Africa Asia Europe North America South America Oceania
You are here: Home > Asia > Pakistan

Pakistan Politics

State and politics

Political System of Pakistan PoliticsThe state of Pakistan emerged through the division of the British colonial empire in 1947 as a federal democracy based on Islam, thought to be a kind of home for the Muslims of the Indian subcontinent. The country's character of religious state has been given varying weight during different political stages. In recent years, religious forces have tended to advance their positions.

Policy

Before the summer 2018 elections, the army and the security service had once again strengthened their influence over both the mass media and the Supreme Court. The election was won by Imran Khan, the former cricket star, and his conservative party Pakistan Tehrik-e Insaf (PTI, 'Pakistani Justice Movement'), who captured 149 of 342 seats in the National Assembly. Khan took office as prime minister in August 2018 and PTI also took the lead in Punjab, the politically and economically dominant province, while retaining the provincial leadership of Khyber Paktunkhwa, which it has held since 2013. PTI, which was responsible for changing the traditional political game and struggle against the corruption, many voices gathered in particular the very large youth generation. See ABBREVIATIONFINDER for how PK can stand for Pakistan.

Political System of Pakistan

With reference to corruption charges, the Supreme Court dismissed Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif a year before the 2018 election and deprived him of the right to hold political office for life. Shortly before the election, Sharif and his daughter Maryam Nawaz (born 1973) were jailed, but they were released in the absence of evidence shortly after the election. Their party, the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), stepped back heavily in the elections and lost about half of its seats, and Nawaz Sharif's brother Shahbaz Sharif (born 1951) assumed the role of opposition leader in parliament. Bhutto Family Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) led by Benazir Bhutto's widow Asif Ali Zardariand son Bilawal Bhutto Zardari (born 1988), had to settle for 54 seats. The formerly influential, secular party MQM, which gathered Urdu-speaking voters with roots in India, split and lost its leading position. The traditional religious parties also went back to the elections, which radically drew on Pakistan's political map.

GOVERNMENT

The country consists mainly of four provinces: Punjab, Sindh, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Baluchistan. In addition, there is the federally administered capital of Islamabad, a number of provincially administered clan areas as well as seven federally administered clan areas, Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA), along the border with Afghanistan.

The FATA area was established by the British as a buffer zone on the western outskirts of the colonial empire and is still partly self-governing. The border is called the Durand Line after the British diplomat who established it, originally as a provisional. The border is thus not internationally established and is not recognized by the Kabul government. Certain self-government also applies, in different forms, to those parts of the disputed Kashmir area that ended up in Pakistan, ie Azad Kashmir ('Free Kashmir') and Gilgit-Baltistan. Here, waiting for the Kashmir issue, in accordance with the UN decision, to obtain a political solution that determines the status of the area. A large part of Pakistan's borders in both the West and the East are thus of a temporary nature, which contributes to an uncertain situation in the country.

The division of power between the country's president and its parliament has varied over the years, but through the 18th constitutional amendment in 2010, parliamentary democracy was restored, with the prime minister as the country's political leader.

Parliament consists of two chambers: the Senate and the National Assembly. The former has 104 members elected in six years (half is replaced every three years); 17 places are reserved for women, 17 for experts in Islamic theology and jurisprudence and four for non-Muslim minorities. Of the 342 members of the National Assembly, 272 are elected by majority vote in one-man constituencies every five years. Quota is applied to women (60 reserved places) and to religious minorities (ten places).

The president, who has a mainly ceremonial role, is elected by both parliamentary chambers and provincial parliaments, while the prime minister is elected by the National Assembly. Both the president and the prime minister must be Muslim. The provincial governors are appointed by the president while the provincial parliaments appoint the governors of the provinces, led by a chief minister. Official languages are Urdu and English.

However, the democratic system has found it difficult to take root, and the country has been ruled over time by military regimes that seized power through coups, sometimes welcomed by a population tired of the corruption and inefficiency of civilian rule.

Since Pakistan is a mosaic of diverse language groups and ethnicities, it has been difficult to anchor the idea of a Pakistani nation state. The only truly cohesive element is the Islamic religion. Only a few percent of the population is made up of religious minorities. However, within the Muslim population, there is an estimated 10-20 percent Shiite minority, while the majority are Sunni Muslims.

In addition, at the time of the state's birth, Pakistan consisted of two geographically white parts; West Pakistan, with Punjabi as the dominant people group, and East Pakistan, populated mainly by Bengals. After a war in 1971, East Pakistan broke loose and formed Bangladesh. The problems of holding together the country have continued, inter alia through recurring separatist riots in the province of Baluchistan.

The feudal economic structure, especially in the countryside, helps to polarize the population (see Business), and the national institutions often work poorly, not least in the education system. Illiteracy is widespread, especially among women, who generally have a weak position. Pakistan is thus largely characterized by gaps - between civil and military, poor and rich, urban and rural, women and men.

Moreover, this fragile state formation is located in one of the world's most unstable regions and has been greatly influenced by the rivalry with Hindu (and much larger) India, as well as the recurrent and protracted conflicts in Afghanistan. The uncertain situation has helped to give the Pakistani army a very strong position in the country, with not only security policy but also major economic interests. The army has taken on the role of a kind of chief judge, prepared to intervene when the political situation is deemed to be about to derail, and in particular, the security service, Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), has developed in the direction of a state in the state.

However, the elections in relatively good order in 2008 and 2013 have strengthened democratic development. A free press and an open social climate have also helped to revitalize democracy, but are counteracted by, among other things, increasing religious extremism, often with sectarian signs. The Supreme Court has also, during certain periods, played a prominent role in Pakistani politics, sometimes as counterbalance to the army, sometimes rather as the army's extended arm.

Judiciary

The official legal order in Pakistan is based on British legal tradition, expanded with elements of Islamic law (Sharia). The Supreme Court of the country (Supreme Court of Pakistan) is the highest judicial body and can also raise human rights issues on its own initiative. Especially during periods of military rule, the Supreme Court has emerged as a counterbalance to the military's exercise of power; during other periods, it has approached the army and rather its affairs.

Next to the Supreme Court there is an Islamic supreme court whose task is to check that laws and regulations are in accordance with Islamic injunctions and values and to be the highest court in cases judged in accordance with Sharia law. In addition, in every provincial capital as well as in Islamabad there are superior courts (High Courts) and under them a comprehensive system of local courts as well as a variety of special courts for different types of cases.

The partially autonomous areas of Gilgit-Baltistan and Azad Kashmir have a separate legal order, which is similar to the one in the Pakistani provinces. In the FATA area of north-west Pakistan, until 2018, there was a legal system with roots in the British colonial era, which applied, among other things, collective punishments. This was formally abolished when a decision was made to integrate FATA into Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province.

As a whole, the judiciary works poorly, with widespread corruption and very long processing times. It is not uncommon for it to take more than a decade to come up with a verdict and that this will benefit the party that has paid the most for the table. It is also not uncommon for the police to refuse to register reports of, for example, sexual abuse. For women, it can also be difficult or even risky to try to report a crime at all. Consequently, the dark numbers for gender-based crime are judged to be very high.

In addition to the regular judicial system, local mechanisms remain that resolve disputes in accordance with a traditional view of justice. In rural areas, it is often the oldest or similar parishioners who settle disputes. This system is more effective and less corrupt than the official but clan-based and legally insecure, especially for women, who are not represented in these sentencing assemblies.

The death penalty is included in the scale. A moratorium on executions was introduced in 2008 but at the end of 2014 it was claimed for terrorist offenses and a few months later also for other offenses. Since then, the number of executions has again risen sharply. The development is criticized, among other things, in the light of the fact that torture is routinely occurring at the police stations and that the verdict is to a large extent based on recognition rather than evidence. The executions are done by hanging. In the irregular application of the law, the death penalty is even more common, especially for so-called honor crimes. The number of women murdered in this way is estimated by human rights groups to hundreds per year; even men fall victim.

A particularly controversial feature of the Pakistani rule of law is the so-called blasphemy laws, which have been incorporated into various sections of the Criminal Code. Among other things, the death penalty is for abusing the Prophet Muhammad's name. The law is designed in a way that allows it to be used to avenge or harm its neighbor, and the country's religious minorities are particularly vulnerable.

Human Rights

The country is lacking in a number of human rights issues. Involuntary disappearances, torture and extrajudicial murders occur to a large extent. The sectarian violence increased between 2010-15 and the northern parts of the country have become a haven for members of Taliban forces and other Islamist extremist groups from Afghanistan. Religious minorities such as Shia Muslims, Hindus and Christians are subjected to violence while the impunity is widespread and the rule of law is lacking.

Violence and sexual violence against children and women in the home are common. Sexual harassment, acid attacks and harmful traditional practices occur to a large extent. Honor killings occur, and according to human rights organizations, 1,000 are murdered each year based on honorary beliefs. Human trafficking is widespread and children are particularly vulnerable to exploitation.

Freedom of speech and press are guaranteed by law but are not complied with. Journalists and their family members are subjected to threats, harassment and outright murders, which is reflected in Reporters Without Borders Press Freedom Index for 2015 where the country gets a bottom rating. Of 180 countries surveyed, Pakistan has 159 seats.

Heads of State

Presidents

1956-58 Iskander Mirza
1958-69 Mohammad Ayub Khan
1969-71 Agha Mohammad Yahya Khan
1971-73 Zulfikar Ali Bhutto
1973-78 Fazal Elahi Chaudhri
1978-88 Mohammad Zia ul-Haq
1988-93 Ghulam Ishaq Khan
1993 Wasim Sajjad
1993-97 Farooq Ahmed Leghari
1998-2001 Mohammad Rafiq Tarar
2001-08 Pervez Musharraf
2008-13 Asif Ali Zardari
2013-18 Mamnoon Hussain
2018- Arif Alvi
Other Countries in Asia

Politics eZine Copyright 1999 - 2020 All Rights Reserved