Cover Story

A System for Growth

Pakistan must get out from the grip of failed politicians and a failed political system.

By Brig. (R) Saleem Qamar Butt | November 2021

The proposition under discussion in this short piece is to analyse whether or not ‘A one-party state or a single-party system’ is suitable for Pakistan with reference to the spectacular rise of China, which is mainly attributed to its one-party rule.

Let’s first examine a few essential details about the ‘One Party System’ along with a brief hint at its bright and dark side. A one-party state or a single party system is a type of unitary state in which only one political party has the right to form the government, usually based on the existing constitution. All other parties are either outlawed or allowed to take only a limited and controlled part in elections. The rule of the Committee of Union and Progress (CUP) in the Ottoman Empire following the 1913 Ottoman coup d’état is considered the first ‘one-party state’.

One-party states explain themselves through various methods. Most often, proponents of a one-party state argue that the existence of separate parties runs counter to national unity. Others argue that a single party is the forerunner of the people, and therefore it’s right to rule cannot be legitimately questioned. For example, the former Soviet government argued that multiple parties represented the class struggle and because of this the Soviet Union legally authorized and recognized a single party leading the proletariat, namely the Communist Party of the Soviet Union. Some one-party states only outlaw opposition parties, while allowing allied parties to exist as part of a permanent coalition such as a popular front.

Examples of this are the People’s Republic of China under the United Front and the Democratic Front for the Reunification of Korea in North Korea. Most one-party states have been ruled by parties forming in one of the following three circumstances: an ideology of Marxism–Leninism and international solidarity (such as the Soviet Union for most of its existence); some type of nationalist or fascist ideology (such as Italy under the National Fascist Party or Germany under the Nazi Party), parties that came to power in the wake of independence from colonial rule.

As of 2021, the following countries are legally constituted as one-party states: most notably China (under Xi Jinping, General Secretary of the Communist Party of China) following an ideology of Socialism with Chinese characteristics for almost 72 years. There are six more countries in a comparatively less enviable condition like Cuba, Eritrea, Laos, North Korea, Sahrawi (Western Sahara) and Vietnam. It may lead one to a quick conclusion that China is the only country, which can be cited as a success story capitalizing on the ‘One Party System’.

A closer and detailed study of the other six countries that are still following the same ‘One Party System’, but are unable to achieve progress akin to China may be attributable to certain factors like different history, geography, culture, internal challenges and external threats being confronted, missing or misuse of the gift of natural resources, rampant corruption and greedy political elite, inability to improve the indigenous and imported human resource, failure to take advantage of industrialization and sophisticated technologies, and the greatest blessing of all: a sincere, visionary and dynamic leadership…. all sound familiar and applicable to Pakistan in all types of governments we have had.

It may also be of great relevance and interest to note that there are more than 130 countries which have tried the ‘One Party System’ but have eventually abandoned it for multiple reasons. Some of the prominent states include the former Ottoman Empire, Turkey, Turkmenistan, Syria, Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Burma, Egypt, Indonesia, Iraq, Libya, the Democratic Republic of Sudan, the United Arab Republic, Azerbaijan, East Germany, Poland, Yemen, the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, the Brazilian military regime, Kingdom of Spain, and Iran, with different episodes of successes and failures before and after abandoning the ‘One Party System’ and the ideology that led to it.

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The writer is a retired army officer with proficiency in military intelligence, diplomacy, strategic analyses, forecast and executive management. His special areas of interest include international relations, defence and warfare studies. He can be reached at

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