Democracy at odds: India’s resilience versus Pakistan’s instability

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 India and Pakistan both emerged as nations around the same time and since have had divergent trajectories. While India has emerged as one of the most significant economies and an emerging superpower in the region and became a strong global force, unfortunately, Pakistan has faced decades of political instability and military interventions, undermining its democratic framework, wrote Dr Shenaz Ganai.

Pakistan’s political history has been pleased with civil-military rivalry, causing distrust and disruption of the civilian leads. The country continues to grapple with the history of power clashes between elected leaders and the defence establishment, critically weakening its democratic institutions.

From Liaquat Ali Khan to the former Prime Minister, Imran Khan, Pakistan’s tussle for control between civilian and military forces has been relentless. This impeded the development of the democratic system and constitutional rule, according to the author.

The author is a former Member Legislative Council, Jammu and Kashmir.

Pakistan’s tumultuous path to democracy has been a chronicle of missed opportunities, political turmoil, and institutional conflicts. Since its creation in 1947, the country has seen frequent military coups, endemic corruption and a never-ending struggle between the democratically elected civilian government and the powerful defence establishment. As a result, the country’s democratic institutions and progress have been severely impacted, with the incumbent government, unable to shake off the stranglehold of the defence establishments’ influence and assert their authority. Unfortunately, the country’s current situation remains dire, with the common people bearing the brunt of this political discord.

In stark contrast, Pakistan’s neighbour and fellow country created in the same year, India, has established itself as a vibrant democracy, marked by a peaceful transition of power and robust institutions. India has also transformed itself from a developing nation to an emerging market, an economic powerhouse, while Pakistan is still grappling with the return of domestic issues, such as unrest, poverty and political instability.

Despite seven decades of democratic governance, Pakistan has been unable to establish a stable democratic set-up to the institutional conflicts and put its influence on the defence establishment. The ministry has played an influential role in domestic policy and governing decisions, positioning itself as a Parallel power. As a result, the elected governments have frequently remained reliant on the establishment of their tenure, resulting in a political stalemate where a neighbour party has been able to take decisive action on long-term issues. In addition, the defence establishments’ influence has impacted Pakistan’s foreign policy decisions, leading to a lack of consistency and negatively impacting its foreign relations.

The current situation In Pakistan is highly concerning for the region, given its frequent internal tumult. Political instability has always resulted in a lack of investment, reduced international aid, and a halt in infrastructure projects leading to significant economic losses.

Pakistan’s political instability has seriously hindered its economic development, deterring investors and businesses concerned about unstable conditions. In contrast, India’s stable environment has helped it progress rapidly economically, with a ranking of 131 out of 189 countries in the human development index, where Pakistan lags at the 154th position. Similarly, India ranks 63 in the world bank’s ease of doing business index, while Pakistan’s ranking is 108.

The Instability in Pakistan, not only challenges the country, but Southeast Asia as a whole, risking regional stability, upon which neighbouring countries, like India, rely heavily on for their growth and development. Instrumental in creating conditions for peace and stability, building trust between government institutions will allow Pakistan to contain internal divisions, ensuring prosperity for citizens and the region as a whole. For Pakistan, to become a stable, progressive and democratic nation, it needs to revisit its constitutional structure and empower civilian leaders. The commitment to rectifying its democratic shortcomings is essential for the betterment of the region and its people.

India’s successes is a result of its robust democratic system and its people’s resilience, while Pakistan’s struggle with stability, underscores the importance of nurturing democratic institutions. The tale of these two nations offers valuable lessons and serves as a reminder that a commitment to democracy is critical to sustainable development, stability and prosperity.

The journey towards democracy in Pakistan has been fraught with obstacles and setbacks. The insidious influence of the defence establishment on governing decisions, combined with political impasse has significantly impacted the country’s economic growth, stability, and regional standing. Unless Pakistan can relieve itself of these institutional conflicts, the country will continue to struggle on the world stage. The sharp contrast between Pakistan, and India’s growth trajectory underscores the importance of stable and democratic governance in emerging markets. Pakistan must, therefore, usher in stability and progress to replicate India’s success.

As a great Indian philosopher, Chanakya once said, “State is as strong as its administration.” For the greater good of Southeast Asia and its inhabitants, we can hope that Pakistan acknowledges its democratic shortcomings and embarks on a journey to rectify them, ensuring prosperity and stability for its people and the entire region.

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