Pakistan’s Democracy Will Survive
The Supreme Court's decision to remove Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif is viewed by many in the West as ominous sign of a return to political instability in the country. But an independent judiciary, free press, active civil society, and chastened military will reinforce the country's parliamentary system.
LAHORE – The decision by Pakistan’s Supreme Court to remove from office Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, who had a comfortable majority in the National Assembly, is viewed by many in the West as an ominous sign of renewed political instability, if not heralding a return to authoritarianism. But Pakistan’s political history suggests otherwise.
Today’s Pakistan emerged not in August 1947, when it gained independence, but rather in December 1971, when, after a bloody civil war, the country’s eastern region became Bangladesh. Afterwards, Pakistan was governed as a parliamentary democracy, led by the charismatic Prime Minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto.
But charges of large-scale vote-rigging in the 1977 elections triggered widespread unrest, which not only brought down Bhutto (who was ultimately executed), but also led to a military coup. General Muhammad Zia-ul-Haq took over the presidency in 1978, and remained in the position until his death ten years later.