News / Asia

Pakistan Parliament Completes Tenure

A Pakistani police commando stands guard at Parliament House in Islamabad, Pakistan, March 20, 2012.
A Pakistani police commando stands guard at Parliament House in Islamabad, Pakistan, March 20, 2012.
Ayaz Gul
Pakistan’s parliament, and federal and provincial governments voted to power in 2008, have completed their five-year constitutional term.  Elections are due in May, setting the stage for the first democratic transition in the country’s history.

Until now, democratically elected governments in Pakistan have not served their full terms, because they were either dislodged by military coups or dismissed by pro-army presidents on charges of misrule and corruption.

The interruptions in democracy have allowed powerful generals to rule for nearly three decades since Pakistan gained independence from Britain in 1947.

Former Pakistani president Pervez Musharraf speaks during an interview with Reuters in Dubai, January 8, 2012 file photo.Former Pakistani president Pervez Musharraf speaks during an interview with Reuters in Dubai, January 8, 2012 file photo.
x
Former Pakistani president Pervez Musharraf speaks during an interview with Reuters in Dubai, January 8, 2012 file photo.
Former Pakistani president Pervez Musharraf speaks during an interview with Reuters in Dubai, January 8, 2012 file photo.
The 2008 elections ended a nearly decade-long military intervention by former general Pervez Musharraf.  The Pakistan Peoples Party of slain politician Benazir Bhutto won those polls and established a centrist coalition government.

Senior PPP leader Shahnaz Wazir Ali says she believes the full government term will deter future unconstitutional attempts to do away with elected governments.  

"We have had a very erratic and a difficult history of the interruption of democratic processes in Pakistan, and therefore this transition of a completion of five-year tenure of a democratic dispensation of elected parliaments in the provinces and the national government is really a landmark for Pakistan’s historical struggle for democracy," she said.

The military is also known for manipulating election results.  But former Pakistani information minister Javed Jabbar says the army has been under pressure recently due to its prolonged war against Taliban-led militancy.

He also says the emergence of a "hyper-active" judiciary and independent media has reduced chances of another military coup.

"The overwhelming consensus is that it is not appropriate or warranted for the armed forces to intervene.  And secondly, they have their hands full of an internal threat.  So they do not have the institutional, intellectual or political capacity to intervene into the entire civil and political domain," he said.

But Jabbar, like many other critics, questions the performance of the elected governments during the past five years.

"We have had an enormous failure of governance.  We have witnessed nepotism, corruption and breakdown of law and order.  And those are those issues that touched the lives of people on a day-to-day, hour-to-hour basis," he said.

Human-rights activist Farzana Bari says an energy crisis, economic hardships, rising corruption and deteriorating security conditions have frustrated Pakistanis.  She fears another five years of a poorly performing elected government could encourage army intervention, but believes democracy is the only solution to Pakistan's problems. 

"I think this process needs to be continued.  It is sad that this politically elected government has failed people and faltered on every account," she said.

Militant attacks have declined, but mass killings of minority Shi'ites and politically motivated violence in the nation’s largest city and commercial center, Karachi, are cited as threats to the upcoming polls.

Despite the odds, local and foreign observers believe political forces determined to go ahead with the election process have generated a great deal of excitement.  Sandra Houston is the country director for U.S.-based National Democratic Institute. 

"I think that there is such a strong desire among the public and among the political parties, whether it be at the senior leadership level or be at the grass root district level, to see democracy succeed, and I think that that determination will continue and people would do what they can to make sure that democracy does succeed in these elections," she said.

The outgoing PPP-led coalition government was criticized for not implementing Supreme Court rulings and engaging in legal battles with the fiercely independent judiciary.  It was also criticized for refusing to introduce critical economic reforms.

Despite repeated promises, the government also failed to introduce anti-corruption legislation or reform anti-terrorism laws during its five-year term.

Current and possible future political alliances with Islamic parties known for sympathizing with the Taliban and other extremist groups allegedly prevented mainstream political parties from approving changes in the anti-terrorism laws.

Rights activist Tahira Abdullah is skeptical a future civilian government will be able to effectively deal with the threat of religious extremism.

"The way the situation is unfolding in Pakistan today with growing Talibanization, Jihadism and extremism, I do not see any incoming government, which will definitely be a coalition government with a hung parliament the way we see the elections shaping in the next two months, I do not see it happening in the near future," said Abdullah.

​In her farewell press conference Thursday, Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar claimed Pakistan’s relations with India saw significant improvement due to the government’s unprecedented diplomatic initiatives.
 
"We were able to not only talk that message, but walk that message.  And I think nowhere is this more manifested in the fact that we changed the 40-year-old policy and decided to completely normalize trade with India.  And we hope that as we leave this government, and as the new government will come in place, the political consensus that we were able to bring in parliament will take this [relationship] forward," she said.

NATO forces are set to pull out of neighboring Afghanistan by the end of next year, and many observers believe ambiguity about the post-drawdown situation will also pose a challenge for the future Pakistani government.

You May Like

Tired of Waiting, South Africans Demand Change ‘Now’

With chronic poverty and lack of basic services largely fueling recent xenophobic attacks, many in Rainbow Nation say it’s time for government to act More

Challenges Ahead for China's Development Plans in Pakistan

Planned $46 billion in energy and infrastructure investments in Pakistan are aimed at transforming the country into a regional hub for trade and investment More

'Forbidden City' Revisits Little Known Era of Asian-American Entertainment

Little-known chapter of entertainment history captured in 80s documentary is revisited in new digitally remastered format and book More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Cinema That Crosses Borders Showcased at Tribeca Film Festivali
X
April 24, 2015 4:09 AM
Among the nearly 100 feature length films being shown at this year’s Tribeca Film Festival in New York City are more than 20 documentaries and features with international appeal, from a film about a Congolese businessman in China, to documentaries shot in Pakistan and diaspora communities in the U.S., to a poetic look at disaffected South African youth. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more.
Video

Video Cinema That Crosses Borders Showcased at Tribeca Film Festival

Among the nearly 100 feature length films being shown at this year’s Tribeca Film Festival in New York City are more than 20 documentaries and features with international appeal, from a film about a Congolese businessman in China, to documentaries shot in Pakistan and diaspora communities in the U.S., to a poetic look at disaffected South African youth. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more.
Video

Video UN Confronts Threat of Young Radicals

The radicalization and recruitment of young people into Islamist extremist groups has become a growing challenge for governments worldwide. On Thursday, the U.N. Security Council heard from experts on the issue, which has become a potent threat to international peace and security. VOA’s Margaret Besheer reports.
Video

Video Growing Numbers of Turks Discover Armenian Ancestry

In a climate of improved tolerance, growing numbers of people in Turkey are discovering their grandmothers were Armenian. Hundreds of thousands of Armenians escaped the mass deportations and slaughter of the early 1900's by forced conversion to Islam. Or, Armenian children were taken in by Turkish families and assimilated. Now their stories are increasingly being heard. Dorian Jones reports from Istanbul that the revelations are viewed as an important step.
Video

Video Migrants Trek Through Western Balkans to Reach EU

Migrants from Africa and other places are finding different routes into the European Union in search of a better life. The Associated Press followed one clandestine group to document their trek through the western Balkans to Hungary. Zlatica Hoke reports that the migrants started using that route about four years ago. Since then, it has become the second-most popular path into Western Europe, after the option of sailing from North Africa to Italy.
Video

Video TIME Magazine Honors Activists, Pioneers Seen as Influential

TIME Magazine has released its list of celebrities, leaders and activists, whom it deems the world’s “most influential” in 2015. VOA's Ramon Taylor reports from New York.
Video

Video US Businesses See Cuba as New Frontier

The Obama administration's opening toward Cuba is giving U.S. companies hope they'll be able to do business in Cuba despite the continuation of the U.S. economic embargo against the communist nation. Some American companies have been able to export some products to Cuba, but the recent lifting of Cuba's terrorism designation could relax other restrictions. As VOA's Daniela Schrier reports, corporate heavy hitters are lining up to head across the Florida Straits - though experts urge caution.
Video

Video Kenya Launches Police Recruitment Drive After Terror Attacks

Kenya launched a major police recruitment drive this week as part of a large-scale effort to boost security following a recent spate of terror attacks. VOA’s Gabe Joselow reports that allegations of corruption in the process are raising old concerns about the integrity of Kenya’s security forces.
Video

Video Japan, China in Race for Asia High-Speed Rail Projects

A lucrative competition is underway in Asia for billions of dollars in high-speed rail projects. Cambodia, India, Indonesia, Malaysia Thailand and Vietnam are among the countries planning to move onto the fast track. They are negotiating with Japan and the upstart Chinese who are locked in a duel to revolutionize transportation across Asia. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman in Bangkok has details.
Video

Video Scientists: Mosquitoes Attracted By Our Genes

Some people always seem to get bitten by mosquitoes more than others. Now, scientists have proved that is really the case - and they say it’s all because of genes. It’s hoped the research might lead to new preventative treatments for diseases like malaria, as Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Bible Museum Coming to Washington DC

Washington is the center of American political power and also home to some of the nation’s most visited museums. A new one that will showcase the Bible has skeptics questioning the motives of its conservative Christian funders. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Armenia and Politics of Word 'Genocide'

A century ago this April, hundreds of thousands of Armenians of the Turkish Ottoman empire were deported and massacred, and their culture erased from their traditional lands. While broadly accepted by the U.N. and at least 20 countries as “genocide”, the United States and Turkey have resisted using that word to describe the atrocities that stretched from 1915 to 1923. But Armenians have never forgotten.
Video

Video Afghan First Lady Pledges No Roll Back on Women's Rights

Afghan First Lady Rula Ghani, named one of Time's 100 Most Influential, says women should take part in talks with Taliban. VOA's Rokhsar Azamee has more from Kabul.
Video

Video Keeping Washington Airspace Safe Is Tall Order

Being the home of all three branches of the U.S. federal government makes Washington, D.C. the prime target for those who want to make their messages and ideas heard. Unfortunately, many of them choose to deliver them in unorthodox ways, including from the air, as a recent incident clearly showed involving a gyrocopter landing on the Capitol’s West Lawn. VOA's George Putic has more.
Video

Video New Brain Mapping Techniques Could Ease Chronic Pain

From Boulder, Colorado, Shelley Schlender reports that new methods for mapping pain in the brain are providing validation for chronic pain and might someday guide better treatment.
Video

Video Hope, Prayer Enter Fight Against S. Africa Xenophobia

South Africa has been swept by disturbing attacks on foreign nationals. Some blame the attacks on a legacy of colonialism, while others say the economy is to blame. Whatever the cause, ordinary South Africans - and South African residents from around the world - say they're praying for the siege of violence to end. Anita Powell reports from Johannesburg.

VOA Blogs