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

Captured IS Militants Explain Why They Fought

Fighters from Turkey, Syria tell VOA Kurdish Service what drew them to extremism, jihad More

Security Experts Split on Kenyan Barrier Wall

Experts divided on whether initiative aiming to keep out al-Shabab militants is long-awaited solution or misguided effort More

Video Philippines Wants Tourists Spending Money at New Casinos

Officials say they hope to turn Manila into the next Macau, which has long been Asia’s gambling hub More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grievingi
X
Benno Muchler
March 26, 2015 3:41 PM
Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grieving

Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Cambodian Land Grabs Threaten Traditional Communities

Indigenous communities in Cambodia's Ratanakiri province say the government’s economic land concession policy is taking away their land and traditional way of life, making many fear that their identity will soon be lost. Local authorities, though, have denied this is the case. VOA's Say Mony went to investigate and filed this report, narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video US, South Korea Conduct Joint Military Exercises

The Eighth U.S. Army Division and the Eighth Republic of Korea Mechanized Infantry Division put on a well orchestrated show of force for the media this week during their joint military training exercises in South Korea. VOA’s Seoul correspondent Brian Padden was there and reports the soldiers were well disciplined both in conducting a complex live fire exercise and in staying on message with the press.
Video

Video Space Program Status Disappoints 'Last Man on the Moon'

One of the films that drew big crowds last week at the annual South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas, tells the story of the last human being to stand on the moon, U.S. astronaut Eugene Cernan. It has been 42 years since Cernan returned from the moon and he laments that no one else has gone there since. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Young Filmmakers Shine Spotlight on Giving Back

A group of student filmmakers from across the United States joined President Barack Obama at the White House this month for the second annual White House Student Film Festival. Fifteen short films were officially selected from more than 1,500 entries by students aged 6 through 18. The filmmakers and their families then joined the president and a group of celebrities for a screening of their films. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video VOA Exclusive: Interview with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, during his first visit as president to Washington, gave a one-on-one interview with VOA Afghan Service reporter Said Suleiman Ashna, about his request for a change in U.S. troop levels, the threat from the Islamic State, and repairing relations with the United States and Pakistan. The interview was held at Blair House, late Sunday, in Pashto.
Video

Video California Science Center Tells Story of Dead Sea Scrolls

The ancient manuscripts were uncovered in the mid-20th century, and they are still yielding clues about life and religious beliefs in ancient Israel. As VOA's Mike O'Sullivan reports, an exhibit in Los Angeles shows how modern science is bringing the history of these ancient documents to life.
Video

Video Angelina Jolie Takes Another Bold Step

Hollywood actress and filmmaker Angelina Jolie has revealed she had her ovaries and fallopian tubes removed to lower her odds of getting cancer. Doctors say the huge publicity over her decision will help raise awareness about the importance of cancer screening. VOA’s George Putic has more

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