Political science is a social science which deals with systems of governance, and the analysis of political activities, political thoughts, and political behaviour. It deals extensively with the theory and practice of politics which is commonly thought of as determining of the distribution of power and resources. It has been seven decades since the independent state of Pakistan was carved out of British India, yet the country is still in pursuit of a suitable constitutional framework. Over this period of time, no other country has experimented with so many different constitutional forms, from parliamentary democracy to presidential form of government, to outright military regimes. The politics of Pakistan takes place within the framework established by the constitution. The country is a federal parliamentary republic in which provincial governments enjoy a high degree of autonomy and residuary powers. Executive power is vested with the national cabinet which is headed by the prime minister, who works coherently along with the bicameral parliament and the judicature. Stipulations set by the constitution provide a delicate check and balance of sharing powers between executive, legislative, and judicial branches of the government. The head of state is the president who is elected by the Electoral College for a five-year term. The president was a significant authority until the 18th amendment, passed in 2010, stripped the presidency of its major powers. Since then, Pakistan has been shifted from a Semi-presidential system to a purely parliamentary government. The Government consists of three branches: executive, legislative and judicial.
The Executive branch consists of the Cabinet and is led by the Prime Minister. It is totally independent of the legislative branch that consists of a bicameral parliament. The Upper House is the Senate whilst the National Assembly is the lower house. The Judicial branch forms with the composition of the Supreme Court as an apex court, alongside the high courts and other inferior courts. The judiciary’s function is to interpret the Constitution and federal laws and regulations. Pakistan is a multiparty democracy where several political parties bag seats in the National and Provincial assemblies. However, as an aftermath of the Fall of Dhaka in 1971, a two-party system was inculcated between the Peoples Party and Muslim League. The Military establishment has played an influential role in the country’s politics. From 1950s to 2000s, several coups were staged that overthrew democratic regimes. However, after the resignation of President Pervaiz Musharraf in 2008, a sharp line has been drawn between the Military and politics and Pakistan is moving closer to becoming a Liberal Democracy.
Members of the National Assembly are elected by universal adult suffrage (formerly twenty-one years of age and older but the seventeenth amendment changed it to eighteen years of age.). Seats are allocated to each of the four provinces, the Federally Administered Tribal Areas, and Islamabad Capital Territory on the basis of population. National Assembly members serve for the parliamentary term, which is five years, unless they die or resign sooner, or unless the National Assembly is dissolved. Although the vast majority of the members are Muslim, about 5 percent of the seats are reserved for minorities, including Christians, Hindus, and Sikhs. Elections for minority seats are held on the basis of separate electorates at the same time as the polls for Muslim seats during the general elections. There are also 50+ special seats for women now, and women are selected (i.e. not directly elected in the general election but given representation according to how their parties performed in the general election) on these seat by their party head: another seventeenth amendment innovation.
Throughout Pakistan’s history, the ruling elite have failed to bring in reforms to uproot an entrenched tribal political structure and build strong democratic institutions in Pakistan. Any attempt to curtail the power of tribal and feudal actors would alienate a critical base of support for Pakistan’s political parties, resulting in electoral ramifications. During the early 1970s, Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto tried to introduce land reforms to curb the ruling elite’s hold on state power, but failed to go beyond scratching the surface due to widespread opposition from different ruling circles. On the other hand, civil society groups in Pakistan have not been able to induce the state to move towards changing the existing political structure. Civil society remains fragmented due to the rural and urban ruling elite’s shared interest of keeping it in check and undermining its organisation and potential influence. Similarly, the working class is too weak to introduce a social revolution that would oust the feudal-dominated political structure.
It’s been more than 70 years Pakistan has come into reality of the world. In every decade the selective or elected parties drop the impression of helping people as soon as they come into power. According to me there should be a law framed to observe the five year detailed activity of a political party who shows their affection to serve the people by their projects and plans as they take the oath of to be the prime minister, minister, senator or PMA. If they are not in the strength to do their progressive and productive projects for the country well on time they must come under strict interrogation, because it is the matter of the integrity. The higher judiciary should develop a supreme council which could keep asking and observing these parties about what they have invested in their progressive work programs.
n The writer is a freelance columnist.