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

Republican Majority in Congress Off to Rough Start

Standoff over Homeland Security funding exposes philosophical, tactical problems within party More

Pakistan Blocks Baloch Activist from US Trip

Human Rights Commission of Pakistan slams Islamabad officials for stopping people from leaving country to attend human rights conference More

Video Muslims Long Thrived in North Carolina Before Students Killed

Idyll shattered February 10, when three Muslim university students living in Chapel Hill were gunned down by a neighbor More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Sierra Leone Ebola Orphans Face Another Crisisi
X
March 06, 2015 12:28 AM
There's growing concern about the future of an orphanage run by a British charity in Sierra Leone, after a staff member and his wife died this week from Ebola. The Saint George Foundation Orphanage in Freetown is now in quarantine, with more than 20 children and seven staff in lock-down. The BBC has agreed to share Ebola-related material with Voice of America because of the difficulties faced by media organizations reporting the crisis. Clive Myrie reports from Sierra Leone.
Video

Video Sierra Leone Ebola Orphans Face Another Crisis

There's growing concern about the future of an orphanage run by a British charity in Sierra Leone, after a staff member and his wife died this week from Ebola. The Saint George Foundation Orphanage in Freetown is now in quarantine, with more than 20 children and seven staff in lock-down. The BBC has agreed to share Ebola-related material with Voice of America because of the difficulties faced by media organizations reporting the crisis. Clive Myrie reports from Sierra Leone.
Video

Video Growing Concerns Over Whether Myanmar’s Next Elections Will Be Fair

Myanmar has scheduled national elections for November that are also expected to include a landmark referendum on the country's constitution. But there are growing concerns over whether the government is taking the necessary steps to prepare for a free and fair vote. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman was recently in Myanmar and files this report from our Southeast Asia bureau in Bangkok.
Video

Video Nigeria’s Ogonis Divided Over Resuming Oil Production

More than two decades ago, Nigeria’s Ogoni people forced Shell oil company to cease drilling on their land, saying it was polluting the environment. Now, some Ogonis say it’s time for the oil to flow once again. Chris Stein reports from Kegbara Dere, Nigeria.
Video

Video Winter Weather Strikes Eastern US...Again!

A new wintry blast has hit more than 20 states in the U.S. Midwest and Mid-Atlantic region, adding more snow to the piles from previous storms. Tired of shoveling snow, breaking the ice and dealing with accidents, flight delays and property damage, most Americans hope this is the last bout of cold for the season. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Muslims Long Thrived in N Carolina Before Slaying of 3 Students

The killings of three Muslim students in North Carolina early last month came as Muslims across the United States have felt under siege, partly as a result of terrorist attacks being committed internationally in the name of their faith. But Muslims have long thrived in university cities in this part of the American South. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Fuel Shortages in Nigeria Threaten Election Campaigns

Nigeria is suffering a gas shortage as the falling oil price has affected the country’s ability to import and distribute refined fuels. Coming just weeks before scheduled March 28 elections, the shortage could have a big impact on the campaign, as Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA.
Video

Video Report: Human Rights in Annexed Crimea Deteriorating

A new report by Freedom House and the Atlantic Council of the United States says the human rights situation in Crimea has deteriorated since the peninsula was annexed by Russia in March of last year. The report says the new authorities in Crimea are discriminating against minorities, suppressing freedom of expression, and forcing residents to assume Russian citizenship or leave. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video 50 Years Later African-Americans See New Voting Rights Battles Ahead

Thousands of people will gather to mark the 50th anniversary of a historic civil rights march on March 7th in Selma, Alabama. In 1965, dozens of people were seriously injured during the event known as “Bloody Sunday,” after police attacked African-American demonstrators demanding voting rights. VOA’s Chris Simkins introduces us to some civil rights pioneers who are still fighting for voting rights in Alabama more than 50 years later.
Video

Video Craft Brewers Taking Hold in US Beer Market

Since the 1950’s, the U.S. beer industry has been dominated by a handful of huge breweries. But in recent years, the rapid rise of small craft breweries has changed the American market and, arguably, the way people drink beer. VOA’s Jeff Custer reports.
Video

Video Video Claims to Show Shia Forces in Iraq Executing Sunni Boy

A graphic mobile phone video is spreading on the Internet, claiming to show Iraqi forces or Shia militia executing a handcuffed Sunni boy. Experts have yet to verify the video, but already Islamic State followers are publicizing it across social media, playing on deep-rooted sectarian fears. VOA’s Jeff Seldin reports.
Video

Video Ukrainian Authorities Struggle to Secure a Divided Mariupol

Since last month's cease-fire went into effect, shelling around the port city of Mariupol has decreased, but it is thought pro-Russian separatists remain poised to attack. For the city’s authorities, a major challenge is gaining the trust of residents, while at the same time rooting out informants who are passing sensitive information to the rebels. Patrick Wells reports for VOA.
Video

Video Myanmar's Traditional Fashion Choices Endure

The sartorial choices of Myanmar’s men and women quickly catch the eye of any visitor to the tropical Southeast Asian country. But at a time when Myanmar’s political and economic opening is bringing affordable western fashions to the masses, will the country’s unique fashion trends endure? VOA Correspondent Steve Herman in Yangon explores that question.

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More