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Here’s Why Pakistan Is Doomed To Be A ‘Hybrid’ Regime

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In the aftermath of the cold war, political systems were swept by democratic wave morphing many authoritarian states into fledgling democracies. These democracies struggled to transcend institutionalized authoritarianism of their past, thus resulting in anomalous political system that was neither fish nor fowl. In political science, such a system is categorized as hybrid regime(s) for coalescing innate authoritarian foundation with the façade of democracy. It is therefore a political system that oscillates between the two extremes.

Hybrid regime instate in its governance arrangement all the characteristic features of democracy. Such as constitution, elections, government, executive, legislature, judiciary, specialized bureaucracies including administrative, law enforcement, security apparatus, and an emergent civil society, etc. However, the distinctive feature of hybrid regime is the fact that each of these entities are not allowed to function proper; because the authoritarian establishment that is the bedrock of regime does not license institutions to act freely as per their respective institutional logic.

For example, the institutional logic of legislature suggests that arguments for specific policy design are debated critically, and after an interactive process of evaluative deliberation, mutually assented argument is then formulated into law. But if debate draws on personalistic preferences based on self-interest than the common interest then such an exchange regresses the sanctity of legislature. Likewise, institutional logic of legislature requires that decision making over policy direction, design and implementation is devised from the argumentative debates taking place in the realm of legislature but not in any outside epicenter.

In other words, what political scientists have argued is that there ought to be no reserved domain(s) of power outside the institutional logic of legislature. But if there is then this signifies that the system is dictated by certain external force(s) nullifying the debate within. The might outside of system disqualifies regime to be democratic thereby rendering it to be undemocratic.

Keeping this institutional perspective in context political scientists therefore critically examine contemporary political regimes so as to develop theoretical knowledge and understanding of democratic shortcomings and to classify regime structures.

Currently in Pakistan various public intellectuals evoke the concept of hybrid regime to evaluate contemporary political scenario. They argue that there exists a distinct form of governing alliance in which the elected institution is servicing the one specialized dominant institution of the state. Therefore, in consequence of this alliance a farcical balance of institutional politics is established behind the veneer of democracy.

Furthermore, both beneficiary and benefactor have engineered consent in the civil society for their autarchic partnership. As a consequence of manufactured consent, citizenry is continuously reminded of a Pakistan specific exigency ‘the on one-page narrative’. This foible has become such a central requisite for the survival of existing governance structure that its repetition shall soon become counterproductive for the current regime itself. The astute observers of politics therefore have argued that the favored ‘on one-page narrative’ is an expensive political failing for the current submissive partner to advocate and the dominant to drape in the long run.

In contradiction to critical evaluation, this stoic partnership nevertheless continues with its self-declared onslaught on the raging deterioration of political institutions in the polity. The one key slogan that the current institutional duo feeds to their supporters is that the system of politics has decayed to such an extent that no compromise with the opposing voices can ever be effected. Thus, in such political and institutional stalemate we see a constant verbal clash between the manufactured governing apparatus and the disarrayed oppositional forces.

However, the main argument posited here is that public intellectuals have overly analyzed the current system of governance. They are misplaced in their assessment by claiming that existing system in Pakistan is unprecedented. It is argued that public intellectuals miss a crucial academic point: that Pakistan has never been a democracy ever! The governance system has never experienced full scale democracy; the pliable rules of self-constructed democracy has always been crafted and recreated without ever taking root.
The fact of the matter is that this existing governance composition is similar to any other previous governance arrangements. There has always been a combination of authoritarianism and electoral democracy. Political history of Pakistan is marred with electoral machinations; parochial realignment for personal gain; recreation of partisan loyalties based on personal interests than constituency needs; continual gerrymandering and a recurrent cry for saving country from self propagated external conspiracies.

Consequently, the state of governance system in Pakistan has always moved between direct military rule(s) and indirect (but military’s routed) civilian government(s). The two realities have prevailed rather furtively; for example, when there was direct military rule there was semblance of civilian government; and when there was the civilian government at the helm of affairs the military still vetoed institutional politics.

But there is one major takeaway from this movement between two extremes that is to say between direct military rule(s) and indirect (but military’s rafted) civilian government(s) that in both conditions the country has certainly experienced electoral freedom with some leverage allowed for peoples’ mobilization. It is this façade of electoral foundation that forcefully grants legitimacy license. And, indeed it is this qualitative feature that distinguishes Pakistan’s many experiences of hybrid regime from Latin American countries.

But the fact remains that Pakistan has experienced multiple versions of hybrid regime in its entire political history. The long shadow of political shenanigans in the country’s infancy paved authoritarianism to take root. The effect of authoritarianism led to safeguarding of personal political interests which therefore prevented the evolution of institutional politics.

In conclusion it is argued that we always have wished to construct an idiosyncratic localized definition of democracy by wrestling with the key ideals of democracy. We advocate political liberty but curb civil liberties; we declare singularity patriotic but dissent sedition. Moreover, we provide space for political pronouncements in public sphere. For example the venerated: ‘on one-page narrative’; or political declaration: ‘democracy is the best revenge’, or the political grievance: ‘give respect to vote’ or even the contemporary megalomaniac shout: ‘I am democracy’.

But without ever realizing the fact that democracy in Pakistan is an exclusive game of privilege for the ruling elite inclusive of elected and unelected; whereas for citizenry democracy is a zero-sum game.

The present theatrics of venal politics is reflective of Pakistan’s inglorious but an enduring experience with authoritarianism. The country enjoys episodic tryst with democracy by casting ballots after ever few years but without ever transcending authoritarian foreground.

Pakistan is, has been and inevitably will remain a hybrid regime.

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