111 510 510 libonline@riphah.edu.pk Contact

Democracies in transition, and challenges they face

Democracy is often advocated as the only way forward for nations to flourish. It is certainly the best option available to guard against erosion of government legitimacy and yet it has some problems of its own. It isn’t surprising, therefore, that although democracy has no challenger, it is often faced with many challenges. It is the best form of government yet it has its own problems.

As different countries can have different connotations of democracy, the challenges respective democracies face also vary. These challenges, varying in terms of their degree or importance have varying effects of democracies on the people. Hence there is need for an understanding and acknowledgement of differences between the countries. This understanding will subsequently lead to a thorough and combined effort at addressing the challenges common to all democracies as well as the ones experienced by some countries.

A hot topic seminar to address these very issues in the Asian region kicks off today in Islamabad as a joint venture of the Senate of Pakistan and Commonwealth Parliamentary Association (CPA). The seminar titled, “Democracies in transition, and the challenges they face” is the first regional hot topic seminar which will take place as result of CPA’s new strategic plan which calls for strengthening the Association at branch, regional and international levels through different communications. This objective of CPA encourages regions and branches to hold regular meetings and discuss issues of common interest. Pakistan, in its capacity as a member of the Asian region, volunteered to host this seminar as part of the new and evolved strategy.

The CPA has divided itself into nine different regions as Africa, Asia, Australia, British Islands and Mediterranean, Canada, Americas and Atlantic, India, Pacific and South-East Asia. The seminar – of its kind – will serve as a meeting place for members of Asia and South East Asia regions including Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Singapore and Malaysia.

The theme of this hot topic forum as devised by the Chairman Senate of Pakistan is aimed at giving the participant countries an opportunity to extract a good deal of cumulative experience from a gathering of democracies in transition. It will touch upon key aspects and difficulties some of which result from critical global issues while others come into light as country specific challenges.

Democracy works when people claim it as their own and people will claim it as their own system when it successfully addresses the core issues faced by the people. From socio-economic issues to religious disagreements, from political landscape to inefficiencies in governance, from historical narratives to cultural disintegration, key factors vary across bodies and they determine the quality of evolution of and transitions within democracies.

This sitting together and touching upon this crucial matter of challenges to democracies in Asian region is an attempt to come up with ways and means of strengthening the institutions in the Asian democracies that will help encourage people’s participation and develop their trust in the system. This ensuring interaction between parliamentary representatives of Asian and South East Asian region of CPA will muster up the commitment that democratic values need to be cultivated at individual level and in society at large.

The two-day seminar apart from having the Secretary General of the CPA Akbar Khan and representatives of Parliaments of the Asian and South East Asian region, will have top tier representation from both Houses of the Parliament of Pakistan as well as the provincial Assemblies of Pakistan. Considering the fact that democratic societies are based on an outward approach ie where all pillars of state work well in co-ordination with different segments and spheres of society, Senate of Pakistan has tried its best to ensure representation from people of all walks of life.

Whether it be opening remarks, panel discussions or interactive sessions, representatives from academia (LUMS, KU), think tanks like FAFEN, PILDAT, UNDP, columnists, civil society activists, diplomatic corps and the members of Parliament will brain storm the complex interplay between issues and challenges facing the democracies in transition and try to come up with viable options, approaches and solutions to address the same.

Senate of Pakistan as a member of CPA community has ensured that this hot topic seminar fulfils efficiently the objectives of the Association to promote Constitutional, legislative, economic, cultural and social aspects of parliamentary democracies. The Panel discussions are arranged such that the theme of discussion, panellists and participants correlate with each other effectively. The three discussions on the second day of the Seminar, ie, 25th November, will be under the titles of role of civil society in democratic transition, democracy in diversity and transparency standards in democracy. The importance of the federating units couldn’t be over emphasised since all Panel discussions will be chaired by speakers of the provincial assemblies.

Debating these issues under the umbrella of democratic challenges and democracies in transition will bring many solutions to the existing challenges and will also help raise pertinent views on possible upcoming difficulties or problems. Whether it is the need for reshaping the existing policies and practices for greater benefit of the people or resolving problems of political leadership, engagement in this Seminar will bring out particular problems of different countries and help their legislatures not only play an effective role within the CPA but more importantly towards the problems of their respective countries. It will enable Asian legislatures address such questions as the transitional problems in integrating themselves. The Seminar will also serve as a platform where elected representatives, while being mindful of the threats democracies in respective countries face from other players, will take moments for introspection to identify challenges facing them from within, loopholes that are inbuilt and weaknesses that can be exploited.

Pakistan has a lot to gain as a member of the CPA family and a lot more to offer as the host of this Asian region hot topic seminar. Senate of Pakistan has played a leading role in CPA affairs in the Asian region with Asia region secretariat of CPA in the Senate Secretariat. As part of the same strategic plan of CPA, Senate of Pakistan and CPA jointly arranged a Parliamentary Staff Development Workshop earlier this year, which was also attended by the Secretary General of CPA, Akbar Khan.

With regular interactions like these and by playing an even more constructive part in the Association, Pakistan can benefit more to address the problems of national integration, implementation of policies, federation and power of the central government in its democracy and to establish itself firmly as a true democracy in the community of parliamentary democracies in CPA and around the globe.

A challenge is not just any problem. A challenge is a difficulty that carries within it an opportunity for progress. By overcoming challenges, democracies can go to even higher bars of success and social prosperity. We are all, more or less, democracies in transition.

Muhammad Asadullah Khan, "Democracies in transition, and challenges they face," Business Recorder. 2016-11-24.
Keywords: Political science , Social aspects , Political leadership , Strategic planning , Commonwealth countries , Civil society , Democratic values , Democracy , Africa , Asia , Australia , British Islands , Mediterranean , Canada , Americas , Atlantic , India , Pakistan , Bangladesh , Sri Lanka , Singapore , Malaysia , CPA , FAFEN , Pildat , UNDP