Farewell to the departed Pakistan Muslim League-Noon (PML-N) government. This is a historic moment for Pakistan as we are witnessing a democratic transition from one elected government to another. However, this is also a moment of reflection for us in Pakistan as this will only be the second time that Pakistan will complete a transition from one democratically elected government to another. Two transitions in 70 years of history — one is accomplished and the second one is still underway. We could have achieved as many as 12 to 14 transitions during this period, and this shows a troubling picture for the state of democracy in Pakistan. How did we end up in this situation and can we consolidate democracy in Pakistan? A lot of ink has been spilled in examining the factors that have played their roles in hampering the growth of democracy in Pakistan. It would be very appropriate here to briefly shed some light on these factors before laying down a plan to consolidate the democratic progress. In order to look at the lingering progression of democracy in Pakistan, one has to examine a multitude of internal and external variables that are potentially in play. The first and foremost and arguably the most salient one with which all of the other factors are linked is the military. There has been an almost unanimous consensus among all international observers and scholars of South Asia that the perpetual role of the military in politics — even when there are apparently democratic regimes in place — has hindered Pakistan’s evolution into a thriving democratic polity. The never-ending cat and mouse game between the generals and politicians has earned Pakistan’s democracy many names, including ‘flawed’, ‘illiberal’, ‘checkered’, ‘controlled’, as well as ‘tutelary’ democracy — a title that Abbas Nasir, a renowned columnist, produced in his recent piece in the New York Times. The title that struck me the most was from Michael Hoffman, a political researcher. According to Hoffman, Pakistan is a ‘peculiar’ case of ‘temporary’ democracy. He elaborates on his notion by arguing that democracy only appears in Pakistan sporadically as an interim solution. When the generals in uniform evaluate that the ‘costs of repressions’ are higher than the ‘costs of allowing democracy’, then they extricate themselves from politics, but only for a short period of time, as they know that the future of democracy is dark in the country and they will be back in full command in due course. However, at the same time, there is another strong rationale. That is, nonetheless the generals in Pakistan extricate themselves from the political scene and allow multiparty elections to hold, this is merely to fill the office. Under this perspective, the elected governments only operate within circumscribed boundaries, and the military keeps its strong grip over the main arenas of contestations. These circumstances are mainly present in any society that is best described as a ‘praetorian’ state. Undoubtedly, the military is the most respected institution among the people of Pakistan. However, there has been an almost unanimous consensus among all international observers and scholars of South Asia that the perpetual role of the military in politics — even when there are apparently democratic regimes in place — has hindered Pakistan’s evolution into a thriving democratic polity Undoubtedly, the military is the most respected institution among the people of Pakistan. The military presented and promoted itself as the guardian of the nation. It has assured people that it is only the military that has the ability and capacity to protect them from any internal and external threats, which are hovering around the security of Pakistan. The question here is this, why has the military assumed such a pivotal place in Pakistani society? Here we have to look at the immediate post-independence developments. Pakistan suffered acutely right from its inception with its diminutive inheritances from the departing British rulers in terms of state and political apparatuses. Pakistan looked extremely feeble in most of the fields from economy to defence, and from developing political institutions to an independent judiciary and the press at the time of the partition. These impoverished positions in almost every sector of the society had a knock-on effect on the newly born country’s wellbeing in general, and its weak financial health in particular, rendering things difficult for any possible political reform. Furthermore, the abrupt demise of our great Quaid, Muhammad Ali Jinnah, sent shockwaves and dealt a bitter blow to any future hopes to create a political structure in the country. The death of Jinnah left a gaping void that no one from the political class was good enough to fill. In the aftermath of Quaid-e-Azam, our civil bureaucracy became authoritarian and started to flex its muscles in every sector of the polity. In this scenario, the military in Pakistan could not keep itself neutral and joined hands with the bureaucracy. Thus, opening the door for the generals in the army to perch their feet in the corridors of power. Had Quaid lived a few more years, things could have been much different now, as he was the only leader who could have broken this embryonic nexus between civil and military establishments. But the question again here is that, is the military really solely to blame for the slow growth of democracy in Pakistan? The simple and straightforward answer in one word is no. While the military is generally perceived as one institution that has steadily expanded its control over the apparatus of the state, it could not have achieved the precision in executing its plans without significant complicity from our politicians. The political history of Pakistan is filled with an immeasurable number of occasions when our politicians preferred to coincide with the military establishment in their efforts to reap political mileage against their political rivals. It has, somehow, permeated in our politicians’ minds that having the military on their side is one of the prerequisites to gain power in Pakistan. Just look at the politics of the nineties and in the last decade or so. For instance, the Asghar Khan case, the emergence of king party (PML-Q) under General Musharraf, and even today there is a widespread agreement that the establishment is behind the ongoing political manipulations of PTI. Moreover, the poor performance of the democratic governments and their inability to build substantive democracy, while they were in power, is also a troubling impediment in the way to consolidate democracy in Pakistan. The elitist culture in the Pakistani politics has performed a toxic role. This elite class has successfully dominated the political sphere with their abundant wealth, restricting anyone from the lower or middle classes or even a reasonably affluent person to contest election, notwithstanding a few exceptions. Contesting an election in Pakistan has become a game of money where one would be required crores of rupees, which simply laying the foundational stone for corruption right from the beginning of the electoral process To be continued The writer is pursuing a degree in Comparative Politics, specialising in democratisation in the developing world, mainly emphasising on the Middle East (Egypt and Tunisia), at the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE) Published in Daily Times, June 14th 2018.