Volume 5, No. 3, March 2023
Editor: Rashed Rahman
Raheem ul Haque
Pakistan’s political history has seen recurring military coups and periods of representative democracy. After the last transition to democracy in 2008 and a peaceful transfer of power in 2013, there were hopes of a democratic consolidation. But judicial removal of the elected Prime Minister (PM) in 2017 and the 2018 elections that brought a new political party to power, were both seen as backed by the army. This raised the spectre of continued martial rule and the subsequent human rights situation attested to the backtracking of democratic gains. After two years of silence, the Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM), a coalition of 10 opposition parties, raised the banner of recreating the country’s political system anew while explicitly questioning the army’s role in politics.
Based on the history of transfers of power (ToP) from martial to civilian rule in Pakistan, this article attempts to analyse the narrative, strategy and capacity of PDM to bring about comprehensive and sustainable change in the system of government dominated by the army. It concludes that PDM continues to underestimate the nature of power underpinning martial rule, and particularly without paying serious attention to correcting the civil-military institutional imbalance and evolving a larger societal consensus on civilian supremacy, it has little chance of delivering democratic gains to Pakistan.
The current national political discourse is laden with terms such as ‘pseudo-democracy’, ‘hybrid system’, ‘ideal civil-military relationship’, ‘martial law’, ‘civil martial law’ and ‘selected PM’ being thrown around, leading to a general confusion about the nature of the current regime. This requires a closer look at the functioning of various institutions of state and society to help elaborate this system before a discussion on whether the current opposition’s movement can lead to a deepening of democracy.
The current dispensation: democracy, martial law or martial rule?
Assessing the highest institution in a democracy, one finds that the current parliament is not functional as a legislative body and thus without authority, while the executive rules through Ordinances and when required, by rushed-through legislation without parliamentary debate. Secondly, the judiciary fluctuates between a circus more interested in interfering in the executive’s domain, to being an extremely weak body that can barely defend itself against the executive’s malicious assault on one of its own. It thus exercises little of its constitutional authority to safeguard basic citizen rights. Habeas corpus, the basis of any civil system allowing recourse to law against illegal detention, does not exist. It does not exist for the thousands who have been disappeared by the state for being involved in ‘anti-state activities’, a criterion neither applied by the judiciary nor by parliament but by intelligence and military officers. Similarly, the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) continues to ignore the basic legal principle of ‘presumption of innocence’ even for the most privileged. Jailing the head of the country’s largest media group for nine months and a member of the elite civil services for more than two years without a conviction are just two cases in point.
Thirdly, in terms of access to information, the electronic and print media is tightly controlled to a minute level through the targeting of recalcitrant media owners through 30-year-old alleged misdemeanours; the laying off of critical senior journalists; direction as to which news to cover and which not to, and which language to use in tickers by non-regulatory state institutions. While this greatly restricts a citizen’s constitutional right to information, social media continues to be more vibrant as the state’s ability to take down all critical content is restricted by regulation by private big tech companies. The state has instead devised two effective mechanisms to limit the traction of critical public discourse on social media: one, an organised campaign to target, harass and troll critical voices; two, generating the needed dissonance to confuse the matter altogether through creation and dissemination of fake news. Lastly, for critical voices that refuse to tone down their rhetoric, there is an added physical threat, including of enforced disappearance, which has led many journalists and civil society activists to leave the country.
This leaves us with the possibility of an authoritarian executive with little regard for a democratic polity. However, while the executive branch of government is explicitly run by a civilian PM, there are countless examples indicating the executive’s subservience to the army. For example, the manipulation of general elections by shutting down the Results Transmission System has been informally blamed on the army; the army chief’s direct management of his own extension and his membership in the country’s National Development Council; the cluelessness of the PM on the abduction of Sindh’s police chief by army-managed institutions, and lastly, the PM’s filing of a reference against Justice Qazi Faez Isa, a Supreme Court judge who had castigated the Inter Services Intelligence (ISI) for its inaction during the Faizabad dharna (sit-in) affair. So, even if the current system cannot legally be termed a martial law given that all branches of constitutional government are formally functioning, substantively it is ‘martial rule’ with all branches of government subservient to the army, a department of the state under the Ministry of Defence. While one can argue that the army has always enjoyed veto power in the country’s policy domain, the eras of martial rule versus civilian rule can be differentiated based on whether the (strategic) policy domain is singularly dictated by the army or is instead a contested arena between the army and civilian governments.
Further, the mechanism of control in martial rule has changed with successive coups. Ayub and Zia created a new subservient political system and corresponding King’s Party; Musharraf made the existing system subservient through the co-option of the second tier leadership of the mainstream parties, while the current martial rule has co-opted the leader of a mainstream party by bringing him to power while transforming his party into a King’s Party. Similarly, the explicit nature of martial rule has gradually dimmed for strategic purposes as 20th century coups were public; the coup leader made himself president through constitutional and legislative manipulation, and media outlets were either shut down or had strictly defined lines of dos and don’ts. Musharraf’s coup can be seen as a transition between the explicit and implicit nature of control, with symbolic differences of being called a Chief Executive rather than a Martial Law Administrator; abeyance of the Constitution rather than abrogation, and lastly a liberal media policy that changed only after outright media resistance. In comparison, the current martial rule has strictly followed a policy of implicit control by keeping the governance structure intact while ensuring the deference of all institutions to the army. This is a viable strategy for the current information age but requires far greater resources for media management as shutting down all critical media outlets is difficult. Thus information warfare is the most critical component of the current martial rule, with self-censorship as the ultimate goal. This can be assessed by the popular use of 5th generation warfare as a security narrative and corresponding institutional investments in Inter Services Public Relations (ISPR) by hiring hundreds of skilled youth along with the latest surveillance technology, for a war being waged against both internal and external actors critical of the army.
Accepting that the current dispensation can be categorised as martial rule rather than representative democracy, this article explores the differentiation between marginal, real and systemic ToPs from martial to civil rule; the nature of power underpinning martial rule; and the requirements for a civil resistance movement to achieve a systemic transfer of power through critical assessment of the narrative, strategy and capacity of the PDM.
Differentiating between marginal, real and systemic ToPs
Writing in 1990, the historian Ayesha Jalal had argued that Pakistan’s “state of martial rule” began with the Ayub Martial Law and has continued since while stating that Bhutto had the opportunity to institutionalise civilian rule but his most critical mistake was to not remove the imbalances between “elected and non-elected institutions”. This suggests that at least there was a real ToP to Z A Bhutto, such that the civilian government had relative autonomy in areas that did not directly impinge upon the army’s interests. In contrast, 1988 saw a marginal ToP to Benazir Bhutto, such that the army was actively involved even in non-security related governance, attesting to the continuation of martial rule in the guise of formal civilian rule.
|Martial Rule in Pakistan|
|Coup Leader||Control Mechanism||Army Rule to Formal Democracy – ToP|
|Triggering Event||Democratic Gains||Extent of Power Transfer – Reason|
|Ayub-Yahya (1958-71)||Martial Law leading to President through constitutional change||Breakup of the country and losing the 1971 War||1973 Constitution||Real – Consensus around new Constitution; a strong majority party; politicised, strong and organised civil society through the anti-Ayub movement|
|Martial Law leading to President through constitutional change||Death of Dictator||None||Marginal – army exercises power from behind the scenes and election rigging; a strong King’s Party; presidential power to dismiss PM; a politicised but weak civil society|
|Musharraf (1999–2007)||Martial Law leading to Chief Executive and President through constitutional change; enforced disappearances||Murder of Benazir Bhutto||18th Amendment||Real – Charter of Democracy between two main political parties; empowered judiciary; weak but organised civil society through the Lawyers Movement|
|Bajwa (2018- )||Judicial coup and election manipulation; beholden executive, media control and enforced disappearances||Systemic/Real/Marginal? – PDM, an alliance of 10 parties, of which now eight are left; weak and disorganised civil society|
History suggests that a real ToP has happened only when the credibility of the martial rule regime has been destroyed, primarily because of an external shock to the system, whether it was the breakup of the country in 1971 or the killing of Benazir Bhutto in 2007. In 1988 after the dictator’s death along with the presence of a strong movement for change, the ToP to the civilian government was marginal because the regime’s credibility had been diminished but not destroyed, leading to the continuation of a strong King’s Party in the largest province of the country. Further, even these two experiences of a real ToP only pushed back martial rule temporarily, underlining the concrete difference between a substantive (real) and sustainable ToP that leads to a systemic change from martial to civilian rule. This is because a systemic ToP is one, a medium to long term process because of the lingering civil-military institutional imbalance that cannot be corrected in the short term; two, involves a different narrative (from marginal and real) before coming to power and concentration on different policy objectives once in government, and lastly, both the above points require a much larger and longer intra-civilian consensus on new rules of the game against the existing path dependency of state management.
The current martial rule regime in power since 2018 has of late been challenged by the PDM, a 10-party alliance comprising most opposition parties, including the two parties that have ruled the country from 2008 to 2018. The stated aim of PDM is not just to bring down the current regime but to recreate the country’s political system anew, and it has so far conducted more than 10 large public gatherings spanning all provinces of the country. However, internal differences have led to two parties, including the second largest party in the alliance, to back out of PDM recently. PDM’s charter highlights the supremacy and implementation of the Constitution, parliamentary autonomy, free and fair elections, independent judiciary, free media and other points. But these seem to be just fillers as the current martial rule is itself an outcome of a formally independent judiciary and media and neither the Constitution has been formally abrogated nor parliament sent home. Instead, the necessary prerequisite for a substantive functioning of the above stated institutions is the elimination of the establishment (army) and intelligence agencies’ role in politics, which stands out as the single most important point in PDM’s agenda against martial rule. This has renewed the discussion on martial rule and the type of ToP sought by this movement. But before assessing PDM, it is important to understand the nature of power underpinning martial rule, which can more simply be understood as a national security state (NSS).
The NSS: nature of power underpinning martial rule
A NSS has a particular character as opposed to a welfare or a developmental state. The following points attempt to clarify Pakistan’s NSS maintained and led by the army, and the civil-military institutional imbalance that will be inherited by any real ToP as a constraint to a systemic ToP. This imbalance can neither be wished away nor changed overnight as it has been sharpened by successive martial law regimes leading to weakened civil institutions of state as well as civil society through abrogation of the Constitution and parliament, outright banning of political parties, student unions, labour unions and media houses while accumulating more power within the institution of the army.
The above points indicate the army’s pre-eminence in the state structure, such that both the strategic vision as well as strategic policy of the state are security-driven as against a welfare state that prioritises citizen welfare or a developmental state that concentrates on economic growth. Further, path dependency as well as recurring investments in the security establishment have created a particular state character such that even other (civil) state institutions think along the same security paradigm framework rather than contesting it. This is in contrast to other countries where state institutions have comparative strength, competing vision and thus policy priorities, making it easier for the political leadership to shift state direction. Lastly, as the political economy of Pakistan is still dominated by an overdeveloped state because of a weak civil society and the politics of common sense of the popular sector undermining burgeoning social movements, it is relatively easier for the NSS to build its hegemony in society through the extended arm of the ‘establishment’, comprising both state as well as non-state actors. The NSS should thus be understood as a larger phenomenon than the military, but one that guarantees the domination of the army, while the Chief of Army Staff (COAS) should be seen both as the de facto head of the NSS as well as head of the most powerful political party of the country.
It should be clear then that a real ToP cannot change the political character of the office of the COAS overnight as this office has exercised real political power for decades, irrespective of the General in office. It will continue to be a necessary meeting point for foreign leaders who want to meet certain concrete policy objectives, and will continue to exercise control over the establishment till the dismantling of the NSS.
Assessing PDM’s narrative, strategy and capacity to achieve a systemic ToP
Given that the basis and strength of martial rule is integrated with the NSS, the rest of this paper aims to explore the stated objectives of PDM, assess its understanding of the difference between a real and systemic ToP, and evaluate both its political strategy as well as its capacity to achieve its objective of ending martial rule for good. Historical analysis of non-violent civil resistance movements suggests four necessary ingredients for the success of a movement. These four elements can be equated with and are necessary for a real ToP. In our case, however, a systemic ToP requires two more elements as it encompasses not just gains from the protest movement but also concrete policy changes post-ToP. In total, a civil resistance movement would need to fulfil the following requirements for a systemic ToP:
One, it includes large and diverse participation such that resistance is widespread, cross-cutting and decentralised. Within the Pakistani context, Jalal highlights that endemic political factionalism among provincial political elites had facilitated consolidation of “state authority at the expense of the political process”, while further arguing that martial rule’s key strategy to counter mass mobilisation had been through the depoliticisation of society. Assessing PDM, one finds that it included all nationalities except the Urdu-speaking Muhajir community concentrated in urban Sindh till the departure of Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) and Awami National Party (ANP) representing rural Sindh and nationalist Pashtuns in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, while its public gatherings in all parts of the country suggested a large and diverse participation. However, this mobilisation is limited to political parties and has yet to include the larger civil society encompassing peasant and labour federations, employer and professional associations, student unions, academia and NGOs. Although the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) in Punjab has made an effort to engage civil society, it has yet to mobilise it. This is because civil society is extremely weak owing to the banning of student unions since the 1980s while successive restrictions on labour unions has led to less than 2.5 percent of the labour force being organised. Additionally, elements of civil society still have apprehensions regarding some PDM parties because these have done little to strengthen civil society when in power. These apprehensions are further enhanced by the exclusion from PDM of Mohsin Dawar, a leader of the Pashtun Tahaffuz Movement (PTM), which conducted the largest mobilisation of Pashtun youth in decades. Thus, it is not yet clear whether PDM comprehends that a much larger consensus and mobilisation beyond political parties are required to challenge martial rule. According to Shafqat, this larger consensus also has to include the chattering classes through the socialisation of the middle class and elite in democratic values. But this can only go hand in hand with the PDM parties championing democratic principles themselves, as they constitute the political elite of the country.
Lastly, a comparison of a systemic and real ToP needs to be made. In both earlier cases of a real ToP, civilians were only able to make democratic gains in the initial years in the form of the 1973 Constitution and the 18th Amendment, only for martial rule to gradually make a comeback as the democratic consensus dissipated. Thus for a systemic ToP, the requirement is not just a larger consensus among political parties and a weak civil society, but also a longer period of consensus that spans both the resistance period till a real ToP is achieved, as well as a post-ToP period till a systemic ToP is achieved through a democratic polity.
Two, it elicits loyalty among a section of the security forces in particular, and other elites, including the civil bureaucracy, in general. This condition is met primarily because PDM constitutes the political elite, and is a conglomeration of mainstream and popular political parties including from the largest Punjab province, which has the greatest representation among the security forces as well as the civil bureaucracy. Familial and social linkages among the elite in all sectors of society abound, and thus PDM is bound to enjoy loyalty among sections of the state elite, including the security forces.
Three, it uses not just protests but a variation of other methods as a resistance strategy. PDM has so far concentrated on large political gatherings as a protest strategy to both publicise its message and mobilise the populace. The more radical section of PDM had earlier contemplated resigning from all elected institutions including the National Assembly, Senate and provincial Assemblies so as to render the current (martial rule) dispensation without an ethical justification to rule, but has since decided against this strategy. This will increase the parliamentary leverage of the current government to pass legislation, further decreasing the PDM’s options to resist within parliament. Additionally, the PDM has plans to hold a sit-in in Islamabad to pressure the current government to resign. Overall, PDM’s resistance strategy seems to focus on bringing down the current government, which it considers a front for martial rule, followed by negotiations with the army under the framework of the Constitution. However, this means that resistance is not targeted towards the national security state that underpins martial rule but instead on its façade, on the assumption that removal of the façade will discredit the army enough for it to accept PDM’s demands. On the flip side, by concentrating on the façade, PDM opens itself up to being labelled as simply playing power politics rather than being a resistance movement against martial rule.
Four, if repressed, it does not wither away nor becomes violent. PDM is made up of established political parties that have withstood prior repression (in the last two decades) without becoming violent, and thus fulfils this requirement.
Thus, PDM partly fulfils the above criteria with weaknesses in developing a larger consensus and a broader resistance strategy. However, the above points mostly cater for a marginal or real ToP. For the PDM to attempt a systemic ToP, it also has to be evaluated according to the following two additional requirements:
Five, it builds a narrative and associated policy framework that can both challenge as well as provide an alternative vision to that of the NSS, so as to undercut the basis of power underpinning martial rule. This involves: one, understanding the difference between a real and systemic ToP; two, both the narrative as well as mobilisation strategy are informed by the requisites of a systemic ToP, and lastly, the movement goes beyond rhetoric and vision to both formulate as well as build a consensus on a concrete policy framework.
Former PM Nawaz Sharif’s discursive strategy to openly name two top Generals instead of the implicit language of ‘Khalai Makhlook’ (unknown people/forces) that he had used at the time of his judicial removal from office, has contributed towards removing the veil from the current martial rule, although predominantly the narrative continues to be based on euphemisms. For example, the leader of the PPP, which currently is in power in Sindh, mainly targets the civilian PM while demanding that the ‘selectors’ (army Generals who selected him) learn from their mistake in putting him in power. The Punjabi leader of the PML-N limits his demand to undoing political intervention by the army top brass. He demands “respect for the vote” and for the Generals to follow their oath of staying out of politics, not using the army for political objectives, and to end the political engineering factories within the intelligence agencies. He defends taking the names of a few Generals so that the whole army, inclusive of the ranks, is not accused of wrongdoing, concluding his speech with the question: “Should we become slaves of a few Generals after getting freedom from the British?”. However, the Pashtun and Baloch nationalist parties who have borne the brunt of martial rule couch their rhetoric in institutional terms. They tell the audience: “You have been slaves to the wardi (uniform) for 70 years”, and call for a “people’s revolution”, while putting the onus on the leadership of the largest province of Punjab to “put this genie (the army’s hegemony) back in the bottle”. They blame the institution of the army as a whole for its political interventions, dictation of domestic and foreign policies, and involvement in business ventures.
Even though PDM’s leadership has often stated that they want to ‘change the system’ rather than just form a new government, on the whole PDM’s narrative is yet to make a clear distinction between a real and systemic ToP. Terms like “selectors” and “a few Constitution-breaking Generals”, while implicitly accepting the institutional strength of the army to undermine democracy, articulate the issue in personalised terms putting the onus on the current army leadership and thus is limited to demanding a marginal or at most a real ToP. In contrast, putting the onus on the army as a whole over a long period raises the issue in institutional terms, while terming it “a state above the state” highlights the structural nature of martial rule, and thus comes closer to demands for a systemic ToP. But even this structural narrative is limited in articulating the systemic nature of martial rule because the army only sits on top of the NSS rather than being an institution apart from an otherwise ‘democratic and citizen-oriented’ state. Thus, the army’s involvement in politics is not an issue of a few Generals but has been normalised over the years given its pre-eminent position in the NSS, and is now part and parcel of the ethos of the institution subscribed to by most army officers. Further, it is not simply the institution of the army that is the problem but the historical and accepted position that it exercises in the NSS. Thus, martial rule cannot be categorised as ‘a state above the state’ but as the very character of the existing Pakistani state, where elected civilians are bound to be subservient to the army until there is a change in the character of the state itself. The point being that the narrative frame for a systemic ToP would require a critique of the current NSS that goes much beyond simple anti-army rhetoric.
Beyond rhetoric, the PDM’s Charter says little about the NSS except the elimination of the establishment’s and intelligence agencies’ role in politics. While committing to constitutional points, security for freedom of expression, and protection of basic human and citizen rights, it does not concretely articulate needed reforms to counter martial rule even when compared to the Charter of Democracy signed between the PML-N and PPP in 2006, which included points such as civilian oversight of security agencies; parliamentary debate on the defence budget; scrutiny of land allotments; Nuclear Command and Control System under the Defence Cabinet Committee; peace with India and Afghanistan without prejudice to outstanding disputes, and many other points, though only a fraction of these were actually implemented. Thus one can safely argue that PDM is but a protest movement with the limited goal of bringing down the current government as it has yet to thrash out a detailed policy agenda for its objective of remaking the country’s political system anew that is devoid of martial rule.
Take for example the issue of Balochistan, where the PDM leadership invited family members of victims of enforced disappearances on stage at the Quetta public gathering, and few months later visited the sit-in of the Hazara community after the killing of 11 coal miners. At the Quetta public gathering, Maryam Nawaz, a leader of the PML-N, highlighted the issue of lack of people’s representation and the army’s intervention in politics, linking it with poverty and unemployment in Balochistan while stating that PDM aims to eliminate enforced disappearances, puppet governments, and give people the right to provincial resources. But she did not articulate the NSS as the cause behind these afflictions, which continues to view Balochistan purely from a security lens; has been guided by the so-called strategic depth doctrine in its support for the Taliban in Afghanistan; has undermined any political solution to the Baloch insurgency, and thus has thoroughly militarised the province, leading to added citizen insecurity and negation of human rights, while the Hazara became sacrificial lambs in the larger political game of the province. Thus, without a consensus on an alternative strategic vision, propagation and implementation of a substitute to the current policy framework of the NSS, it will not be possible to limit enforced disappearances or Hazara killings. Additionally, the implementation of this alternative policy framework cannot be achieved without great improvements in existing civilian institutional capacity, and without these improvements, the army will again come to dominate policy making in Balochistan even if PDM achieves a real ToP in the short term.
Six, it has to undo the civil-military institutional imbalance through the institutionalisation of political parties, by developing linkages with and strengthening civil society to act as collaborators against martial rule, and lastly enhance the strength of civilian institutions of state.
Most political parties in Pakistan especially the two largest parties are patron-client based entities without a functioning grassroots organisational structure or internal democracy, which leaves them as weak institutions because many active but ordinary citizens do not see themselves progressing to leadership positions within the party without financial or family clout. The inclusion of an “effective local government system” in PDM’s Charter is a good step both from the perspective of good governance as well as institutionalisation of parties at the local level because it will increase their membership and breed new leadership. However, good governance, which is critical to improving the credibility of civilian rule, is not possible without the upgrading of skills, capacities and professionalism of both local, provincial and federal policy makers (politicians), and street level bureaucrats (grades 6-16) who are the face of the state for ordinary citizens. This requires redirection of resources towards human development of which human security is a critical component.
But the NSS’s comprehension of security is limited to traditional security made up of security forces and weapons rather than human security encompassing economic, food, environmental, health and other aspects. Thus, a rationalisation of state spending towards human security, human development and economic investments may only be possible if one, parliament functions as the apex institution of state exercising its authority according to the Constitution; two, the voice of civilian institutions of state such as the Planning Commission, Economic Affairs Division, Ministry of Climate Change and Human Rights and others is enhanced through greater political priority, resources and media limelight; three, various security institutions are made autonomous bodies with own or civilian leadership rather than borrowing their leadership from the military, which creates a security nexus. Further, desecuritisation of the state requires imbibing of alternative state nationalism within civilian institutions such as the Foreign Office to propagate geo-economics rather than geo-strategy, federalism and cultural diversity (a multinational, multicultural and multi-religious Pakistan) rather than a unitary state, and patriotism beyond belief and martyrdom.
Lastly, it is the people who hold the greatest civilian strength. But only half of the registered voters actually cast their vote, which suggests a lack of people’s stake in democracy. Although the inclusion of an “emergency economic plan for an end to inflation, unemployment, and for poverty alleviation” in PDM’s charter is important for economic inclusivity, the main parties in PDM have been a party to running the country according to a borrowed International Finance Institutions’ prescribed neoliberal order rather than an inclusive home grown full employment oriented economic growth paradigm that is based on ground realities. Further, political inclusion of the people goes hand in hand with their economic inclusion as it provides them the needed voice to demand their economic, social and political rights. Thus, organised labour, student unions, farmers associations and social movements may be a headache for political parties, but are critical to a strong democracy because they can act as important independent collaborators against martial rule, though only if they have a stake in the democratic system.
The above discussed institutional disparity between the civil and military suggests the need for multiple reforms for PDM to aim for a systemic ToP: the need to conduct internal reforms to strengthen party institutions; change previous policy positions on the economy to make it people-friendly; support and strengthen autonomous civil society to make it an effective partner, and lastly, when in power, to raise the profile of civilian run institutions of state so as to change the very character of the NSS.
Pakistan has experienced three previous anti-establishment movements that have forced a formal ToP from the army to civilian rule but none has led to systemic change where the ToP to an elected civilian government is both comprehensive and sustainable. This is because political parties have not paid serious attention to correcting the civil-military institutional imbalance through civilian institution building even when they have held state power; they have not evolved a larger consensus or developed societal stakes in a democratic polity and civilian supremacy, and lastly, they have underestimated the nature of power exercised by the army whose position at the pinnacle of the NSS is assured.
Although PDM has raised the banner of changing the system of martial rule through large public gatherings around the country, it continues to primarily concentrate on the façade of martial rule rather than its underlying basis of power, the NSS. Further, its charter is too limited to articulate an alternative vision for the country and it has yet to develop a supporting detailed policy framework that can both inform its larger narrative framing as well as act as a starting point in developing a consensus on a new social contract, not just among PDM parties but larger civil society. Thus, barring its stated objective, PDM has yet to graduate from a protest movement that may bring down the current government to a larger societal movement led by organised political parties that may deepen democracy by comprehensively ending martial rule.
The writer is Assistant Professor, Centre for Public Policy and Governance, Forman Christian College
 Curbs on Freedom of Expression in Pakistan: An HRCP Fact Finding Report, August 2018, http://hrcp-web.org/hrcpweb/wp-content/uploads/2018/09/HRCP_Report-on-curbs-on-freedom-of-expression_2018-EN.pdf
 Amir Wasim: “RTS controversy likely to haunt ECP, Nadra for a long time”, Dawn, August 2, 2018, https://www.dawn.com/news/1424394; Pakistan Today: “Senate body seeks name of official who directed RTS shutdown on election day”, September 29, 2018, https://archive.pakistantoday.com.pk/2018/09/29/senate-body-seeks-name-of-official-who-directed-rts-shutdown-on-election-day/
 Adnan Rehmat: “Where the public forms its free opinion”, The News on Sunday, December 8, 2019,
 Hasnat Malik: “SC to ISI: You’re a top agency, don’t turn Pakistan into laughing stock”, The Express Tribune, January 3, 2018, https://tribune.com.pk/story/1599623/youre-top-agency-dont-make-joke-country-sc-tells-isi
 Ayesha Jalal: State of Martial Rule: The Origins of Pakistan’s Political Economy of Defence (Cambridge University Press, 1990).
 Mahmud Khan Achakzai’s speech at PDM Lahore jalsa (rally), Dec 13, 2020, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9JjFk0VVPBc
 The 12 points PDM covenant includes: 1. Enforcement of and supremacy of the Constitution of Pakistan; 2. Autonomy of parliament; 3. Elimination of the role of establishment and intelligence agencies in politics; 4. Establishment of an independent judiciary; 5. Reforms for free, independent and fair elections; 6. Protection of basic human and democratic rights of the people; 7. Protection of the rights of the provinces and the 18th Constitutional Amendment; 8. Effective local government system; 9. Security of freedom of expression and media; 10. Elimination of extremism and terrorism and the implementation of the National Action Plan; 11. Emergency economic plan for an end to inflation, unemployment, and for poverty alleviation; 12. Protection and implementation of the Islamic provisions of the Constitution.
 For example, the Foreign Office’s concentration on diplomacy, and Planning Commission/Finance Ministry on a Geo-economic strategy rather than Geo-strategic is hardly heard of.
 Aasim Sajjad Akhtar: The Overdeveloping State: The Politics of Common Sense in Pakistan 1971-2007 (Unpublished PhD Dissertation, University of London, 2008).
 Establishment here is understood as the executors and abettors of unelected state apparatus constituting both state employees in various ministries as well as non-state actors belonging to all walks of life, including lawyers, politicians, journalists and intellectuals. E.g. regular pro-establishment political analysts in talk shows are considered part of the establishment.
 It meets all conditions of a political party: a group organised to acquire and exercise political power; contesting in elections implicitly through various fronts; furthers particular ideology and policy goals.
 Maria J. Stephan and Erica Chenoweth: “Why Civil Resistance Works: The Strategic Logic of Nonviolent Conflict” (International Security, Vol. 33, No. 1, Summer 2008, pp. 7-44).
 Ayesha Jalal: State of Martial Rule: The Origins of Pakistan’s Political Economy of Defence (Cambridge University Press, 1990).
 Zakaullah Khan Khalil: A Profile of Trade Unionism and Industrial Relations in Pakistan (ILO, 2018).
 Saeed Shafqat, Professor, CPPG, interviewed by the author, December 26, 2020.
 “Ready to talk to army once government dismantled: Public dialogue through PDM platform, says Maryam Nawaz” (The News, Nov 13, 2020, https://www.thenews.com.pk/print/742872-ready-to-talk-to-army-once-govt-sent-home-public-dialogue-through-pdm-platform-says-maryam
 Nawaz Sharif’s speech in the PDM Lahore salsa (rally), Dec 13, 2020, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=22BlwND289U
 Akhtar Mengal stated: “You have moved from slavery of the British to slavery of the wardi (uniform)” in PDM Lahore salsa (rally), Dec 13, 2020, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OO8iBixpwYc
 Mahmud Khan Achakzai’s speech at PDM Lahore salsa (rally), Dec 13, 2020, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9JjFk0VVPBc
 Akhtar Mengal stated: “You have moved from slavery of the British to slavery of the wardi (uniform)” in PDM Lahore salsa (rally), Dec 13, 2020, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OO8iBixpwYc
 Nawaz Sharif’s speech in PDM Lahore salsa (rally), Dec 13, 2020, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=22BlwND289U
 Dawn: Text of the Charter of Democracy, https://www.dawn.com/news/192460/text-of-the-charter-of-democracy,
 By highlighting the Quaid’s speech at Quetta Staff College regarding role of army’s officers, and its political interference: Dr. Shazia, Akbar Bugti and Qazi Isa affair, creating political parties, and being the real power in Balochistan.
 Maryam Nawaz’ speech in Quetta jalsa (rally), October 25, 2020, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6fDx5RRJt-4
 As understood by some members of the Hazara tribe (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tAD7yfm3ZcE)
 Members look up to a personal patron and follow them rather than being members of an ideological institution where they may rise up the party ranks to become its leader. The party is thus a top down structure with members beholden to the leader rather than a bottom up institution with the leader beholden to the members.
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