India and Pakistan: Experimenting With Democracy

Dr. Shreesh

As a newly independent state, India got its constitution in 1949, whereas Pakistan could get its full-fledged constitution in 1973 only[1]. With a statesman like Jawaharlal Nehru, India proceeded steady on the path of institutionalisation. India conducted its first general election in 1952 based on universal adult franchise[2]. This was a bold start as a nation as ideologically India had embraced the democratisation process with socialistic objectives. Gandhi’s last man of society must be included in the mainstream of the path of development and also the private individual players of market must not be alienated in independent India who had contributed in the national movement yet in own unique way, India had chosen the model of mixed economy[3]. This definitely helped India to grow as strong nation and also integrated the whole state with the ongoing echo of ‘unity in diversity’ chimes.


Furthermore; India adopted the Five Year Plan Pattern of USSR and twisted it according to the need of nation[4]. India had adopted the system of federalism with unitary bias. There are three layers of administration; at Union level, centre exercises the power for whole country, at state level, provincial government takes care of provincial interests and at local level municipalities and Panchayats work[5]. This certainly helped the country and a new nation proceeded on its destined path. The political system of India had shown its resilience firstly in the time of emergency forced by Indira Gandhi. Other structures of the political system worked positively and gradually the political system came out from the emergency and next general election had been conducted peacefully and new government came into being. This again strengthened India’s political system in its own way[6].  India further dealt efficiently with the forces of globalisation as the country had embraced the processes of liberalisation in 1991[7]. India today is dealing aptly the domestic pressures and international pressures and often grabbing the opportunities as well.

On the other hand, Pakistan was headed by Qaide-e-Azam M. A. Jinnah who died barely a year after the creation of nation. Military rule was imposed on Pakistan and Jinnah’s successor and first Prime Minister of the nation, Liaquat Ali Khan was murdered in 1951[8]. Democracy was held up by the martial law imposed by the first President of Pakistan Iskander Mirza who was also eventually replaced by army chief, General Ayub[9]. India and Pakistan fought war in 1965.  In 1969, again Pakistan witnessed a regime change. General Yahya Khan had taken over from General Ayub Khan. In 1970, General election was held in Pakistan in which Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto recorded victory in West Pakistan but the Awami League grabbed almost all the seats in East Pakistan, giving it a general majority. Bhutto and Yahya were not ready to allow the Awami League to form a government. This eventually led to the partition of Pakistan and a new nation Bangladesh was formed with the help of India in 1971[10].  This one was a big event in the heated cold war era where Indira Gandhi protected India’s interests well and secured a remarkable victory over Pakistan. Yahya Khan handed the power to Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto who had become the Prime Minister of Pakistan in 1973. But in 1977, then Army chief General Zia-ul-Haq held power. Zia’s life came to an end in a plane crash in 1988. Benazir Bhutto, daughter of Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto contested and won the election and became the next Prime Minister of the country. President Ghulam Ishaq Khan dethroned the Bhutto’s government, condemning it of corruption and abuse of power. Nawaz Sharif, a leader based on Punjab was elected prime minister in 1990. Till 1999, When Perwez Musharraf staged a military coup and seized the power and became President of the country in 2001, Nawaz Sharif and Benazir Bhutto shared the power one by one due to sudden interferences made by Presidents of Pakistan at times[11]. Country has witnessed the first civilian government led by Asif Ali Zardari (PPP) that completed its full tenure and also first peaceful and democratic power transition as Nawaz Sharif took over the power as a Prime Minister and hopefully is going to serve for full tenure, too[12].

Pakistan was the nation of some inherent contradictions. There were five provinces in the country i.e. Sindh, Punjab, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (formerly known as NWFP and commonly called as Sarhad), Balochistan and East Bengal. All the provinces though have Muslim majority, but they shared very few things in common. All has unique language, unique cuisine, unique culture and even unique history. Pakistan had declared Urdu its state language but no citizen of any province generally spoke Urdu[13]. The processes of institutionalisation were often stalled due to regular military regime as the country faced continuous turbulences. To talk about popular mobilisation is absolutely misplaced here. In the arena of world politics arena, whereas India chose not to be in any bloc, Pakistan joined USA bloc, though unannounced. In this way, Pakistan maintained its national interest broadly intact in the world politics but domestic politics was ignored. West Pakistan and East Pakistan were having inherent tensions within the state. Generally alleged, that West Pakistan got prominence in the power and distribution of resources over the East Pakistan. General election was conducted in 1970 and The Awami League, under Sheikh Mujibur Rahman from East Pakistan got overwhelming majority. General Yahya Khan chose to suppress the popular sentiments of East Pakistan which eventually led the formation of Bangladesh as a new nation in South Asia with the active help of India[14]. The democratic government had been formed in Pakistan under Zulfikar Ali Bhutto. A new full-fledged constitution was adopted in 1973 which was based on federalism and democracy was adopted as system of government[15]. Even after this, Pakistan had faced several military regimes and coups in which recent years are the peaceful exceptions.


[1] Omar, Imtiaz (2002), “Emergency Powers and the Courts in India and Pakistan” London: Martinus Nijhoff Publishers, p.1.

[2] Ahuja, M. L. (1998), “Electoral Politics and General Elections in India, 1952-1998” Delhi, Mittal Publications.p.41

[3]  Gupta, N. B. D.(1993) “Nehru and Planning in India” Ghaziabad, Concept Publishing Company. p.93

[4] Skousen, mark (2013), “Economic Logic: Fourth Edition”, Washington D C: An Eagle Publishing Company, p.646.

[5] Shukla, Subhash (2008), “Issues in Indian Polity”, Delhi: Anamika pub & Distributors. p.54

[6] Sen, Gautam (2015), “Lessons of the Indian Emergency”, India Facts, accessed through on 09.04.17.

[7] Baru, Sanjaya (2013), “Strategic Consequences of India’s Economic Performance” Delhi: Routledge, p.14.

[8] Kapur, Ashok (2006), “Pakistan in Crisis”, New York: Routledge, p.3.

[9] Farooqi M. (1972), “Pakistan: Policies that Led to Break-up”, Calcutta: People’s Publishing House, p.26.

[10] Ahmed, Salahuddin (2004) “Bangladesh: Past & Present”, Dhaka: A P H Publishing, p.202

[11] DeVotta, Neil (2015), “An Introduction to South Asian Politics”, New York: Routledge, p.53

[12] Gregory, Shaun (2015), “Democratic Transition and Security in Pakistan”, Routledge.

[13] Mohiuddin, Yasmeen Niaz (2007), “Pakistan: A Global Studies Handbook”, ABC-CLIO.

[14] Ahmed, Salahuddin (2004) “Bangladesh: Past & Present”, Dhaka: A P H Publishing.

[15] Imtiaz, Omar (2002), “Emergency Powers and the Courts in India and Pakistan” Martinus Publishers, p.6

Dr. Shreesh



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