Business Magazine

The Slow and Steady Transition to Democracy in Pakistan

Posted on the 07 November 2013 by Center For International Private Enterprise @CIPEglobal


In September, Pakistan passed an important democratic milestone: its first peaceful handover of power from one elected government to another, breaking the long cycle of coups and military dictatorship the country has suffered through since its independence.

This moment was a long time in the making, the culmination of many efforts by many different segments of society. Could the slow-and-steady transition be a model for other countries to follow?

Democracy Digest argues that it might. They note that a key turning point was the 2006 agreement between two of Pakistan’s main parties — the Pakistan People’s Party and the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz — to “play by the rules” of democracy and work together to reform the country’s democratic institutions. This Charter of Democracy has arguably been instrumental in putting Pakistan on the path towards functional democratic governance.

But political parties do not operate in a vacuum. Without buy-in and accountability to the broader society, such an agreement would be as easy to break as any other campaign promise.

One group pushing for such accountability is the business community, which in Pakistan has been increasingly active in both convincing political parties to make concrete policy proposals and then holding them accountable for those promises after the fact. Helping the business community develop this capacity to hold their leaders accountable has been a focus of CIPE’s work in Pakistan for years.

Of course, the “long march to democracy” requires more than just business support to succeed — the media, religious leaders, the military, and civil society all need to be a constructive part of the process. But in Pakistan, as in many countries, the business community is uniquely positioned to help build the culture of accountability and transparency required for such an endeavor to succeed.

If Pakistan’s model proves successful enough to replicate in other countries, it will be important to remember this key ingredient.

Jon Custer is Social Media / Communications Coordinator at CIPE.

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