Pakistan Slides to 118th Place in Democracy Index, Becomes Authoritarian Regime

Pakistan has been classified as an authoritarian regime in the latest Democracy Index report by the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU), a London-based research and analysis group. The report, titled “Age of Conflict”, measures the state of democracy in 165 independent states and two territories based on five criteria: electoral process and pluralism, civil liberties, the functioning of government, political participation, and political culture.

According to the report, Pakistan’s score on the Democracy Index fell by 0.88 points to 3.25 out of 10 in 2023, resulting in a drop of 11 places in the global ranking table, to 118th. This is the lowest score and rank that Pakistan has achieved since the index began in 2006. Pakistan was the only country in the Asia-Pacific region to be downgraded from a hybrid regime, which exhibits elements of both democracy and authoritarianism, to an authoritarian regime, which is characterized by the absence of free and fair elections, widespread violations of civil rights, and a lack of accountability and transparency in governance.

The report cited several factors that contributed to Pakistan’s democratic decline in 2023, such as the interference of the military in the electoral process and the government’s functioning, the erosion of the independence and integrity of the judiciary, the suppression of the media and civil society, the rise of religious extremism and violence, and the low level of public trust and engagement in politics. The report also noted that Pakistan’s coalition government, led by the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) and supported by the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) and the Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam Fazl (JUI-F), faced multiple challenges and crises, such as the economic downturn, the Covid-19 pandemic, the border tensions with India, and the US withdrawal from Afghanistan.

Ahmed Bilal Mehboob, the president of the Pakistan Institute of Legislative Development and Transparency (PILDAT), a non-governmental organization that promotes democracy and good governance, expressed his disappointment and concern over Pakistan’s downgrade in the Democracy Index. He asserted that Pakistan’s score and category had worsened since 2017, and that all stakeholders, including the government, the opposition, the military, the judiciary, the media, and the civil society, should “undertake serious soul searching at this state of affairs” and work together to restore and strengthen Pakistan’s democracy.

The EIU report also highlighted the global trend of democratic regression and stagnation in 2023, which was driven by the spread of wars, authoritarian crackdowns, and declining levels of trust in mainstream political parties. The report stated that the global average index score fell to 5.23, down from 5.29 in 2022, marking a new low since 2006. The number of countries classified as democracies increased by two, to 74, in 2023, but only 7.8% of the world’s population lived in a full democracy, down from 8.9% in 2015. More than one-third of the world’s population lived under authoritarian rule (39.4%), a share that had been creeping up in recent years.

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