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

For Lebanon-based Refugees, Desperation Fuels Perilous Passage

In a war that has caused an estimated three million people to flee Syria, efforts to make perilous sea journey in search of asylum expected to increase More

South African Brewer Tackles Climate Change

Mega-brewer SAB Miller sent delegates to climate summit in Peru, says it is one of many private companies taking their own steps to fight climate change More

Indonesia Reports Increase in Citizens Joining Islamic State

Officials say more than 350 of its citizens are now in Syria or Iraq to fight with Islamic State - 50 more than last month More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Will Pakistan School Shooting Galvanize Pakistan Against Extremism?i
X
Ayesha Tanzeem
December 17, 2014 11:54 AM
The attack on a military school in Pakistan’s northwest city of Peshawar left 141 dead, including 132 children. Strong statements of condemnation poured in from across the world. The country announced three days of mourning, and the leadership, both political and military, promised retribution. VOA's Ayesha Tanzeem looks at how likely the Pakistani government is to clamp down on all extremist groups.
Video

Video Will Pakistan School Shooting Galvanize Pakistan Against Extremism?

The attack on a military school in Pakistan’s northwest city of Peshawar left 141 dead, including 132 children. Strong statements of condemnation poured in from across the world. The country announced three days of mourning, and the leadership, both political and military, promised retribution. VOA's Ayesha Tanzeem looks at how likely the Pakistani government is to clamp down on all extremist groups.
Video

Video ‘Anti-Islamization’ Marches Increase Tensions In Germany

Anti-immigrant rallies in Germany have been building in recent weeks, peaking Monday night in the city of Dresden where tens of thousands of people turned out to demonstrate against what they call the ‘Islamization’ of the West. Germany has offered asylum to more Syrian refugees than any other country, and this appears to have set off the protests. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Aceh Rebuilt Decade After Tsunami, But Scars Remain

On December 26, 2004 there was an earthquake in the Indian Ocean so powerful it caused the Earth’s axis to wobble a few centimeters. Onshore on the island of Sumatra, the resulting tsunami was devastating. A decade later, VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Banda Aceh, Indonesia, where although there is little remaining evidence of the physical devastation, the psychological scars among survivors remain.
Video

Video Refugees Living in Kenya Long for Peace in the Home Countries

Kenya is host to numerous refugees seeking safe haven from conflict. Immigrants from Somalia face challenges in their new lives in Kenya. Ahead of International Migrants Day (December 18) Lenny Ruvaga has more for VOA News from the Kenyan capital.
Video

Video Turkey's Authoritarianism Dismays Western Allies

The Turkish government has been defiant in the face of criticism at home and abroad for its raids targeting opposition media. The European Union on Monday expressed dismay after President Recep Tayyip Erdogan lashed out at Brussels for criticizing his government's action. Turkey's bid to be considered for EU membership has been on hold while critics accuse the NATO ally of increasingly authoritarian rule. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video US-China Year in Review: Hong Kong to Climate Change

The United States is pushing for a code of conduct to resolve territorial disputes in the South China Sea as it works to improve commercial ties with Beijing. VOA State Department correspondent Scott Stearns reports on a year of U.S. policy toward China from Hong Kong to climate change.
Video

Video Japanese Leader’s Election Win Raises Potential for Conflict with Neighbors

Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and his allies easily won a two-thirds majority in parliament Sunday, even though the country has slipped into recession under his conservative policies. VOA’s Brian Padden reports from Seoul, that the prime minister’s victory will empower him to continue economic reforms but also pursue a nationalist agenda that will likely increase tensions with Japan’s neighbors.
Video

Video Nuba Mountain Families Hide in Caves to Escape Aerial Bombings

Despite ongoing peace talks between Sudan's government and the rebel Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-North, or SPLM-N, daily aerial attacks continue in South Kordofan province’s Nuba Mountains. Adam Bailes was there and reports for VOA that government forces are targeting civilian areas, rather than military positions, with their daily bombardments.

All About America

AppleAndroid