Pakistan Democracy and Rights

Democracy and rights

Democracy in Pakistan which is abbreviated as PAK by Abbreviationfinder, is fragile and is challenged by many special interests and strong centers of power. In 2013, the first democratic power shift took place in the country’s history.

Pakistani society has many similarities to a feudal system, which has limited the popular influence over politics. In the absence of a genuine democracy, the military, intelligence services, large property owners, clan leaders and in recent decades wealthy industrial owners have left their mark on the board. Democracy is also threatened by violent extremist and separatist groups. One example is the Pakistani Taliban movement.

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Elections are held regularly, but they are often bordered by violence and sometimes questioned the results of election observers and opposition. Free party formation prevails, but oppositionists may be subject to harassment, threats and violence from political opponents or extremist groups, if they pursue an agenda that disappoints. The legal system can also be used to get rid of a political rival, for example through prosecution for corruption or tax crimes.

Women are under-represented in politics. Quotation of women applies to both chambers of Parliament: 16 of the Senate’s 104 members must be women, and 60 of 342 in the National Assembly (lower house). Ten seats in the National Assembly are reserved for religious minorities.

A remnant of the latest military dictatorship is the National Security Council (NSC), which consists of the highest military leaders and the country’s most important politicians. The NSC’s task should be to allow civilian politicians to “consult” with the military leadership “in connection with important foreign policy decisions and national issues”. The establishment of the Security Council was also said to prevent future military coups, since the Council nevertheless gives the military so much influence that it does not have to dismiss the government.

Corruption permeates the state administration at all levels, not least the justice system and the police force. In 2019, Pakistan was ranked 120th among 180 countries in the Transparency International Index of Corruption in the World (see full list here). That was three investments worse than the year before.

Freedom of expression and media

For long periods of military rule, freedom of the press and opinion in Pakistan has been severely limited. Since 1988, the media’s ability to hold an open debate and criticize those in power has increased incrementally, even though journalists are still forced into a difficult balancing act.

It appears that the authorities are intervening in articles that are considered to threaten “the general order”. Journalists run the risk of being subjected to violence if they address certain topics such as criticism of the military, the intelligence service or the law of slander (see below). It can also be dangerous to write about corruption and crime. Attacks on journalists are rarely investigated properly and almost no perpetrators are held accountable. Behind the attacks are state security agencies as well as private armies, armed extremist groups, party activists and criminal leagues.

The laws that prohibit blasphemy (see Religion) have often been resorted to by journalists who questioned the influence of extreme Islamic views on society. Suicide attacks carried out by Taliban or other extremists have killed many civilians, including journalists, during the 2000s and 2010s. Most likely, it is likely to report from the Pashtun clan areas along the Afghan border and from the Pakistani part of Kashmir. The Urdu-speaking press, which is aimed at a wider public, is subject to more harassment than the English-speaking, which only reaches a limited elite in the big cities.

According to a 2002 law, journalists can be sentenced to imprisonment or fines for articles that may be perceived as defamatory or threaten the security of the country. This includes everything related to the country’s constitution, the defense, the judiciary and religious issues. Journalists who have criticized the government or who have examined Islamist armed movements have on several occasions been arrested under this law.

The media’s activities are not only affected by threats and physical violence. The authorities at both national and provincial levels often use advertising boycotts against critical media and bribery to get the reporters well-tuned. In 2013, the Supreme Court published a list of journalists and media companies that received bribes totaling approximately SEK 100 million from a secret account with the government. Most journalists’ low wages are considered to make them susceptible to bribery.

The country’s state etheric media is under the Ministry of Information and communicates the government’s positions. The approximately 100 privately owned radio stations are prohibited from conveying news. In isolated rural areas, including in the clan areas in the west, there are many local radio stations that spread outrageous propaganda for religious extremist groups.

As blogs and social media are gaining in popularity, government surveillance of the Internet is also increasing. From time to time, popular sites such as Facebook, Twitter and Youtube have been blocked, and since 2013 there is continuous monitoring of the internet with the help of advanced new technology. There are also reports that many journalists have their email accounts monitored by the state.

In Reporters Without Borders Index of Press Freedom in the World 2020, Pakistan ranked 145th among 180 countries (see full list here). It was about the same level as India but clearly worse than Afghanistan.

Judicial system and legal security

Within the judiciary, two systems exist side by side: a regular judiciary and courts judging by Islamic Sharia law. Some cases are tried and can be appealed in sharia courts, others in ordinary courts. While the Supreme Court has strengthened its independence from state power, lower courts are often able to influence due to incompetence and lack of resources.

The constitution guarantees basic civil liberties and rights, but in reality it looks different. This applies not least to women, children and various minorities. Other vulnerable groups are secular persons and human rights activists. Both state power (for example, government, military, paramilitary militia and intelligence services) and resistance groups (such as Taliban, militant Islamist networks, extremist groups) are guilty of various human rights violations. Common abuses include violence against women (including honor killings despite being criminalized in 2016), discrimination and persecution of religious and sexual minorities (including through heathen laws that can result in the death penalty), torture of suspects and interns, abductions, extrajudicial executions, slave and child labor. and child marriage (married age is 16).

Impunity is widespread in the state administration, not least the judiciary and the police.

The death penalty can be found in the scale. A stop for the death sentence prevailed between 2000 and 2015, when the Peshawar school massacre in December 2104 led to the establishment of special military courts with powers to try civilians for terrorist offenses. During the first two years, 274 people were indicted for terrorist offenses in these military courts, of which 161 were sentenced to death. Twelve were executed by hanging. Altogether, hundreds of executions have been carried out in Pakistan since 2015.

Pakistan Crime Rate & Statistics



Benazir Bhutto is murdered, Zardari takes over PPP

Former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto is assassinated following a general election in Rawalpindi. Bloody protests follow the murder. Bhutto’s 19-year-old son Bilawal Bhutto Zardari is appointed as new leader of the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP). Since he is young and inexperienced and has not completed his studies in England, his father Asif Ali Zardari in practice takes over the leadership of the party.


Musharraf resigns as commander-in-chief

Musharraf resigns as commander-in-chief and is then installed as president.

The Commonwealth excludes Pakistan

The Commonwealth, which brings together the United Kingdom and the former British colonies, excludes Pakistan from cooperation as long as democracy and the rule of law are out of the question.

Musharraf closes Supreme Court

President Musharraf is facing a nationwide state of emergency with the justification that it is needed to stem the rise of Islamist violence. He closes the Supreme Court and lets arrest many judges, other high lawyers and opposition politicians. The HD judges who do not swear a loyalty oath to the regime are dismissed. Human rights and freedoms are curtailed and the police are given increased powers.


Bomb attack against Bhutto

About 140 people are killed and hundreds injured in a bombing attack in Karachi targeting Benazir Bhutto just as she returned from the country’s escape. She herself escapes unharmed.

President Musharraf is re-elected

Musharraf grants amnesty to former prime ministers Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif as well as hundreds of other corruptly suspected politicians, who are thus given the opportunity to stand in the next parliamentary elections. He proposes to Bhutto a collaboration and then wins superiorly in the indirect presidential election.


President Musharraf may be re-elected

The country’s Election Commission approves that President Pervez Musharraf is running for re-election, despite failing to fulfill a previous promise to resign from his parallel mission as commander-in-chief.


Dozens dead when the army storms the mosque

Security forces occupy the Lal Masjid mosque in Islamabad, where militant Islamists and Quranic school students embarked, along with women and children. Over 70 people, including the mosque’s leaders, are killed when the army storms the mosque after just over a week of unsuccessful negotiations. The storm triggers violent Islamist revenge campaigns.