Democracy Index: Pakistan only better than Afghanistan in SAARC countries

Pakistan ranks at 105 in Democracy Index 2020

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Pakistan ranks at 105 in Democracy Index 2020

By Arshad Sharif

Islamabad, Feb 3:  Pakistan ranks only better than Afghanistan as a “HYBRID REGIME” amongst SAARC countries in Democracy Index 2020 issued by the Economic Intelligence Unit.

The questionable quality of democracy in Pakistan is ranked at 105 in SAARC countries, only better than Afghanistan which has an overall ranking of 139 out of a total 167 countries.

The Democracy Index lists 23 countries as full democracies, 52 as flawed democracies, 35 as hybrid regimes and 57 as authoritarian regimes in a ranking of total 167 countries.

Economic Intelligence Unit issues a Democracy Index every year based on five categories: electoral process and pluralism, functioning of government, political participation, political culture, and civil liberties. 

Based on its scores on a range of indicators within these categories, each country is then classified as one of four types of regime: “full democracy”, “flawed democracy”, “hybrid regime” or “authoritarian regime”. 

Bhutan(84) and Nepal (92) are also ranked better than Pakistan in the category of “hybrid regimes.”

Rest of the SAARC countries including India, Bangladesh, Nepal and Sri Lanka are in the category of “flawed democracy” with comparatively healthy democratic dispensations than their hybrid counter parts in SAARC.

Pakistan is listed in the category of “hybrid regimes” which are defined as countries where

Elections have substantial irregularities that often prevent them from being both free and fair. Government pressure on opposition parties and candidates may be common. Serious weaknesses are more prevalent than in flawed democracies—in political culture, functioning of government and political participation. Corruption tends to be widespread and the rule of law is weak. Civil society is weak. Typically, there is harassment of and pressure on journalists, and the judiciary is not independent.”

The Democracy Index 2020 ranks India (53), Sri Lanka (63), Bangladesh (76) and Nepal (92) as flawed democracies.

India slipped by down by two ranks from 51 in 2019 to 53 in 2020 Democracy Index. In addition to crackdown on civil liberties, religious fundamentalism by the ruling party, the handling of the coronavirus pandemic led to a further erosion of civil liberties in in India 2020. By contrast, the scores for some of India’s regional neighbours, such as Bangladesh, Bhutan and Pakistan, improved marginally in 2020 as compared to previous year. 

EIU mentions that democratic norms have been under pressure in India since 2015. 

“India’s score fell from a peak of 7.92 in 2014 to 6.61 in 2020 and its global ranking slipped from 27th to 53rd as a result of democratic backsliding under the leadership of Narendra Modi, a member of the Hindu-nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), who became prime minister in 2014 and was re-elected for a second term in 2019.”

Highlighting hardline Hindutva policies of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the EIU said the increasing influence of religion under the Modi premiership, whose policies have fomented anti- Muslim feeling and religious strife, has damaged the political fabric of the country. 

“The enactment in December 2019 of the Citizenship (Amendment) Act 2019 continued to fuel riots in 2020, with several left dead following clashes in February in the capital city, New Delhi. The Act introduces a religious element to the conceptualisation of Indian citizenship, a step that many critics see as undermining the secular basis of the Indian state.”

Listing some of the hardline Hindu fundamentalist steps taken by Indian PM resulting in erosion of democracies and civil liberties of Muslims in India, EIU said in August Mr Modi participated in a ground-breaking ceremony for a Hindu temple on the site of a 16th century mosque in Ayodhya, Uttar Pradesh. The mosque was destroyed by a Hindu nationalist mob in 1992 and building a temple on the site has been a rallying cry for Hindu nationalist groups ever since, featuring in the BJP’s general election manifestos in 2014 and 2019. The temple’s construction will further endear Mr Modi to his Hindu nationalist base. 

The latest Democracy Index showed democratic freedoms fell in 116 out of 167 countries in 2020. 

Countries that withdrew civil liberties, eschewed scrutiny of emergency powers or denied freedom of expression due to Coid-19 were penalised by the index, pushing its global average to an all-time low. 

America, partly as a result of the widespread refusal to accept election results, remained a “flawed democracy”. 

Japan, South Korea and Taiwan became “full democracies”, while France and Portugal lost that status. 

In eastern Europe and Latin America the pandemic compounded existing democratic flaws. 

But Africa and the Middle East had the worst year—for autocratic leaders, the pandemic was a convenient excuse to cement power and eliminate dissent.

Norway has the best democratic dispensation topping the list in Democracy Index 2022 with Iceland, Sweden, New Zealand and Canada making up the other top five. 

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