News

Pakistan's Parliament Elects First Female Speaker

Multimedia

Audio

Pakistan has seen its first significant transfer of power since last month's nationwide elections. The speaker of the National Assembly, a backer of President Pervez Musharraf, handed over control of the legislative body to a member of the Pakistan Peoples Party of the slain former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Islamabad that no progress has been made towards selecting the country's next prime minister.

As expected, Pakistan's parliament has selected its first female speaker.

"Dr. Fehmida Mirza has received 249 votes," incumbent Chaudhry Amir Hussain, a supporter of President Pervez Musharraf, announced the vote total in the 342-seat National Assembly.

Parliament members then pounded their open hands on their desks for 30 seconds to applaud Fehmida Mirza of the Pakistan Peoples Party. The 51-year-old medical doctor and mother of four children is a third-generation Pakistani politician. Her father twice served in the cabinet; her husband was a member of parliament; and her father-in-law was a Supreme Court justice.

Mirza's manner of speech and dress evoke images of Benazir Bhutto, the head of the PPP, who was assassinated on the campaign trail less than three months ago.

Mirza will be tasked with controlling a legislature where two traditional rivals, Mrs. Bhutto's party and the Muslim League faction of another former prime minister, Nawaz Sharif, have agreed to share power. She acknowledges it may not be an ideal setup for governing Pakistan, but says it can work.

"Nowhere in the world you get the ideal situation," said Mirza. "Even in our neighborhood, India, there are coalition governments. So you should know and this country should learn how to move with the coalitions. There is nothing unusual having coalitions in the country."

But who will head that coalition government remains the big unanswered question. Under the power-sharing agreement, the PPP's candidate will be supported by its coalition partner. The two parties have enough seats in the new parliament to elect the candidate they will support.

Despite mounting concern that no name has been revealed, a month after the national elections, PPP spokeswoman Sherry Rehman is echoing comments of other party officials who are repeating the mantra of "no hurry, no worry."

"There is no delay," said Rehman. "The media has to understand that political parties work on their schedules, not on anyone else's."

Pakistani media say Mrs. Bhutto's widower, party Co-Chair Asif Zardari, has decided he wants to be prime minister, despite repeated early protestations he was not interested. Until Zardari, recently cleared of a slew of corruption charges, can secure a seat in parliament -- a pre-requisite for the top government post -- the party is expected to announce an interim candidate, later in the month.

The political uncertainty comes as Pakistan tries to move back to democracy. Some influential members of parliament want to impeach unpopular President Musharraf. The former army chief seized control of Pakistan in a military coup in 1999. Mr. Musharraf allowed free elections to take place last month, in which the party backing him was trounced.

Legislators and the president are also on a collision course about the judiciary. During a state of emergency, last November, Mr. Musharraf removed the top layer of the country's judges, replacing them with justices seen as more compliant to the president. Under the power-sharing accord, the two top parties in the February election have vowed to have the fired judges reinstated within 30 days.

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthroughi
X
May 22, 2015 10:23 AM
Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthrough

Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Europe Follows US Lead in Tackling ‘Conflict Minerals’

Metals mined from conflict zones in places like the Democratic Republic of Congo are often sold by warlords to buy weapons. This week European lawmakers voted to force manufacturers to prove that their supply chains are not inadvertently fueling conflicts and human rights abuses. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Class Tackles Questions of Race, Discrimination

Unrest in some U.S. cities is more than just a trending news item at Ladue Middle School in St. Louis, Missouri. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, it’s a focus of a multicultural studies class engaging students in wide-ranging discussions about racial tensions and police aggression.
Video

Video Mind-Controlled Prosthetics Are Getting Closer

Scientists and engineers are making substantial advances towards the ultimate goal in prosthetics – creation of limbs that can be controlled by the wearer’s mind. Thanks to sophisticated sensors capable of picking up the brain’s signals, an amputee in Iceland is literally bringing us one step closer to that goal. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Afghan Economy Sinks As Foreign Troops Depart

As international troops prepare to leave Afghanistan, and many foreign aid groups follow, Afghans are grappling with how the exodus will affect the country's fragile economy. Ayesha Tanzeem reports from the Afghan capital, Kabul.
Video

Video Poverty, Ignorance Force Underage Girls Into Marriage

The recent marriage of a 17-year old Chechen girl to a local police chief who was 30 years older and already had a wife caused an outcry in Russia and beyond. The bride was reportedly forced to marry and her parents were intimidated into giving their consent. The union spotlighted yet again the plight of many underage girls in developing countries. Zlatica Hoke reports poverty, ignorance and fear are behind the practice, especially in Asia and Africa.
Video

Video South Korea Marks Gwangju Uprising Anniversary

South Korea this week marked the 35th anniversary of a protest that turned deadly. The Gwangju Uprising is credited with starting the country’s democratic revolution after it was violently quelled by South Korea’s former military rulers. But as Jason Strother reports, some observers worry that democracy has recently been eroded.
Video

Video California’s Water System Not Created To Handle Current Drought

The drought in California is moving into its fourth year. While the state's governor is mandating a reduction in urban water use, most of the water used in California is for agriculture. But both city dwellers and farmers are feeling the impact of the drought. Some experts say the state’s water system was not created to handle long periods of drought. Elizabeth Lee reports from Ventura County, an agricultural region just northwest of Los Angeles.
Video

Video How to Clone a Mammoth: The Science of De-Extinction

An international team of scientists has sequenced the complete genome of the woolly mammoth. Led by the Swedish Museum of Natural History in Stockholm, the work opens the door to recreate the huge herbivore, which last roamed the Earth 4,000 years ago. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble considers the science of de-extinction and its place on the planet
Video

Video Blind Boy Defines His Life with Music

Cole Moran was born blind. He also has cognitive delays and other birth defects. He has to learn everything by ear. Nevertheless, the 12-year-old has had an insatiable love for music since he was born. VOA’s June Soh introduces us to the young phenomenal harmonica player.

VOA Blogs