Europe South Asia Asia Pacific Americas Middle East Africa BBC Homepage World Service Education

 You are in: Talking Point
Front Page 
UK Politics 
Talking Point 
In Depth 

Commonwealth Games 2002

BBC Sport

BBC Weather

Wednesday, 22 August, 2001, 08:48 GMT 09:48 UK
Will there ever be democracy in Pakistan?
Pakistan's military ruler, General Pervez Musharraf, says provincial and federal elections will be held starting on 1 October 2002.

General Musharraf made himself president in June after seizing power in a 1999 coup.

Pakistanis have lived under military rule for nearly half of their country's existence as a nation.

Periods of civilian rule have been marked by corruption and instability, leading to popular disenchantment with democracy?

Will Musharraf keep his word? Can democracy ever take hold?

This debate is now closed. Read a selection of your comments below.

Your reaction

I would like to give Musharraf a chance

Amir, Pakistan
The Indians seem to be very excited about the US tilt towards them. The fact is they just provide a very big market for western goods. And as big business controls virtually all in the west, it will support India only as long as it is a market or serves other interests. Yes, we could do with a smaller military budget, but with the kind of politicians we have experienced collectively and personally, I would like to give Musharraf a chance. That is as long as he does not become another Zia-ul-Haq.
Amir, Pakistan

I don't see the point of democracy in a country where the majority is illiterate. How are these people going to decide what's good and what's bad for the country, when all they know about the world is what they see around them?
George, US

The question posed eludes me, it really needs to ask "should" there be democracy in Pakistan and the answer without doubt is NO - the reason being that Pakistan as a democratic country has failed miserably since its emergence in 1947. The military ruler at the moment seems to have things under control for once, so let General Musharraf continue.
Mahv, Manchester, UK

False dreams of democracy will never help Pakistan

Ms M. Rehman, UK
False dreams of democracy will never help Pakistan or any "Muslim" country for that matter. We as Pakistanis across the globe and more importantly Muslims, need to stop being selfish and wake up and take responsibility for the very ugly hole we have dug ourselves into. We have more resources amongst us than we will ever realise; now we need to utilise them in the correct Islamic way. It will require a lot of struggle and even more education, but even speaking on a pragmatic level, we haven't got much to lose.
Ms M. Rehman, UK

There will be democracy in Pakistan if and when they are ready for it. That means when the will of the people is strong enough to overcome the resistance of those whom the current system favours. I personally do not believe that democracy is a panacea - it is merely a more complex process of deciding who will rule in their own interests. But the people of Pakistan must be allowed their shot at it, if that is what they want. And as the Muslim faith is about where the Christian faith was in the middle ages, I would guess that it is indeed time for the Muslim world's equivalent of the renaissance to take place - which includes uprisings, inquisitions, slavery, imperialism, subjugation and, eventually, democracy.
Rhys Jaggar, England

Musharraf is trying his best to get Pakistan back to normal, so let's hope for the best

Saima, Pakistan
Pakistan has never flourished under the democratic rule, therefore it's better to have a military rule with all its pro's and cons. Musharraf is trying his best to get Pakistan back to normal, so let's hope for the best.
Saima, Pakistan

General Musharraf has really taken on corruption this time, and I believe that he is going to solve many problems faced by Pakistan, including the economic crisis, a ruler becomes a ruler with the consent of the people in Pakistan, General Musharraf is there because the people want him to be there, and he is going to stay until the people of pakistan want him to stay
Omar , France

He might not be elected but he is honest

Usman Mir, Pakistan
This General is the best leader Pakistan ever got. He might not be elected but he is honest. He is rational and not a fanatic. He is taking decisions keeping in view the interests of Pakistan. This is what is making everybody else uncomfortable. Pakistan has for once got a thinking and a patriotic leader.
Usman Mir, Pakistan

At first it seemed that the devolution plan would usher in a new era, bringing in new faces and fresh ideas. It did bring new faces, but who are these new faces? The scions of the same old corrupt politicians. These politicians have found this devolution plan a nursery to groom their scions for future looting and plunder.
Saadullah Jan, Canada

During the military rule life in Pakistan has only got worse

Vaseem, Pakistan
For all Pakistanis living abroad this it may seem like a fantasy to be ruled by military. During the military rule life in Pakistan has only got worse - one should see the present civic conditions before one can choose between democracy or military rule. The military government's priorities are army and Kashmir over improving the civic or economic conditions for the citizens of Pakistan. Today there is hardly any employment, people have half as much or no money to eat compared to 3 years ago. The average and even above average Pakistani is struggling to stay alive and feed his family.
Vaseem, Pakistan

We all know that democracy can't work for Pakistan. In a country where corruption is abundant and with more than half the population not paying their taxes, military rule is a BLESSING! Musharraf is by far the most sincere ruler since the great Quaid-e-Azam. Musharraf is the best thing that could have happened to Pakistan. I say Musharraf should hold elections for Prime Minister and should stay President so as to provide a check for the democratically elected (and most probably corrupt).
Maisum Ali, Waterloo, Canada

Removal of civilian governments by military in Asian and African countries is not an unknown phenomenon. There are several factors that are responsible for it but the most important is misuse of political power by incompetent and selfish leaders. This is the reason that when civilian governments are thrown out people heave a sigh of relief. The history of Pakistan proves that military governments have been more efficient and have done more for the masses than corrupt regimes of Bhutto and his daughter whop had lost their head on getting popular vote. Democracy will come to Pakistan only if selfish and corrupt politicians are stopped from getting power.
Prof. Mukhtar Ali Naqvi, USA

The biggest bar to democracy in Pakistan always has been the Army

Maulvi Tameezuddin, USA
It is disingenuous, specious and dangerous to claim a special exemption for Pakistan from "Western" ideals of democracy. Freedom of speech, religion, association and protection of life and liberty are universal ideals that are equally applicable to all societies and cultures. The biggest bar to democracy and establishment of a normal society in Pakistan always has been, and will continue to be, the Pakistani Army. Unless this cancer in the heart of Pakistan is rooted out and disbanded forever, democracy will remain a sham and a pipe dream.
Maulvi Tameezuddin, USA

What Pakistan needs is a system of checks and balances, with its associated institutions. Democracy itself may not be part of this equation. Democracy is often unpalatable with unique countries like Pakistan. The real question to ask is when will Pakistan get an effective system of checks and balances?
Ilyas Khan, Karachi, Pakistan

Pakistan is a large country with four distinct kinds of people

Sharad Bhuskute, Seattle, USA
Pakistan is a large country with four distinct kinds of people. Unless it is represented by elected representatives, it will not last as a nation with its present boundaries. There is a danger that it will fall apart. Unfortunately, a military ruler can get eliminated very quickly by assassination just like his predecessors. This makes it alarming.
Sharad Bhuskute, Seattle, USA

Most of the Western allies in the Middle East have non-democratic leaders. This is Western double standards. When it comes to oil rich countries' type of government democracy is not an issue. In a country where politicians are corrupt by default, military rule, with all its shortcomings, is a far better option then so called blood sucking 'elected' politicians.
Suhail Mustafa, USA

Self-determination is a fundamental human right. Thanks to our powerful neighbour, Canadians don't have to worry about military dictators who oppress their own people. Maybe it's time for Europe to make more of an effort to champion the democracy they enjoy thanks to US efforts in two world wars. We can't expect the Americans to do all the work.
John Meyer, Toronto, Canada

Very unlikely. People in Pakistan seem to have accepted the fact that democracy is not necessary for stability and prosperity.

Pakistan is on road to democracy

Ali K, USA/ Pakistan
Pakistan is on road to democracy. General Musharraf is a man of immense integrity and vision. However, most people who have lived in developing countries with illiterate masses agree that the Western form of democracy has and will fail in countries like Pakistan. The challenge is to find the optimal form of government that enables 'freedom of choice' and yet not hand over the reign to feudals. By setting up the new local structure, Musharraf is striving for exactly that. The army is the only disciplined institution left in the country and it will have to remain involved. The eventual set up will not be purely democratic from Western standards but a step towards optimal structure for Pakistan.
Ali K, USA/ Pakistan

WE have to accept the fact that Pakistan is a brand new country and we CANNOT compare her with well-established western countries. She will go through the due process and eventually grow economically and socially. We all have to be patient and watch, but the fact remains that Pakistan has done more in the last 50 years than most countries in that region, including India.
Frank Gonzales, Los Angeles, USA

It is shame that not a single Muslim country has true democracy. I doubt the military will not allow true civilian rule, rather they install puppet set-ups.
Ibrahim, Pakistan

Musharraf is a leader of vision and integrity

Immivich, Canada
That democracy miserably failed in Pakistan is well-known by Pakistanis. All those who are quick to criticise Musharraf's government did not have to live through those miserable moments. Musharraf is a leader of vision and integrity, something that nation has been deprived of for many years. He is a rational ruler who uses his head and not emotions to rule. In less than two years, his leadership is bearing results. His war against corruption and extremism must be complimented. The Pakistani people are happy and have accepted the status quo, save those corrupt politicians who cannot line their pockets any more.
Immivich, Canada

Pakistan's Roadmap to Democracy is like saying the sun will rise in the west from October 2002! Military has been the only ruler of Pakistan since 1947. All the so-called elected governments have been sitting puppets in the hands of the generals who have usurped power at will. Musharraf needs IMF money and the West needs him to have elections. He has given himself till October 2002 which is when he is likely to create some trouble as an excuse to push the date back!
Jayant Mehta, USA

Do you think that the people living without roofs over their heads really care about democracy?

Zafar, England
What a stupid question! Do you really think that the people who are living without roofs over their heads, who don't have clean water and food really care about democracy? I'd guess that most of the masses couldn't care less about democracy, the only people that do are the elite and the middle classes. Why? - because it furthers their greed through corruption. What Pakistan needs is a God fearing and just dictator! Anyone but a 'career' politician. Not only that, these politicians are 'bought' by outside governments (like the British, IMF etc) to implement policies that are not in the interests of either Pakistan or Pakistanis!
Zafar, England

Everybody says Pakistan is a recipe for success. Everybody says we have the ingredients, a cheap labour force, a decent kitchen (of what remains of the government) - I think all we need now is a good cook!
Muhammed Ansar, UK/Pakistan

Democracy does not go hand in hand with Islamic teaching. Pakistan is supposed to be a Islamic country, then why not the implementation of Islamic Sharia rules? The democracy may be implemented in western countries and those who are following the west blindly. The negative effect of democracy is very clear to all who have the vision and the eyes to see and the mind to understand.
Abdul Rahim Siddiqui, Kuwait

It is the only process that allows progress and innovation

Vinod Dawda, UK
Powerful feudal groups with deeply entrenched vested military interests makes democratic process an unlikely future. Professionals and highly skilled people are leaving the country making the empowerment of the people an unlikely dream. However one should not give up the dream of democracy as despite its shortcoming it is the only process that allows progress and innovation.
Vinod Dawda, UK

The fundamental rights of individual within a society is the key question and not the political process or the system of government. The individual rights do not mean only the right to shout but to be heard and listened to. Throughout human history many isms have been created but all more or less have failed to provide basic rights even to the innocent children. If we could have waited centuries for this to happen we could wait a few years to see what the man in Pakistan could do.
Nazrul Islam, Quebec, Canada

It amazes me that Indians can give sermons to Pakistanis about democracy. Please look at your own nation that breeds religious intolerance, and is rife with corruption both moral and financial. Pakistan will pave its own way and adopt democracy when it is ready, and by this I do not mean the regimes of the past. For the meantime good luck to the General who should stay in office for the foreseeable future. After all he still has many issues to contend with before a democratic government can be reinstated, for example the education of the masses!
Humaira Mahmud, London, U.K.

What I have come to realise is that "democracy" is a generic term and should be used as such. The American or British democratic systems are not the best models for third world country, where politics has a wholly different meaning.

It depends on the definition of "democracy". If it is the EU/US version - ultimate control in the hands of big business - I would imagine that the Pakistani people would be as well sticking with General Musharraf if this means improving their standards of living.
Dave Whyte, UK

I ask myself this question all the time? Why is it that of all countries India is foremost in lamenting the demise of democracy in Pakistan. Could this be because India and Pakistan's political clique are aligned in their goal to undermine the country. India would be pretty pleased to see the "return of democracy" in Pakistan. As far as India goes either Benazir or Nawaz would do. Benazir and Nawaz gave Pakistan the "lost decade" of the '90's. They are quite capable of giving an encore performance.
Ashraf Jilani, USA

As military dictatorships go, the record of Pakistan is exemplary. General Musharraf appears to be a man of integrity with very clear ideas about what is needed for his country. So far, the only complaint Western countries have been able to make against him is that he was not "democratically elected". This is the case for the majority of developing countries, yet one party states like Kenya only get the occasional grumble from the West. One should also remember, for example, that until quite recently Robert Mugabe was widely regarded as a very acceptable political leader by the West.

Provided a government is trying to improve its country without excessive corruption, incompetence, and/or brutality, it should be deemed successful and acceptable. One could hardly claim more for most Western allegedly "democratic" governments. It is time the West understood that Islamic peoples see many things, including government, in different ways. It is just possible that the Western, multi-party democracy, model of government is not the best for all societies.
Tom, UK

The government of Pakistan is no less or no more corrupt than any other government in the world. The recent antics of British politicians in the run up to the election and post election just proves how much of a problem corruption is in world politics.
Ahmed, England

The people of Pakistan are happy with him and that is all that matters

Imran Ali, USA
Gen. Musharraf is doing a good job in getting Pakistan back on its feet. I have great confidence that he will keep his word and that fair and free elections will be held next year. He has cleaned up the government considerably and also clearly outfoxed India during the Agra summit. The people of Pakistan are happy with him and that is all that matters.
Imran Ali, USA

Pakistan's return to democracy has nothing to do with the Kashmir issue or India for that matter. This is a domestic issue for Pakistanis. Unfortunately we don't have any good memories from our democratic past. But we should still strive for that elusive democracy. Musharraf's democratic plan for Pakistan will succeed if the army stays in the background and keeps a check on the dirty politicians. Realistically we can't have a democratic set-up like USA or Australia.
Adnan Khan, Sydney, Australia

Democracy requires individual freedom, and opportunities. Pakistan with its huge illiteracy, feudal system, blasphemy laws, and active involvement in the "Kashmiri struggle" simply cannot sustain democracy.
Rakesh Chandra, India

True democracy can come about in Pakistan

Mohammad Ali Shaikh, Libya
True democracy can come about in Pakistan, but not without furthering education and emancipating the peasantry.
Mohammad Ali Shaikh, Libya

Pakistan is caught in a vicious cycle. A democratic government is always overthrown by the military when it gets too powerful. Unless the people themselves decide to clip the wings of the armed forces, democracy in Pakistan will be like rain in the Sahara - a mere dream.
Jvalant Sampat, USA/India

Democracy in Pakistan is a joke. In fact during civilian rule there is more dictatorship than during the military rule. Pakistan is better but not perfect under the Army. So we should all pray that military rule is accepted in Pakistan by the outside world.
Basharat Khan, United Kingdom

Pakistan is no less democratic than the USA. It's often the case that people have more voice in what happens than in the USA.

It is the military that runs the show

A. Rastogi, Pakistan
The main point to be noted is substance over form. Pakistan can call it democracy, but the fact remains that it is the military that runs the show. When Nawaz Sharif acted against the wishes of the military, Musharraf moved in for the kill. This doesn't occur in a democratic setting, and is bound to happen again if Pakistan ever has a civilian as its leader.
A. Rastogi, Pakistan

When you talk about Pakistan always remember that this country has survived for 54 years even with all the turmoil. It is unfortunate that the politicians have never delivered and the military has had to step in a number of times. But so far, Musharaf has been sincere in his efforts to revamp the economy. His devolution plan will work in the long run paving the way for real grass roots democracy.
Amjed Masood/ USA, USA

It is unquestionable that democracy needs to be restored in Pakistan and this will happen. However, democracy must mean democracy and not a route to corruption and greed, as was the case in previous administrations. True democracy will only prevail when the government addresses the needs of its people, irrespective of whether that government is democratically elected or a military regime.
Mohammed Nasser, Manchester, UK

Democracy for Pakistan is a dream of the western world

Khan, USA
Democracy for Pakistan is a dream of the western world. The people of Pakistan face bigger problems of sanitary conditions, education, food and health. Democracy is only meaningful when the citizens aren't starving and dying of preventable diseases.
Khan, USA

The fervent supporters of democracy can rest a little easier now that there is a timeline for the restoration of the crooks aka the politicians, into positions of power. These crooks can start plundering the nation afresh.
Nadeem Rahman, USA

Give the man a chance. All I hear from everybody is negative comments, especially from non-Muslim Indians
Aijaz Khan, Pakistan/Canada

With so much illiteracy, Pakistan is better served by the military. It seems to be doing a better job than any politicians.
Junaid Israr, Canada

I would like to see Musharraf continue for as long as he can

Akif Nizam, USA
The only way democracy is even feasible for Pakistan is if the present feudal system is somehow done away with and there are massive land reforms. Without that any democratic process would be a sham because people don't have a choice to elect their representatives; how can they go against the very people who control their livelihoods (the feudals)? The very same names get elected time and again under the banners of different parties; under such a set up the Western concept of democracy is just not valid. Personally, I would like to see Musharraf continue for as long as he can.
Akif Nizam, USA

Military dictators are good at demanding self-determination for others - such as Kashmir; would Gen Musharaf allow the same freedom to his own people? Hardly likely.
Mohansingh, India

Pakistan will never have a stable democracy until it ends its obsession with Kashmir

Utpal, USA/India
Pakistan will never have a stable democracy until it ends its obsession with Kashmir. It is Kashmir which gives the military so much clout. General Musharraf, architect of Kargil, whose obsession with the region is obvious, will never ease his grip on power until he gets Kashmir resolved under his terms (a complete accession of Kashmir to Pakistan). As this will never happen, the Pakistani military will always be in command of the nation, or at least behind the scenes if and when these so called "elections" take place. The Pakistani military will continue to crush the aspirations of its own people, as well as kill innocent Indian civilians across the border. The General is fooling no one.
Utpal, USA/India

Whether Musharraf keeps his word or not remains to be seen. Pakistan, as currently constituted, is a military dictatorship. India, the USA and Russia have noted this, and Pakistan is left pretty isolated, with China as its main benefactor, and the Taliban regime in Afghanistan providing Pakistan with bilateral moral support. With such allies, it is not surprising that Pakistan is having problems with the concept of democracy.
Rahul Mahajan, UK / India

See also:

14 Aug 01 | South Asia
Pakistan's return to democracy set out
14 Aug 01 | South Asia
Musharraf's 'roadmap to democracy'
20 Jun 01 | South Asia
Profile: General Pervez Musharraf
Internet links:

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites

Links to more Talking Point stories