The Changing Meaning of Democracy in Pakistan

protests image PakistanBy: Fayyaz  Yaseen, Accountability Ambassador to Pakistan.

Pakistan is a country in transition. It is a nation of 180 million people that—through consistent political education by print, electronic, and social media—is reconfiguring and revising its conception of democracy and accountability. And this movement for change seems to be happening in fast-forward mode. In the past month and a half alone, Pakistan has observed: two massive, 40-day long (and still counting) sit-ins in front of its National Assembly, demanding for electoral transparency; two heavy-weight politicians booed out of an airplane by the passengers for keeping the flight waiting; huge public rallies, with no clear leader, demanding electoral transparency and reforms in the police and revenue departments; and hyperactive political debates and discussions on social media demanding an end to the status quo.

All of these are clear symbols of political awakening of a nation that has had three dictatorial regimes in its brief period of existence. It is for the first time that political idols are breaking down and people are beginning to understanding the real meaning and value of democracy. The concept of democracy is no longer confined to the periodic exercise of election and voting processes; rather, it is quickly becoming about transparency, performance, and accountability. This transition has in large part been made possible through greater access to information, which the media has been sharing consistently with the masses.

People are now beginning to understand that information is power. With information, they can expose the negligence and poor management of politicians and policy makers, demand appropriate action, and claim the rights and services they have been promised. This era of information creates an enabling environment for innovative interventions that further empower people to take control of their lives. This is where organizations like the Accountability Lab can come in and start making a difference.

Accountability Lab—a US-based organization which recently began efforts to expand its operations to Pakistan—provides encouragement, capacity, and support for tools for that empower citizens to understand and obtain their rights and basic public services. The Lab is currently collaborating with like-minded organizations and individuals in the country, encouraging them to share ideas that have synergy with its mandate, and that can be tested, sustained, and scaled up going forward. It is such efforts, as well as widespread collaboration with other stakeholders that the current political and democratic transition in Pakistan can increase its probability of success and help people receive the rights that they have longed for last 68 years.

You are welcome to reach out to the author, Fayyaz, at with any questions or comments. If you are interested in learning more about the Lab’s work around accountability and good governance, please visit our website at:

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