Upholding Democracy in Pakistan: What’s At Stake Amid Feb. 8 General Elections? Commentary
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Upholding Democracy in Pakistan: What’s At Stake Amid Feb. 8 General Elections?
Edited by: JURIST Staff

Pakistan’s democratic journey has been marked by challenges and triumphs, shaped by the visionaries who laid its foundation and the leaders who navigate its course. As the nation prepares for the general elections on Feb. 8, it stands at a critical juncture, where the principles of democracy and the rule of law must be upheld to ensure a fair and transparent electoral process. This analysis delves into the key issues and dynamics shaping Pakistan’s political landscape, with a focus on the importance of democracy and the rule of law in the upcoming elections.

Pakistan’s very existence is steeped in philosophical inquiry and intellectual depth. The country owes much to Muhammad Ali Jinnah, a barrister of prolific repute and a visionary leader who played a pivotal role in securing independence from British colonial rule. Inspired by the poetry of Allama Iqbal, Jinnah envisioned a homeland for Muslims in the Indian subcontinent, laying the groundwork for the creation of Pakistan. His eloquence, strategic acumen, and unwavering commitment to the ideals of democracy and equality shaped the nation’s destiny. Allama Iqbal, often referred to as the “Spiritual Father of Pakistan,” infused the struggle for independence with his poetic vision of a separate Muslim state. His writings, particularly the concept of “Shaheen” (the eagle), symbolized the aspirations of a free and dignified nation. Together, Jinnah and Iqbal embodied the spirit of the Pakistani people’s quest for self-determination and sovereignty. Louis Mountbatten, the last Viceroy of India, played a significant role in the partition of British India and the creation of Pakistan. In a posthumously released interview, Mountbatten reflected on his interactions with Jinnah, acknowledging the barrister’s instrumental role in realizing the dream of Pakistan. Despite personal reservations, Mountbatten recognized Jinnah’s leadership and foresight, underscoring his enduring legacy in shaping South Asian history.

Amidst the aspirations of democracy and nation-building, some in Pakistan espouse their interpretations of prophecy, believing they hold the key to the nation’s destiny. However, the quest for prophecy has often been mired in controversy and uncertainty, with decades of attempts yielding little progress. The forthcoming elections serve as a litmus test for the nation’s democratic aspirations, with leaders like Nawaz Sharif seeking to chart a course for the future.

Nawaz Sharif, a three-time Prime Minister of Pakistan, emerges as a prominent figure in the political landscape, despite facing corruption allegations and legal challenges. His return to Pakistan in 2023 was met with fervent support from his followers, signaling a resurgence in his political fortunes. However, questions linger regarding the integrity of his convictions and the impartiality of the judiciary.

In contrast, Imran Khan, once hailed as a harbinger of change for Pakistan, faces scrutiny over his governance and legal troubles. His tenure as Prime Minister has been marred by controversy and allegations of authoritarianism, raising concerns about the erosion of democratic norms and the rule of law. The recent convictions against Khan and his party members highlight the fragility of Pakistan’s democratic institutions and the need for accountability.

As Pakistanis wrestle with the great ideals and ideas underpinning their nation’s history, and the realities of the various criminal allegations and proceedings lodged against both political opponents, the role of the judiciary in upholding democratic principles is under scrutiny, particularly in its decisions affecting political symbols and party elections. The impartiality and independence of the judiciary are essential for ensuring a fair and transparent electoral process, free from undue influence and political interference. Upholding the rule of law and safeguarding democratic values are paramount to fostering trust and confidence in Pakistan’s democratic institutions.

As Pakistan approaches the Feb. 8 elections, it stands at a crossroads, where the principles of democracy and the rule of law must guide its path forward. The legacy of Muhammad Ali Jinnah and Allama Iqbal reminds us of the ideals that inspired the creation of Pakistan—a nation founded on the principles of democracy, equality, and justice. Upholding these principles is not only a moral imperative but also essential for securing the future of Pakistan as a democratic and inclusive society. As citizens exercise their right to vote, let us reaffirm our commitment to democracy and the rule of law, ensuring that the promise of Pakistan’s founding prophecy is realized for generations to come.

Hussain Abbas is an LLB student in the University of London External Programme. He files this from Islamabad.

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