Declining democracy, personality cult in politics

Democracy, as a system of government, may be ruling the political world, or most part of it; however, it seems to be facing serious challenges to maintain its glory. Rather, the facts and figures show that it is facing a degradation and a decline as far as the traditions and principles it has been standing for are concerned. A recent report, based on largest dataset on democracy and published in the journal – Democratization – has highlighted that democracy is declining in ‘24 countries around the world, which have about 2.6 billion people, and the most notable of these countries include India, Turkey, Brazil, Poland, Russia and United States.’ The decline in democracy here suggests that ‘there has been a shift towards autocratic rule,’ which can further hamper the institutional efforts for the democratization of societies and invigorate the inclination towards personality cult and personality-worship. Ultimately, the rights of the people and the protection of their basic freedom will suffer the most.

As far as Pakistan is concerned, here as well, democracy and democratic institutions suffer from the dominance of authoritarian designs and urges. Ill-fatedly, the blame cannot be put only on non-democratic factors, even the democratic ones have not been able to support the democratic culture and socialization. Major political parties in Pakistan that should lead as torch-bearers of democracy are hijacked by authoritarian leadership and cult of personality. Personalities have been prioritized over the parties and the result is that personality-worship has guided the party members’ and supporters’ affiliation and loyalty to a direction that automatically leads the way to authoritarianism. Another negative aspect of this has echoed out in the public through the noisy media in Pakistan: the political debates, discussions, promotions and criticisms are centered around personalities instead of parties. The attributes of personalities, their family background, and their personal relationships and habits have become the topics of debates among the politicians, political experts, party members, supporters and now the people as a whole. While the discussions on party structure, motto, vision and ideology have all been thrown to the backyard. Therefore, in such circumstances, expecting anything positive in relation to democratization of political environment is a fool’s errand.

At the same time, major political parties in Pakistan, like Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaaf (PTI) and Pakistan People’s Party (PPP), have not been able to reach to the common people through grass-root institutional development. Instead of reaching out to the people at the district and union council level, through consistent presence and performance, they have only reached the people through selection of personalities from such…

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