Working Paper

Working Paper

[ADRN Working Paper] Pandemic Crisis and Democratic Governance in Pakistan

  • 2021-05-03
  • Aasiya Riaz

ISBN  979-11-6617-122-2 95340

Editor’s note

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.



※ The following are excerpts from the article. For the full text, please check the attached file at the top of this page.

Pakistan – An Overview[1]


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).[2] 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.[3]

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.[4] 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. ■



  • Aasiya Riaz , Joint Director at PILDAT, a leading Pakistani think tank she co-founded in 2001, leads PILDAT’s projects and activities,. Ms. Riaz has over 20 years of experience in providing thought leadership in governance and public policy, managing global partnerships with national and international governments, parliaments, and development agencies, and in the facilitation of inter-governmental and inter-parliamentary dialogues, in designing and implementing successful strategic communication strategies and promoting the strengthening of democratic governance and democratic and political institutions under the overall ambit of rule of law. Trained in the field of Media and Political Communication at the London School of Economics, UK, Aasiya has also worked with the mainstream press and electronic media in Pakistan as a political analyst. She was a Reagan-Fascell Democracy Fellow at the National Endowment for Democracy, USA, as well as a distinguished fellow at the Center on Democracy, Development, and the Rule of Law at the Stanford University, USA. Aasiya regularly appears on national and international media for political analysis and commentaries while she is invited to lecture at Pakistan’s premium public policy institutions as well as many national and international think tanks and universities.
  • Typeset by Jinkyung Baek, Director of the Research Department
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