Thursday August 11, 2022

Quality of democracy on decline: Pildat

February 01, 2017

ISLAMABAD: Year 2016 has seen a significant decline in quality of democracy, and performance of media as compared to the previous years. Performance of judiciary and access to justice did not improve even a single percent compared to last year, reveals Pildat annual assessment report.

Pildat’s annual assessment report on Quality of Democracy in Pakistan has stated that the year 2016 has seen quality of democracy slide by 4 percentage points from 2015. Instead of a steady transition towards improvement, democracy scores in Pakistan, year after year since 2013, show a somewhat tumultuous trend while quality of democracy was scored at its highest in 4 years at 54% in 2013. The scores slid 10 percentage points in 2014 to 44%, regained a little to 50% in 2015 to have slipped again to 46% at the end of year 2016.

It was hoped that 2016 would be the year where Pakistan moves forward towards a positive democratic consolidation through crucially required reforms in key democratic institutions. Instead, the year saw little, if any, improvement in fundamental functioning of key democratic institution. This rendered these institutions largely ineffective in resolving systemic issues.

Amongst the problematic areas for Pakistan’s democracy, an uninspiring performance by the country’s parliament and provincial assemblies continues. Especially the National Assembly (NA) continues 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 has continued to be a problem in 2016 as well. 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, Pildat’s assessment says the performance of the judiciary earned 55 percent scores on the scorecard in 2014. However in the next two years the performance of the judiciary remained the same at 49 percent and it was declined by 6 per cent as compared to 2014. 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’.

Another important indicator which is continuously facing decline in its performance is media which is moving downward in its performance since last three years. According to the assessment report, the media scored 53 percent in the scorecard, the next year it faced a 3 percent decline whereas in year 2016 it is further declined by 5 percent and reached at 45 percent.

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 devolved to the third tier as was the intent of the Constitution. This only seems to be the case in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, whereas the local government structures in Sindh, Punjab, Balochistan, Cantonment Boards and ICT remain a cause of concern with regards to their autonomy and devolution of powers.

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 foreign policy, with the elected government appearing to act as an auxiliary. However, in an important development and milestone in Pakistan’s democratic journey, a change in military command was witnessed at the end of November 2016, even though rumours continued to support the contrary.

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 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.