There has always been debate in Pakistan about democracy’s need to grow. The political elite have always talked about democracy not being allowed to flourish. They refer to dictatorial interventions and the invention of the idea of necessity by judicial quarters. Despite much preaching of democracy by the political parties, much of the public does not believe in it and desires Islamic Shariah as the political model. Although people vote for political parties through democratic process, if they are asked which political system they believe in, many will say they believe in a sharia based government while knowing that the parties they vote for do not promise Islamic Shariah in their election manifestoes.Recently a book has been published by the name of “How democracies die”. The author of the book explained certain signs which show how political leaders are democratic authoritarians: if leaders show weak commitment to democratic rules, if they deny the legitimacy of political opponents, if they tolerate violence and if they show willingness to curb civil liberties and the media. The authors caution that any politician who displays any one of these behaviours must be of concern for state and society. The political leadership of Pakistan, if judged on this criteria, would definitely be uncomfortable. Political leaders are democratic authoritarians if they show weak commitment to democratic rules, deny the legitimacy of political opponents, tolerate violence or if they show willingness to curb civil liberties and media freedomFor instance, the ruling PML-N and its leadership believe in democracy but not in democratic rules. The way they started campaign against state institutions after Nawaz Sharif was ousted from office and how parliament allowed him to be head of his party even after being disqualified undermines democratic rules shows this. They also lack intra party democracy, which shows weak commitment to democratic rules. But they do not deny their political opponents legitimacy. They have tolerated violence when they were in opposition before coming in government in 2013. This was when they did not agree to launch military operations against the Tehrik e Taliban Pakistan (TTP). They did this, because they knew elections were drawing near and the ruling PPP, ANP and MQM in Karachi were facing the wrath of terrorist organizations, so they avoided taking a hard line on terrorists in the opposition. In the past, PML-N believed in curbing the media but now they have learnt the art of managing the media.Pakistan’s Peoples Party (PPP) which strongly stands with democracy can also be evaluated on above mentioned book’s criteria. They discourage intra party elections, but they have struggled for democracy more than any other political party in Pakistan. During their ruling times, they allowed political legitimacy of other political parties. But they tolerated violence during their rule from 2008 to 2013 in Karachi and Balochistan. Furthermore, in the name of ‘politics of reconciliation’ they let violence get out of controlin Karachi and Balochistan. PPP supports media and civil liberties which is one of their strong points as a political party. The Pakistan Tehrik e Insaf (PTI) which had its debut in parliament in the 2013 elections believes in democratic rule but practiced less in their first tenure. They promised intra party elections but could not make this happen because of issues within the party. Party Chairman Imran khan did not attend parliament regularly, and hardly ever participated in parliamentary proceedings. PTI does not tolerate violence and when others were silent on sectarian terrorism, the PTI leadership spoke for the Hazara community. PTI does not believe in curbing media but they gave tough time to media houses and accused many of them of having a relationship with ruling party.In the 21st century, the threat is not from military interventions and violent revolutions but from a lack of democratic culture. This is known as illiberal democracy or hybrid regimes. The threat of withering democracy is from within those who are insiders and control the system. First they gain power and then with their power they change laws for personal advantages. Pakistan’s powerful political elite does this and the opposition supports them, knowing they will share the same slice. These electoral authoritarians are a real threat to democracy. Politician’s blame other when they are being stopped from working, but when the public looks at the level of good governance and quality of democratic culture in this country they lambast them. Recent statement by former Prime Mister Nawaz Sharif, about”clipping the powers of judiciary” so that they cannot oust elected prime misters is a cause of concern about the balance of power among institutions.What is needed now is to avoid the undemocratic attitude found in political parties and their leadership. Society will have to take extraordinary measures to defend democracy. The nation is least active about this, but the intelligentsia among different quarters including academia, religious scholars, civil society and businessmen who have interest in a stable political environment must come forward to protect and promote democratic values. The writer is Strategic and Political analyst. He teaches international politics in NUML IslamabadPublished in Daily Times, February 12th 2018.