Political Instability is Not Accidental – It is Man-Made.

Does the country need demigods?

By Kajol Manshad 

Political rivalry has led to alarming centrifugal tendencies in Pakistan. Is it becoming apparent that constitutional procedures and democratic politics are not enough to heal the divisions and cleavages that currently exist?

Political instability is not accidental. It is man-made. The institutional delicacies and structural shortfalls beget instability and fluctuation; however, those inadequacies ultimately hark back to the judgments, decisions, and actions of men. Throughout history, it is the fallacies, delusions, and errors of leaders, who have pulled down and exploited states for their ‘personal’ profits or because of their incompetencies. In the contemporary era, a frail and immature leadership along with the ‘à la carte’ application of laws continue to abrade fragile polities in Pakistan that already function on the cusp of collapse.

How best to beat back political instability and prevent state failure are among the high-priority questions for Pakistan’s institutions.

Pakistan’s political system is characterised by an opaque democracy. In the face of the 2024 general elections, political parties find themselves swallowed disconcertingly into a maelstrom of anomic internal and external conflicts. In the aftermath of two years of political turmoil in the country, following the removal of the PTI government under Prime Minister Imran Khan in 2022 via a no-confidence motion, independent candidates supported by the PTI managed to secure the highest number of seats, followed by the PML(N) and the PPP. These results have befuddled and stunned many individuals and institutions, both domestically and internationally. A widespread impudent and barefaced pre-rigging against a particular party had people thinking results would come out otherwise. Voters have emerged as active enablers of political say and a powerful force that could influence political outcomes. However, the post-election atmosphere has descended into deplorable chaos and confusion. From independent candidates backed by PTI joining opponent parties to the emergence of other-worldly coalitions.

People’s anger at political elites and apprehension about swift political changes have been among the primary factors of political upheaval in Pakistan. Attitudes towards politicians play a significant role in determining people’s satisfaction or dissatisfaction with their country’s democratic system, in addition to political rights. When leaders go against the values they claim to uphold and protect, it leads to forlorn citizens questioning the integrity of Pakistan’s political system. If the rights-based system is only applied to a certain group, it reinforces double standards and allows for impunity to spread.

On both the right and left of the political spectrum, anti-establishment leaders, parties, and movements have grown, sometimes questioning the core values and establishments of liberal democracy. This frustration and resentment against the political elite is directly proportional to disaffection with the political system of Pakistan. The current state of political instability can be traced back to the actions of both the political and ‘apolitical’ elite. These individuals, who hold significant power and influence, have failed to uphold their responsibilities to the public, resulting in a breakdown of trust and a sense of disillusionment among the people.

Is it truly in the best interest of our nation to have a leader who is simply a demigod representative of a ‘stolen’ mandate? Citizens must question whether this is enough. Shouldn’t they aim for a leader who is not only strong, stable, and smart, but also compassionate, visionary, inspiring, and capable of bringing positive change?

Demand more from leaders and strive for nothing less than excellence. Inspiring leaders were critical to Asia’s economic success, according to Michael Schuman’s book “The Miracle”. Deng Xiaoping’s economic reforms facilitated China’s transition from a closed, centrally planned economy to a manufacturing and export powerhouse. This resulted in an annual GDP growth rate of 10 percent, lifting nearly half of China’s people out of poverty and moving them from middle- to high-income status.

Some parts of the media may indeed find life less interesting without demigods, but this is not a great loss. What truly would attract the electorate is a genuine leader who can connect with them and promote clear principles and values that they uphold through their actions. Great leadership involves encouraging innovation, valuing different perspectives, recognizing complexity, and understanding culture and complex adaptive systems. It is the time that individuals within the institutions as well as the outsiders work together to counter this long-lasting political instability by holding accountability and working towards fostering a stable and equitable society.

As argued by Fukuyama (2015), if a state is unable to limit the power of institutions, be that military, judicial and/or parliamentary, it becomes a dictatorship. And, on the other hand, a government that has no power and is bound by too many constraints is anarchic. The wicked problem of political instability in Pakistan is intensely marinated by both factors.

Before the proliferation of anarchic entities and nostrums, it is incumbent upon the institutions of Pakistan to ensure that the nation’s apparatus is not subject to the control of a self-interested elite. In this regard, it is crucial to establish a robust and transparent decision-making framework that guarantees impartiality, and that serves the best interests of the Pakistani populace.

The nation’s leadership must be held accountable to the public and must actively work towards the establishment of a strong, democratic system that is not amenable to influence by vested interests. Such efforts will not only serve to ensure the stability and growth of Pakistan but will also enhance its standing in the global arena, engendering a sense of confidence and trust in the nation’s governance.

How best to beat back political instability and prevent state failure are among the high-priority questions for Pakistan’s institutions.

The writer is a PhD candidate for Politics and IR at Keele University. She tweets @KajolManshad 


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