[ADRN Working Paper] Pandemic Crisis and Democratic Governance in Pakistan
ISBN 979-11-6617-122-2 95340
Pakistan’s governance structure is uniquely referred to as a “hybrid” structure due to the role and influence of the military in politics, despite it being an electoral democracy with functioning institutions. Its democracy has been facing multiple crises, including concerns over electoral legitimacy, electoral meddling, populism and partisan accountability, weak political parties, public distrust, and the like. In this regard, Aasiya Riaz, Joint Director at PILDAT, explains that the emergence of such hybrid governance in the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic in Pakistan has been a worrisome development, hindering effective management of the pandemic. The author illustrates through the example of the establishment of the military-led National Command and Operations Centre (NCOC) that government measures highlighted further entrenchment of Pakistan’s hybrid governance system. She asserts that the involvement of newer structures such as the NCOC and NLCC in pandemic management was not only ineffective but has brought to the fore the weaknesses that exist in Pakistan’s democratic governance structure.
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With a population of over 220 million people, Pakistan is the 5th most populous country in the world and its population is equivalent to 2.83% of the world’s total population. The total land area of Pakistan is 770,880 Km2 (297,638 sq. miles) and its population density is 287 per Km (742 people per mi2). A country situated in South Asia, Pakistan is bounded by Iran to the west, Afghanistan to the northwest, China to the northeast, and India to the east and southeast. The coast of the Arabian Sea forms its southern border.
Pakistan is an Islamic Republic and has a federal parliamentary democracy. It has a bicameral legislature at the federal level while each of the 4 provinces has unicameral legislatures. At the federal level, the Prime Minister is elected from the National Assembly, a population-based house, where seats are allocated to each province and federal capital based on population. In the National Assembly, elections are held by the First-Past-The-Post (FPTP) system while seats reserved for women and non-Muslim population are chosen by the proportional representation (PR) system. The National Assembly and Provincial Assemblies each have a 5-year term. The executive authority of the federation is exercised in the name of the President by the Federal Government, consisting of the Prime Minister and the Federal Ministers. This is similar in the provinces where Chief Ministers, together with provincial cabinets, exercise executive authority on each of the 4 provinces. Seats in the Senate of Pakistan are equally allocated to each of the 4 provinces and are filled through PR system through the single transferable vote. The Senate does not dissolve while election on half of its seats is carried out after every 6 years.
Since 2018 when the latest general election was held in Pakistan, the Federal Government and Provincial Governments in 3 out of 4 provinces in Punjab and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, and a coalition government in Balochistan are led by Prime Minister Imran Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) while the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) has formed a separate government in Sindh, the fourth province.
Despite being an electoral democracy and possessing functioning institutions, Pakistan is continuously characterized as a “Hybrid Regime” in the Economist’s Democracy Index Regime. This characterization could be said to be due to the role and influence of the military in politics and the ongoing concerns regarding the rule of law in Pakistan. ■
 Throughout the year, ADRN members will publish a total of three versions of the Pandemic Crisis and Democratic Governance in Asia Research to include any changes and updates in order to present timely information. The first and second parts will be publicized as a working paper and the third will be publicized as a special report. This working paper is part I of the research project.
 “Pakistan Population Live”, Worldometer, https://www.worldometers.info/world-population/pakistan-population/ (accessed 28 January 2021).
 “Global democracy has a very bad year,” Economist, https://www.economist.com/graphic-detail/2021/02/02/global-democracy-has-a-very-bad-year (accessed 28 April 2021).