News / Asia

Pakistan Marks First Peaceful Democratic Transition

Incoming PM Nawaz Sharif (L) takes the oath of office with other newly-elected parliamentarians during the first session of the National Assembly in Islamabad, June 1, 2013.
Incoming PM Nawaz Sharif (L) takes the oath of office with other newly-elected parliamentarians during the first session of the National Assembly in Islamabad, June 1, 2013.
Ayaz Gul
— Newly elected members of Pakistan’s National Assembly, the lower house of Parliament, were sworn in Saturday marking the first transition of power from one democratically elected government to another in the 66-year history of the country.
 
Security was tight around the parliament building for the ceremonial inaugural session of the newly elected legislature. Outgoing National Assembly Speaker Fehmida Mirza solemnly administered the oath to incoming lawmakers.
 
The political party of two-time former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif dominates the new parliament, after a resounding victory in national elections May 11. The Pakistan Muslim League-N (PML-N) captured 176 of the 342 seats in the lower house of parliament, overwhelming the Pakistan Peoples Party, the previous coalition leader, which won only 39 seats.
 
The election victory set the stage for 63-year-old Sharif to become the country’s chief executive for an unprecedented third time on Wednesday, when the National Assembly will formally elect a new prime minister.
 
Politicians and independent observers are praising the peaceful transition of power as a big step forward in strengthening democracy in Pakistan. New parliament member Khurram Dastagir Khan of Sharif’s political party was exuberant.
 
“The future of democracy today, when a new parliament has taken oath, is looking bright ‘inshallah’ (God willing), and will become brighter when an elected government will ‘inshallah’ start delivering to the people.”
 
Even members of the outgoing coalition government acknowledge that their five-year hold on power resulted in little progress on the issues facing ordinary Pakistanis, like power shortages, inflation and unemployment.
 
Newly elected legislator Farooq Sattar, a member of the regional political party known as MQM, the Muttahida Quami Movement that was part of the previous coalition, stressed that people needed to be empowered.
 
“The transfer of power from one democratic [institution] to the other... is good. But I think unless we connect the democracy with the people - empower the people at the grass-root [level] - I think only then democracy will become strong, stable and sustainable.”
 
Among the major challenges incoming Prime Minister Sharif will face are a badly ailing national economy, rampant corruption, massive energy shortages, a Taliban-led deadly militancy and Pakistan’s strained relations with the United States. After being sworn in Saturday, Sharif told reporters his party is ready to deal with the challenges.
 
Pakistan's powerful military has controlled the country - either by directly seizing power or by exercising influence from behind the scenes - for nearly half of its history as an independent nation. Coups and other interventions derailed democracy on a number of occasions, such as in October 1999, when a military takeover ousted Nawaz Sharif during his second term as prime minister. The leader of that coup, army chief Pervez Musharraf, went on to rule Pakistan for nearly a decade.
 
A majority of Pakistanis now hope that democratic practice will become the norm, discouraging future military interventions and ultimately leading to more government accountability.
 
Former cricket star Imran Khan, whose Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf party won 35 seats, has vowed to act as a strong opposition and press the new government to deliver on its election promises. Khan did not attend Saturday’s swearing-in session of the parliament as he is still recovering after falling off a forklift in the last few days of the election campaign.

You May Like

EU Court Fines Poland for Hosting CIA 'Black Sites'

Ruling is first time a court has acknowledged suspects were held and tortured at the sites, under US program launched following the 9/11 terrorist attacks More

Migrant Issues Close to Home Spur Groups to Take Action

Groups placing water, food in the desert, or aiding detainees after release, have one common goal: no more deaths of migrants crossing illegally into the US More

Video At AIDS Conference, Prevention Pill Stirs Excitement

Truveda shows promise, spurring debate over access and other approaches More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Israel Targets Gaza Supply Tunnelsi
X
July 24, 2014 4:42 AM
The Israeli military has launched a ground operation in Gaza to destroy the myriad tunnels that may have been used to smuggle weapons to Hamas. VOA's Zlatica Hoke reports that could mean more hardship for the people of Gaza, who obtain some of their essential supplies through these underground passages
Video

Video Israel Targets Gaza Supply Tunnels

The Israeli military has launched a ground operation in Gaza to destroy the myriad tunnels that may have been used to smuggle weapons to Hamas. VOA's Zlatica Hoke reports that could mean more hardship for the people of Gaza, who obtain some of their essential supplies through these underground passages
Video

Video MH17's 'Black Boxes' Could Reveal Crash Details

The government of Malaysia now has custody of the cockpit voice and flight data recorders from Malaysia Airlines Flight 17, which was hit by a missile over Ukraine before crashing last week. As VOA's Carolyn Presutti reports, the so-called black boxes may hold information about the final minutes of the flight.
Video

Video Living in the Shadows Panel Discussion

Following a screening of the new VOA documentary, "AIDS - Living in the Shadows," at the World AIDS conference in Melbourne, a panel discussed the film and how to combat the stigma associated with HIV/AIDS.
Video

Video IAEA: Iran Turns its Enriched Uranium Into Less Harmful Form

Iran has converted its stockpiles of enriched uranium into a less dangerous form that is more difficult to use for nuclear weapons, according to the United Nations’ Atomic Energy Agency. The move complies with an interim deal reached with Western powers on Iran's nuclear program last year, in exchange for easing of sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video Relic of Saint Draws Catholics Worried About Immigration Issue

A Roman Catholic saint who is a figure of devotion for those crossing the border into the United States is attracting believers concerned about the plight of undocumented immigrants. Mike O'Sullivan reports from Los Angeles, where a relic of Saint Toribio has drawn thousands to local churches.
Video

Video US Awards Medal of Honor for Heroics in Bloodiest of Afghan Battles

U.S. combat troops are withdrawing from Afghanistan, on pace to leave the country by the end of this year. But on Monday, U.S. President Barack Obama took time to honor a soldier whose actions while under fire in Afghanistan earned him the Medal of Honor. VOA's Jeff Seldin has more from the Pentagon.
Video

Video Ukraine Rebels Surrender MH17 Black Boxes

After days of negotiations, a senior separatist leader handed over two black boxes from an airliner downed over eastern Ukraine to Malaysian experts early Tuesday. While on Monday, the U.N. Security Council unanimously demanded that armed groups controlling the crash site allow safe and unrestricted access to the wreckage.
Video

Video In Cambodia, HIV Diagnosis Brings Deadly Shame

Although HIV/AIDS is now a treatable condition, a positive diagnosis is still a life altering experience. In Cambodia, people living with HIV are often disowned by friends, family and the community. This humiliation can be unbearable. We bring you one Cambodian woman’s struggle to overcome a life tragedy and her own HIV positive diagnosis.

AppleAndroid