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Media Freedom in Pakistan

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The focus of the study is given to how the media helped to restore the judiciary besides other benefits of the media freedom. The downside of this freedom and its limitations are also discussed in order to give a balanced picture of the impact and relate how free the media really is at this stage. Finally, an examination is made of how the media can help to make democratisation succeed. Officially, democracy began in Pakistan with the 1973 constitution after General Yahya Khan allowed the conduction of a free and fair election in Pakistan for the first time in 1970. It was a parliamentary democracy that allowed for democratically elected representatives to rule. Prior to that, his predecessor General Ayub Khan did allow the country to experience a ‘basic democracy’ under the 1962 constitution after usurping power, but it was rightly called a ‘constitutional autocracy’. Democratic institutions were still suppressed and a mass movement arose to guarantee the principle of one-man-one-vote would be applied. However, the quality of the democracy in Pakistan during the last quarter of the 20th century has been questionable, and arguably it still is. It was again largely absent during Zia-ul-Haqq’s military rule from 1977 to 1988. Political parties were then allowed to participate in proper elections this time in 1988 but the transition to democracy has been a continuous struggle between the military and civilian organisations. In short, where some democratic practices have been permitted, they have usually been partial, controlled and incomplete under the rule of the military or else manipulated under the occasional civilian rule. The pattern that emerges from this brief historical overview is that the degree of democracy has been generally (though not steadily) increasing in Pakistan over the past few decades.