Alert Sign Dear reader, online ads enable us to deliver the journalism you value. Please support us by taking a moment to turn off Adblock on

Alert Sign Dear reader, please upgrade to the latest version of IE to have a better reading experience



Your Name:

Recipient Email:

-Illustration by
-Illustration by

If electoral democracy were a cake, Pakistanis would be coming off of a five-year binge. Instead, the nation is poorer, hungrier, and more deprived today than it was in March 2008.

For the first time since independence in 1947, democratically elected legislatures are completing their constitutionally mandated tenures in Pakistan without being summarily uprooted by a military regime or its civilian proxy.  This is indeed a significant landmark in Pakistan’s democratic journey.

Despite the historic achievement, the sorry state of the federation where law and order has disappeared and corruption is ubiquitous, and where economy and utilities have faltered, would prompt the electorate to question the real value of electoral democracy. Has electoral democracy been able to deliver jobs to the unemployed, and food to the poor? A quick economic recap of the past five years is in order.

The Zardari government took over from General Musharraf who reluctantly relinquished control after it became apparent that a showdown between the General and political forces was imminent. What started with a great promise turned quickly into a major disappointment? Within months, the naïveté of the new government was evident as one sector of the economy was mismanaged after the other. While the Musharraf regime posted 6 per cent to 8 per cent economic growth rates, the Zardari government couldn’t muster even a 4 per cent GDP growth.

It is, however, true that the good fortune did not favour the elected governments. Whereas, the Musharraf regime enjoyed the dividends of a rapidly growing global economy in which the Americans and the Europeans were keen to shower cash for Pakistani mercenaries and bounty hunters, the Zardari government came to power in 2008 when the global economies experienced the worst economic recession since the great depression of the 30s. The demand for Pakistani goods declined and investment flows dried up, thus starving Pakistani industries.


And while the economic growth was dismal at best, the stock markets in Pakistan continued to reach new heights. Even with the worsening of law and order and a near complete collapse of the power sector that crippled the manufacturing sector, the KSE 100 index continued to grow, fuelled most likely by ‘irrational exuberance.’

Source: (2013). KSE 100 Index.
Source: (2013). KSE 100 Index.

The lackluster economic growth resulted in a sustained higher than usual unemployment rate that lasted throughout the five year democratic rule. The per capita GDP (measured in US$ in constant 2000 prices) during the same period grew by mere $30. At the same time, the economic managers fail to arrest the sharp increase in consumer prices that grew by 80 per cent in a short span of five years. The result was catastrophic for low to mid-income households who faced limited opportunities to earn a living, while the cost of living continued to climb.


Good governance, amongst others, is as much a part of democracy as electioneering is. However, governance has not been a core value of the political parties that controlled legislatures in Pakistan. We are indeed indebted to the Zardari government in the centre and the four provincial governments to have the fortitude and ability to complete their constitutional tenures. However, the same left the nation buried under a mountain of foreign debt that ballooned from $45 billion in 2008 to over $65 billion in 2012. The government debt to GDP ratio, which was down to 55 per cent in 2008, rose to 60 per cent in 2012.


The economic scorecard of the democratically elected government in Pakistan suggests that the past five years have been a major disappointment for the electorate. The government failed to recognise its responsibility to create the necessary environment in which commerce could flourish and the private sector could create jobs for the rapidly expanding younger cohorts.

The past five years have left the nation poorer and hungrier. A 2011 national survey revealed that widespread malnutrition in Pakistan has caused 44 per cent of the children under 5 years of age to have stunted growth. In Sindh, the power base of the Zardari government, three in four households were food insecure.

Democracy is all about the fulfillment of physical and spiritual needs of a people. For Pakistanis though, the democratic rule has meant darkness, hunger, and violence. Surely, Pakistanis deserve much better and are justified in expecting improved governance from the next cadre.


Murtaza Haider, Ph.D. is the Associate Dean of research and graduate programs at the Ted Rogers School of Management at Ryerson University in Toronto. He can be reached by email at


The views expressed by this blogger and in the following reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of the Dawn Media Group.

Most Popular

Comments (60) Closed

ZAK Mar 16, 2013 06:48pm
Our major concern has been the failure of the government to recognise the needs of the people. A lot of brash claims is tantamount to nothing if the government fails to deliver. In the last few days we have had the 2 major parties of the country come out with their 'new manifestos', promising to solve all our problems. Are they joking or are they serious ??
Iftikhar Husain Mar 16, 2013 07:10pm
Thank you for putting this information which clearly shows the decline in the economy.
Aamir Cheema Mar 16, 2013 07:26pm
Rubbish, any one can play with data, there is no hunger in my country and let me say , come and have a journey of country, it is much better than yesterday. Why you always have to paint a gloomy picture. Just for the record is USA, UK , Russia more richer than five years ago.
Soman Mar 16, 2013 07:36pm
Congratulations Pakistanis for your first elected Government having completed it's term. Did giving extension to Army chief help ?
Hussain Shah Mar 16, 2013 08:22pm
The richest leaders of poor nation shame on you , the family politics and deep corruption rooted like a culture of Islamic nation my country PAKISTAN which I love . THIS family politics where they want to go ? the answer is P T I to build NEW PAKISTAN .
Gulrez Khan Mar 16, 2013 08:34pm
We love invoking patriotism when all else fails. What a ridiculous invitation 'come and visit my country!', in the face of stark statistics and cold realism. The Western economies may not be doing so great but Asia is booming, care looking next door (China, India and even Bangladesh). Exactly what did Mr Cheema expect after 5 years of monumental mis-management, nepotism, graft...............if this hurts......let's bury our heads in the sand again and two fingers to anyone who dares speak the truth.
ohhhhhh Mar 16, 2013 08:44pm
tere haal par mujhe rona aaya....kaise tujhe itna khona aya....
Dr Hemant Junnarkar Mar 16, 2013 09:21pm
If Pakistan comes out of psychological fear of India and reduces expenditure on defence, it will contribute to its economic development. In today's age expenditure on defence is exorbitant. Common people in India and Pakistan do not want war. The democratic government is a mirror of common people's wishes. Pakistan's democratic Government should capitalise on people's expectations. Best wishes for Pakistan's democracy!
Imran Mar 16, 2013 09:23pm
Mr. writer is sitting in Canada and commenting on Pakistan. Why not come here and work for this country rather than sitting in Canada and playing with data. Why dawn publish such articles of people when they are not in this country to face it by themselves. And I am not a pro PPP person.
abbastoronto Mar 17, 2013 12:16am
For a moment I thought Prof. Haider was writing about here, Michigan USA. I work in a city with a murder rate 5 times that of Karachi, and there is no civil or sectarian war going on here. First, the last 5 years have been tough on everyone, including the rising stars
abdussamad Mar 17, 2013 02:43am
The author is wrong about the stock market as evidenced by the graph above. It crashed in 2008 and performed pretty badly for most the time the PPP was in power. It was only after interest rates were cut that it started to go up. That is in 2012 and this year. It will go down again once the new IMF program starts and the SBP is forced to raise rates again.
zia Mar 17, 2013 03:00am
70% illiteracy, will bring Zardari again. With Democracy only can come Nawaz sharifs and Zardaris. After all this- PPP minded will remain PPP minded!!
hyderphd74 Mar 17, 2013 04:20am
If there is no hunger in your country then how come we see thousands of beggars on the streets and little kids hanging around restaurants and road side eateries begging for a loaf of bread? Have you ever been to the slums of Karachi (and you can find a host of them) where you will see ten-year olds looking for food in the garbage. Do you think they get fun doing it. Open your eyes, Sir. Only a few African countries can surpass your country in the number of beggars per capita.
ZR Mar 17, 2013 05:12am
And a wise man once said....Democracy is the best revenge!
nisar Mar 17, 2013 05:38am
dear sir Mr,Haider i really appriciate you and really hurt touching your words. i don,t have belong to any party yet but really disagree with our last 5 years govt. dear sir you have worted every thing clear. we have to think about it and must not bring them in power again. in last few days the are just acting and made promisses they are now like a fish with out water. dear Mr. cheema don,t lie my dear God will not leave you 1 day you will meet with ur God. don,t think just about ur self but think about all your neighbours.
Shana Mar 17, 2013 05:39am
This article is so childish. It suggest that democracy is responsible for recession from 2008 to 2012 ... Lol meanwhile USA and other countries went through the same economic trends from 2008 to 2012....Pakistan GDP growth slowed because the world GDP growth ... Demand for good went down, financial markets in USA ..... Sounds like republican who blames OBama for their policies and this author is blaming democracy for Pakistan's problem. Wow! using data to mislead Pakistani nation.
Shana Mar 17, 2013 05:52am
According to author we should go to undemocratic ways.....became Afghanistan ... Allow military to run the country ... It took us 15 years to understand what zia Haq (military) did to our long term GDP... His data is very foolish ... Drawing a connection between world wide recession in 2008 to 2012 with democracy in Pakistan is 4 yrs thinking but hey let's continue to blame game ... N don't focus on real problem!!!!!
hassan Mar 17, 2013 06:06am
Your patriotism will not feed the hungry, clothe the shivering, address power shortage or refute statistics. Go home and try to free your mind from the shackles set there by years of studying inane manure in Pak Studies books and songs celebrating armed forces. Pakistan is in an economic quagmire; force-fed emotion does not stand a chance against statistics.
Irshad Ahmed Kagzi Mar 17, 2013 06:57am
These so-called public representatives were corrupt and looted the country elsewhere nation suffered hardship. So in a forthcoming election test for the nation to select better team, but all are rubbish.
PM Mar 17, 2013 07:08am
Democracy does not function in a country like Pakistan. Pakistani people, society and culture is not ready for democracy yet.
Ghalib Khan Mar 17, 2013 07:15am
I think we are mistaken, the Five Years are not over it is not even past (Sixty Days) as our learned Internal minister had promised to solve many of the major issues in 60 days.
Zahid Mar 17, 2013 07:33am
wise is a relative term.
abdussamad Mar 17, 2013 07:33am
You don't know anything about Pakistan's economy. Pakistan's economy is not as tightly linked to other countries as you think. Our banks did not suffer from the western financial crisis and Pakistan's exports have actually grown in this time period. However, exports make up only 11% of Pakistan's GDP. Domestic consumption growth matters more. The energy crisis, inflation and poor law and order situation are entirely internal matters and the PPP mismanaged them all.
Zahid Mar 17, 2013 07:37am
Ignorance is a bliss!!!
sultanbhai Mar 17, 2013 07:37am
Pakistan needs Dictators. Democracy is not good for Pakistan's economy.
Zahid Mar 17, 2013 07:40am
You are entitled to your opinion but not your facts. Facts paint a different picture in Pakistan.
IndiaUSA Mar 17, 2013 07:54am
It's a sorry state...Pakistan needs to rejig and find a domain where it is globally competitive like China in Manufacturing and India in services..It is going to take a while...may be alot more...Good Luck!
tohellppp Mar 17, 2013 08:58am
As a Pakistani who spent most of my adult years in Britain, let me say, inspite of the global economy, the law is still supreme, rights are respected & inflation is under control. In Pakistan, things have been rosy only for the corrupt & ignorant such as Mr. Cheema. Its high time, we flushed these & their (now) Mr. 50% leader to the gallows & therefrom to hell.
undying_lament Mar 17, 2013 10:29am
"there is no hunger in my country" Now i'm confused. What's that country you speak of?
Dearborn Iffy Mar 17, 2013 10:32am
Uncle, At school we are being taught that in a quadratic equation when ax(square) + bx + c = 0, then if the discriminants are zero or negative, we get imaginary solutions. Looking above at your repetitive hypothesis which is of a highly bent nature (i.e. a parabolic), it seems you have all negative disciminants and hence all your solutions for the real world are imaginary too. Uncle, I hate reading your jiggery pokery jargon. Learn to keep it simple in future at y=ax. This will make sure you are straight and pass through your origin which is ground zero (0,0) and in essence ground reality.
jeff Mar 17, 2013 11:42am
I don't think that the people of Pakistan will ever let this party in power again.
vikram Mar 17, 2013 01:38pm
Shana, You seem to mis-understand the purport of the article. It is to draw attention to the achievements or otherwise of the current government and not democracy itself. Yes the developed world did go through a significant recession but every half decent developing economy had a slow down and not a recession or at the very least not a slow down like in Pakistan. And that is the important point.
Gulrez Khan Mar 17, 2013 02:06pm
Dr Junnarkar, thank you for your good wishes. Your views on Pakistan, even from an Indian perspective are mis guided. Pakistan exists to feed it's army generals, this the price the brain washed nation is led to believe we have to pay for freedom, some of my countrymen will shortly label me a traitor. The politicians are an irrelevant distraction. As to India, please check your defence spending and fascination with China. Your industry may be booming but poverty is rife, the Chinese people want nothing but peace!
Arun Mar 17, 2013 02:24pm
not true....we India and china has also slowed down....I believe Pakistani slow down is because of Global economic meltdown
Cyrus Howell Mar 17, 2013 03:47pm
"I know not how the truth may be, I tell the tale as t'was said to me." . -- Sir Walter Scott, Ivanhoe
Manish Gupte, PhD (@ManishMGupte) Mar 17, 2013 06:08pm
Great! Less politics and more economics! The world economy has been slower. "Rotating" money creates wealth and jobs. Trading with neighbors makes war and violence unprofitable for both. Trade is not bribe or aid, for me to buy Made in Pakistan products they have to be good.
Manish Gupte, PhD (@ManishMGupte) Mar 17, 2013 06:10pm
It takes some intelligence to understand gazals and sheer...
Azfar Mar 17, 2013 06:16pm
Nowhere does the author says that we should go undemocratic. He is a Phd and his article does not sound childish. This corrupt goverment of PPP was horrible and the worst ever in the history of Pakistan. The cxountry that is growing the fastest is not a democracy. So to say that democracy is the solution to everything is just not true. China's growth rate in 2012 was 7.8% and that is anything but slow. Pakistan had done away with IMF in musharaf era and the debt had come down to 38 bilion from 44 billion with a growth rate of 6.5 average in 9 years and now this democray has taken the debt to 61 or 62 billion apart the aid we get in CSF coalliton Support Fund and then kerry luger Aid that we get.
independentthinker Mar 17, 2013 06:25pm
While we are in fact, going through a world-wide recession, i think Pakistan, if governed properly should not have had a major impact. We have so many resources that we could export and bring in revenue, that if we had proper management, our country could not only be self-sufficient, but a very prosperous nation. I think if the saying is correct, that winter is followed by spring, our bad days should be over and we should be welcoming good days. Let us hope the new leaders realize that they are not in to fill their pockets, but to give our people, what they deserve - which is security and prosperity - and believe me, both are achievable. God bless Pakistan.
Soman Mar 17, 2013 06:53pm
Crime rate is always higher in Asian countries - It is just that they dont get reported. In U.S. the reporting of crimes is near 100%.
abbastoronto Mar 17, 2013 07:25pm
Dearborn Iffy: Greetings today from Toronto LOL In my specialty, Stress Analysis, one learns quickly that aircraft or auto parts designed for linear solutions will soon break. I would not fly or drive in a vehicle not designed for non-linear. If you aim at ground zero you be zero yourself too. Look at Arabs and Indians who both claim to have invented the Zero and have become zeros themselves. But only the Quran gives you an introduction to infinity - without measure, so aim high. You may get somewhere. Best wishes
lax Mar 17, 2013 08:25pm
Dr. Haider is right there is not much improvements in over all health of the country in last 5 years. One thing one can boast that at least it has become number one in the whole world in exporting terrorism with the subsidy getting from Government. Shame to the human race.
Omar Mar 18, 2013 12:27am
LOL, stay tuned. Jeff, either u are new to Pakistani politics or totally naive about "voting".
indian Mar 18, 2013 03:18am
I think Pakistan should not think too much about having become poorer or hungrier during the period of democracy. Sustaining democracy is very hard. We in India have over the past 65 years come to the conclusion that only democracy can reduce poverty and hunger because even the poorest on the street can make politicians make policy that will address his poverty through the power of the vote. That is why we in India today have pro poor schemes like MNREGA and now the Food Security Act. Take it from us Indians Democracy is the way forward even if it is the harder option.
indian Mar 18, 2013 03:22am
Zia you need to ask what did the dictators you had all this while do to bring down that illiteracy rate that you talk about. If they did nothing then dictatorship is not worth it.
sali Mar 18, 2013 03:46am
Complete destruction. May be add a grap on, unemployement, nos of bombs, citizens killed and thefts. Rs has is now 100 rupee to one us dolar ....almost doubled. how can we expect to recover?
ali Mar 18, 2013 05:08am
The democracy is a culture, not a mechanical process, that needs to be introduced/inculcated from early age. Instead, in countries such as Pak and others, the culture of dictatorship and decree is proudly introduced, practiced, promoted and vehmently justified, at homes by the head of the household followed by other institutions. In the process the virtues of consensus and fairness are automatically sacrificed. Wonder how can anyone expect democracy to thrive in such an environment.
ali Mar 18, 2013 05:17am
Pakistan needs a sincere man like Musharaf, who worked for his achievements. He may not be a perfect man but who is. He knows both sides of the equations. He knows security better then anyone among the lot, and by now has learnt enough about politics of this country. Ideally it would be coalition between Imran and Musharaf.
khanm Mar 18, 2013 08:37am
Effective leadership is not about making speeches or being liked or disliked; leadership is defined by results not attributes. Unfortunately none of our previous political leaders were results /goal oriented. We the masses the people of Pakistan are responsible for bringing Pakistan to its knee
Ash Mar 18, 2013 08:57am
In the Middle East your Brothers and Sisters are fighting and dying for Democracy, it can be the only way forward. Give me one good reason why Democracy cannot function in Pakistan? Although to be honest all the Candidates in Pakistan look pretty grim.
Mustafa Razavi Mar 18, 2013 09:26am
Don't be too sure, we have never had democracy in this country.
Mustafa Razavi Mar 18, 2013 09:33am
It is very simple, under military rule our economy is better. At the end of Zia's rule our per capita GDP was about 40% ahead of India and our per capita exports were three times India, essentially 15 years of "democracy" has reversed the situation vis-a-vis India.
Mustafa Razavi Mar 18, 2013 09:35am
So is "man" in this case.
Mustafa Razavi Mar 18, 2013 09:44am
We have not slowed, we have sped up going in the wrong direction.
Mustafa Razavi Mar 18, 2013 09:47am
Good to hear there is no hunger in your country, you didn't say what country you are from, I would like to move there, how far is it from Rawalpindi?
Yousuf Mar 18, 2013 12:34pm
Looks like you stopped short of saying that people are right to ask to bring mush era back :)
Junaid Mar 18, 2013 01:47pm
His era was at least economically stable. His political decisions, however, are to be questioned and even though I am a PTI supporter, given the choice between MUSH era and ZARDARI era i will definitely go for MUSH era.
indian Mar 18, 2013 02:49pm
Pakistan is poor because of lack in education in right way. Madrassa will not solve this issue. Terrorism will not solve this issue. Negative approach against new education system will make situation critical. Pak don't need Nukes. It need growth in GDP and good relation with India. Ammmeeeeeen..
indian Mar 18, 2013 02:51pm
Imran is my first choice. But traitor Mush is not the person of my choice.
indian Mar 18, 2013 02:52pm
Pak needs democracy and good relation with India. Polio eradiction is also required. Pak should learn it from India.