Pakistan is a “sham democracy” and with the ouster of Prime Minster Nawaz Sharif by the Supreme Court over Panama Papers case it was felt “more keenly” than before, according to eminent UK and US academics. The top five academics were participating in a seminar held at London University last evening entitled ‘The decline of democracy in Pakistan and the role of the Deep State’.
On July 28, a five-member Supreme Court bench disqualified 67-year-old Sharif for dishonesty in the Panama Papers case verdict. The apex court ruled that corruption cases be filed against him and his children, forcing the embattled leader out of office. Kicking off the presentations, Farzana Shaikh, a Pakistani-origin associate fellow at Chatham House, described Pakistan as a “bonsai democracy” or a state restricted by its environment.
“Nowhere has this been more keenly felt in recent times than in the dismissal of Nawaz Sharif by the Pakistani Supreme Court,” the forum said in a statement, adding that Pakistan was a “sham democracy”. Christine Fair, an associate professor at Washington’s Georgetown University, stated Sharif was ousted in a judicial coup.
Fair said she did not view the judiciary in Pakistan as an independent actor but a part of a “new condominium” emerging between the country’s Army and the Supreme Court. “The Army has to develop new tools to keep pruning the grass of democracy to prevent it from taking root in Pakistan,” she said.
Professor Lawrence Sez, professor of political economy in Asia at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) in London, said he had initially considered the ousting of Sharif as a positive step, but has now changed his mind because the disqualification has increased unaccountability in Pakistan.
Burzine Waghmar, a senior teaching fellow at SOAS, highlighted the complicity of Pakistan’s deep state with the “pick up and dump” routine and suppressing the freedom struggle in the Baluchistan province. “Democracy does not seem to be the system of choice among the young in Pakistan and there is a tendency towards a pro-order and/or pro-army view, especially among the more educated youth,” said Professor Marie Carine-Lall, chair of education and South Asian studies at London University’s Institute of Education. This was based on extensive ground level research carried out by her.