Raza Rumi argued recently that there are five myths in Pakistani discourse that need to be put to rest. In his view these are the ‘doctrine of necessity,’ ‘strategic depth,’ ‘use of proxies’, ‘ummah’ and ‘China will fix all’. Raza is right. A large part of our national intellect is consumed by discussing these myths. In my mind, these myths stem from another very big myth: that Pakistan is a democratic country. The fact that we have an election every five years and elect the same families again and again is considered democracy in our intellectual circles. The fact that dynasties are becoming secure in this electoral system is raising no suspicions. Indeed, many are rushing to groom princes and princesses. Imperial Prime Ministry was established when we removed all possible avenues of removing a sitting PM. We made democracy redundant under the 14th amendment which ruled out members from voting according to their conscience. This means there can be no vote of confidence against the PM. Conveniently, we also removed term limits for the PM. And of course, there are no limits on the number of family members who can be elected to Parliament or appointed to cabinet. Cabinets have become irrelevant since ministers are individually responsible to the PM. They serve at his whim and can be fired at will. There is also no process for cabinet meetings since minutes are never released. Soon after coming into power, our leaders start ruling through their family and friends and through trusted bureaucrats. Policy decisions such as international agreements and loans are not disclosed publically. Ours is more of a family democracy than a representative democracy. Our parliament and electoral system are dominated by a handful of families who have no work or policy making experience. They are professional politicians who only wait for elections. Competent or clever people have little hope of being elected. Most do not even try because they know that this family democracy does not allow entry to others. The rest of the world does not see democracy as the election of a king but as a set of checks and balances. One such check is local governments which our democrats seem to utterly abhor. Instead, they prefer a malleable civil service which is easy to control. Transparency and due process, which lie at the heart of real democracy, seem totally absent in Pakistan. For instance, we hardly see any transparency in CPEC’s mega projects or in other whimsical projects such as ‘sasti roti’ and Danish schools. This makes one wonder if any consultations took place before the initiation of these projects. Are there any audit or feasibility reports in the public domain on these projects that we can find? Transparency and due processs — which lie at the heart of real democracy — seem totally absent in Pakistan. We hardly see any transparency in CPEC’s mega projects or in other whimsical projects such as sasti roti and Danish schools Should federal and provincial governments undertake projects at the local level? Are city projects not local? These are questions that lie at the heart of democracy. Cabinet ministries are also not the PM’s to keep. These ministries must be occupied at all times in a true democracy. Why do we allow our leaders to offer so many perks to our executive branches? For instance, the judiciary is offered perks such as houses and jobs on retirement. These perks allow our rulers to control the executive at all levels, and this is highly undemocratic since public land is not the PM’s private domain. A PM cannot dole out public land or public money as gifts to officials. The PM’s frequent trips abroad are another violation of the basic tenets of democracy. Moreover, the Rules of Business allow the PM to transform the civil service into his own personal service by holding that civil servants must serve as heads of different departments. These heads are then completely subject to the whims of the PM. Pakistan’s thinkers also believe that democracy is about electing an ‘Akbar Badshah’. So often we hear on TV that the army must be under the PM and all must respect the PM’s authority. In this system, where are the checks and balances—essential cornerstones of democracy—on the PM? The writer is a former deputy chairman of the Planning Commission of Pakistan and a former senior resident representative of the IMF in Egypt and Sri Lanka. Twitter @nadeemhaque Published in Daily Times, July 15th , 2017.