mandate from his electorate. Floor crossing should result in disqualification ipso facto. ‘Lotacracy’ is back in business reducing the Charter of Democracy to a farce. Recall Anwar Masood’s lament,
    جمہھوریت ایک طرز حکومت ہے کہ جس میں
    گھوڑوں کی طرح بکتے ہیں انسان وغیرہ

    A party not holding its own party elections since the last general elections (or past five years) is disqualified to contest elections.

    These are some stray thoughts and by no means exhaustive. Eminent political practitioners and analysts like you need to compile a consensus Charter of Democracy for the next elections.

    As an aside, in para 3 of your excellent piece you state, “Pakistan Muslim League-Fazlur Rehman Group……..”. I’ll convey your compliments to Maulana Sahib.

    Fond regards,

  • S U Turkman  On March 18, 2011 at 7:43 am

    That’s right.
    The Depressed Non Punjabi Minorities of Pakistan, who make up 56% of Pak Population should have no rights because all of them are Treasonous Foreign Agents and only our Punjabi Brothers are patriotic Pakistanis.
    We should ban all Political Parties that are not based in northern Punjab. No southern Punjab Parties because southern Punjab is not Punjabi Speaking. They are Saraikis. All parties that are not run by us Punjabis should also be banned.
    We should Cleanse Pakistan Ethnically. Only PML N and Q should be allowed to exist and all rest of Political Parties should be banned in the name of Islam, Security and Unity of our Sacred Land, the Fort of Islam, Islamic Republic of Pakistan …!
    Allaho Akbar …!
    Pakistan ZinDaabaaD …!
    Pakistan sai zinDaa BHaag …!

  • kamran shah  On May 2, 2011 at 3:43 pm


    We talked about the Cleasning Pakistani Political Culture….but is this ever going to turn into a reality OR remain a fantasy!!!

    For the Third Time in short political history of 3 years, Mr.Zardari (with support from Pentagon/CIA masterminds), has successfully brought Establishment on its Knees. Zardari first entrapped PML-Q leadership by triggering certain specific Fraud Cases and once trapped, “force” them to join Cabinet.

    On one front this will give a safe period of 12 – 18 months of Power to his League but will also bring MQM to finally settle a similar deal, BUT on a lesser “Benefit” this time.

    However the two most important parties are completely “Bowled Out” yet again and they are “Establishment” and “PML-N”.

    Establishment plans were to install a technocrat government with alliance from smaller parties such as Imran Khan/MQM/PML-Q (Anti Ch Group)/PPP (Pro-Bhuto group) to improve governance, bring new faces and make the own house in order.

    PML-N plans were that now since they have parted with PPP at a strategical junction, the left the friendly opposition at the right time before elections and they can attract the voters once again since they will have fierce opposition for the remaining two years. They are also keeping themselves away from the establishment plans which may be marketed as a clean chit for their political records… but politics is a bloody game….

    Both these above parties however could have done a great service to the country had they actually thought for a more constructive role based on Pro-Nationalist Agenda where National interest is supreme. Unfortunately they are brainless as usual.

    Now PML-N has no other options BUT to bow to Establishment OR else wait till Ch. Pervaiz Ellahi became the defacto Prime Minister and start rulling Punjab with his own 8-9 ministers. A parallel government…. Yes a real government within a government just to loot and do corruption and victimize opponets [PML-N]. ALAS WHAT A SHAME for Pakistanis where leadership is not performance centric but all focus to fullfill greed.

    Where as PTI is concerned, we really need to see where now it fits in this whole equation? Will PTI now join the PPP-MQM-PMLQ-ANP government OR try to allign with PML-N, since in case of PPP-PMLQ alliance for next elections, PMLN and PTI both have to do something similar to counter balance this strategy of PPP-PMLQ. Can the establishment settle something new woth between PMLN-PTI??

    So my question is again the same…..

    Who is that brilliant mastermind/s who can really work for Pakistan specific Political agenda (certainly again this time Establishment plans seems uprooted by clever zardari), clean the corrupt system and lead this country away from Internal and External Threats.

    A Patriotic Pakistani

  • Hamza  On August 20, 2012 at 8:58 am

    yes, we need a two party system that can ensure good governance and political stability,but at the same time we should figure out which parties do we need as the two major parties that can select candidates for election purposes. I prefer two New parties, both having the same ideology and goals i.e to serve the country and its people by any suitable means possible.All the other parties should somehow be prevented from the elections and their personal motives shared by their personal ideologies and goals should be abolished or they can be somehow merged in to the two major parties.But at the same time there should be no permanent leader of the two parties , so we don not see that family trend of the party that is currently present in PPP and PMLN and many parties of pakistan


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: