Since Dictatorship is a common term which can be used to describe all types of authoritarian regimes, we are discussing it in detail.
Dictatorship is a form of government in which the ruler exercises unlimited or excessive authority. Its alternative name is Autocracy.
In it, a person or a group led by one powerful leader comes to power either through legal means as Hitler did in Germany in 1935 or by illegal means or a revolution as General Musharraf did in Pakistan in October 1999.
Thereafter the dictator begins exercising power in an ‘illegal’ and unlimited way. He rules by his will. He is responsible to himself and not to the people.
In other words, ‘Dictatorship means absolute rule of a single person who comes to power by force and violent means and exercises power in an autocratic way’. He uses authority in a manner as he deems fit. He can use any ideology or principle for justifying his rule.
Sometimes, a dictator gets himself elected as the President/Head of the state just as Gen Musharraf of Pakistan did after usurping power by force. This is done for projecting often his rule as a rule based on popular consent. A dictator uses ‘election’ as a means to project his illegally captured authority as a legitimate authority.
However m reality, his power to rule is always based on the use of force and coercion. Alfred Cobban writes “Dictatorship is a government of one man who has obtained his position by either by force or consent (manipulated consent).” Dictatorship is a system of authoritarian or autocratic rule.
A dictator exercises an absolute power of governance and dominates all decision-making. All policies and laws reflect his will and these are made and enforced arbitrarily. His authority is unrestrained by law. It is exercised, so long as he lives or long as he is not overthrown by another dictator or by a revolution or a coup. Arbitrary exercise of unlimited power is the main quality of Dictatorship. General Franco of Spain was a dictator and so were Hitler, Mussolini, Salazar, Idi Amin, Ayub Khan and Zia-ul-Haq. General Pervez Musharraf is also a military dictator of Pakistan.
Dictatorship: Critical Evaluation
As a form of government, Dictatorship has little to commend itself. But every dictator and his supporters claim that under it strong decisions can be taken and strongly implemented for securing reforms and the goals of socio-economic development.
Further, that it alone can effectively meet emergencies which always require prompt decision-making and implementation. Because of centralisation of all authority in the hands of the ruler or the ruling clique, the dictator can act decisively to meet emergencies. However, critics of dictatorship and their number is very large, strongly criticise dictatorship as an anti-liberal, anti-democratic, and anti-human system of rule.
Main Points of Criticism:
1. Dictatorship destroys individual rights and freedoms.
2. It wrongly upholds that the state is the end and individual is the means.
3. It glorifies force, war and aggression and pursues aggressive nationalism.
4. Dictatorship is always a source of expansionism, war and imperialism in international relations.
5. Dictatorship is in the long run always a source of instability and chaos. There is no system of peaceful change of the rulers. It is always characterised by a fear of revolution. It always lives with periodic coups/revolutions and counterrevolutions.
6. It is opposed to the currently held and cherished values of democracy, sustainable development, decentralisation, liberalism, human rights, peace and security.
7. History gives ample evidence of the weaknesses and dangers of dictatorships. It is always guilty of ruining the people of the state.
As a form of government, dictatorship is despised by all. The people never really register progress and development under dictatorship. Their immediate gain, if any, always lays the foundations of a fractured future. The case of Pakistan is known to us. So has been the case the case of all other dictatorship ruled states.