Uninterrupted democracy for the past decade has inspired hope that Pakistan is changing and that history might be a false guide to a new type of civil-military relationship inside Pakistan. The peaceful transition to a new electoral force represented by Imran Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf is seen by some as further proof of an evolving system where civilian politicians, by drawing their power from mass electoral politics, are emerging from the shadow of an army-dominated state. And since civilian politicians do not have any apparent stake in confronting India, democratisation in Pakistan would eventually transform the geopolitics of the sub-continent. Is there any basis for such an assessment?
The recent election in Pakistan suggests a more sophisticated system — referred to as a ‘hybrid state’ — has come into being whereby the military establishment, acutely conscious of the costs of martial rule, has promoted an alternative framework so that there is a ‘buffer’ between the army and society. The recurring backlash and legitimate grievances of the people are borne by expendable politicians absolving the real authority behind the scene from any responsibility for governance and developmental failures. The political parties and civilian elite seem to have embraced their role in this metamorphosis of Pakistan’s “managed” or “guided” democracy.