The standing of democracy in Pakistan has always been under debate. Local and international sages believe that democracy in Pakistan is controlled by the military establishment therefore it is a ‘controlled democracy.’ However, every army chief of Pakistan tries to dispel this impression by saying that he strongly believes in democracy and does not interfere in politics.
History contradicts this.
Former military ruler, General (R) Pervez Musharraf, in an interview in 2014, strengthened the impression that Pakistan’s democracy and electoral process are somehow controlled by the intelligence agencies. He revealed that PTI Chief Imran Khan had demanded 100 seats in Elections 2002 when both were negotiating but the former was ready to give 10 only after which Khan stopped supporting Musharraf.
Before Elections 2002, then Director General of ISI, General Ehsanul Haq had devised a formula to form a ‘king’s party’ against Pakistan Peoples’ Party (PPP). The formula was applied in Punjab through former Director General Pakistan Rangers Punjab Major Gen (R) Hussain Mehdi, who forced leaders from various parties to join Pakistan Muslim League Quaid e Azam, a splinter of Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz. Despite the odds, PPP won majority seats but was dented by its own members in the National Assembly, who voted for PML-Q’s candidate, Zafarullah Jamali, for the prime minister’s slot.
In the 1988 and 1990 elections, a similar event took place, when intelligence agencies masterminded the Islamic Democratic Alliance of various political and religious parties against PPP and extended absolute support to it (proven in Supreme Court in Asghar Khan Case). In 1988, PPP managed to win with a simple majority, and in 1990 it lost badly when Nawaz Sharif surfaced as a mainstream leader and became the Prime Minister for the first time.
Sharif kept flying on the political horizon with other PML-N leaders, also promoted and supported by the agencies like PML-Q Chief, Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain, and his cousin Pervaiz Elahi, Shaikh Rasheed, Gen (R) Abdul Majeed Malik, Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan, Ahsan Iqbal, Hamayun Akhtar Khan, son of former DG ISI General Akhtar Abdur Rehman, Gohar Ayub Khan, son of former dictator, General Ayub Khan and Ejazul Haq, son of former dictator General Ziaul Haq till 1997.
In October 1999, General Musharraf deposed Sharif’s government after which everyone except Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan left his party and joined PML-Q, which was being developed under Musharraf’s auspices.
When Sharif came into power again in 2013, he accepted almost all of them back except the Chaudhries of Gujrat (Shujaat and Elahi) and Sheikh Rasheed. He also gained the support of Zia’s son, who is now running his own party called PML-Zia. He also welcomed close aides to Musharraf in the party, such as present law minister, Zahid Hamid and minister for privatization, Daniyal Aziz, among others, astonishing many.
The Supreme Court of Pakistan disqualified Sharif on July 27, 2017. His close aide, Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, who does not take a single step without asking Sharif, was elected as the new Prime Minister. Presently, PML-N’s headquarters have literally shifted to London, as Sharif resides there due to his spouse’s ailment. PM Abbasi and his cabinet members, Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif and Speaker of National Assembly Ayaz Sadiq are frequent visitors to London for directions regarding the government’s affairs, which is severely affecting governance in Pakistan. Sharif must give a free hand to his aides in running the country during his absence, and to dismiss the impression that he was promoted by a dictator, once overthrown by a dictator, and is now acting like a dictator in his own party.