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.
TEXT SIZE - +
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

Multimedia Anti-Keystone XL Protests Continue

Demonstrators are worried about pipeline's effect on climate change, their traditional way of life, health and safety More

Thailand's Political Power Struggle Continues

Court gave Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra until May 2 to prepare her defense over abuse of power charges but uncertainty remains over election timing More

Malaysia Plane Search Tests Limits of Ocean Mapping Technology

Expert tells VOA existing equipment’s maximum operating depth is around 6 kilometers as operation continues on ocean bed for any trace of MH370 More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Pet Kangaroo Helps Spread Environmental Messagei
X
Penelope Poulou
April 22, 2014 5:53 PM
Children’s author Julia Heckathorn travels the world to learn about different ecosystems and endangered animals. She pours her knowledge into children’s books, hoping the next generation will right the environmental wrongs of our times. As in many children's books, the main character in Heckathorn's stories is an animal. Unlike those other characters, though, this one is real - a kangaroo, that lives in the author’s backyard. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Pet Kangaroo Helps Spread Environmental Message

Children’s author Julia Heckathorn travels the world to learn about different ecosystems and endangered animals. She pours her knowledge into children’s books, hoping the next generation will right the environmental wrongs of our times. As in many children's books, the main character in Heckathorn's stories is an animal. Unlike those other characters, though, this one is real - a kangaroo, that lives in the author’s backyard. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Pro-Russian Separatists Plan 'Federalization Referendum' in Eastern Ukraine

Pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine say they plan to move forward next month with a referendum vote for greater autonomy, despite the Geneva agreement reached with Russia, the U.S. and Ukraine to end the political conflict. VOA's Brian Padden reports from the city of Donetsk in Eastern Ukraine.
Video

Video Pope Francis Hopes Dual Canonizations Will Reconcile Church

On April 27, two popes - John the XXIII and John Paul II - will be made saints in a ceremony at St. Peter’s Square. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky says the dual canonization is part of the current pope’s program to reconcile liberals and conservatives in the Roman Catholic Church.
Video

Video In Capturing Nature's Majesty, Film Makes Case for Its Survival

French filmmaker Luc Jacquet won worldwide acclaim for his 2005 Academy Award-winning documentary "March of the Penguins". Now Jacquet is back with a new film that takes movie-goers deep into the heart of a tropical rainforest - not only to celebrate its grandeur, but to make the case for its survival. VOA's Rosanne Skirble reports.
Video

Video Boston Marathon Bittersweet for Many Runners

Monday's running of the Boston Marathon was bittersweet for many of the 36,000 participants as they finished the run that was interrupted by a double bombing last year. Many gathered along the route paid respect to the four people killed as a result of two bombings near the finish line. VOA's Carolyn Presutti returned to Boston this year to follow two runners, forever changed because of the crimes.
Video

Video International Students Learn Film Production in World's Movie Capital

Hollywood - which is part of Los Angeles - is the movie capital of the world, and many aspiring filmmakers go there in hopes of breaking into the movie business. Mike O'Sullivan reports that regional universities are also a magnet for students who hope to become producers or directors.
Video

Video Pacific Rim Trade Deal Proves Elusive

With the U.S.-led war in Iraq ended and American military involvement in Afghanistan winding down, President Barack Obama has sought to pivot the country's foreign policy focus towards Asia. One aspect of that pivot is the negotiation of a free-trade agreement among 12 Pacific Rim nations. But as Obama leaves this week on a trip to four Asian countries he has found it very difficult to complete the trade pact. VOA's Ken Bredemeier has more from Washington.
Video

Video Autistic Adults Face Housing, Job Challenges

Many parents of children with disabilities fear for the future of their adult child. It can be difficult to find services to help adults with disabilities - physical, mental or emotional - find work or live on their own. The mother of an autistic boy set up a foundation to advocate for the estimated 1.2 million American adults with autism, a developmental disorder that causes communication difficulties and often social difficulties. VOA's Faiza Elmasry reports.
AppleAndroid