News / Asia

Pakistan's Political Turmoil Again Shines Spotlight on Military

Supporters of Tahir ul-Qadri, Sufi cleric and leader of political party Pakistan Awami Tehreek, offer prayers in front of the Parliament House during the Revolution March in Islamabad, Aug. 22, 2014.
Supporters of Tahir ul-Qadri, Sufi cleric and leader of political party Pakistan Awami Tehreek, offer prayers in front of the Parliament House during the Revolution March in Islamabad, Aug. 22, 2014.
Ayaz Gul

Thousands of protesters calling for Pakistan’s Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to step down continue to camp out in front of the parliament in Islamabad. Critics fear that if the situation is allowed to continue, the political impasse could inflict irreversible economic and political losses on the nuclear-armed nation, which has experienced repeated military coups.

Pakistan is witnessing a sustained period of democratic rule, and last year’s parliamentary elections resulted in the first ever transfer of power from one elected government to another.

Fourteen months later, though, two opposition figures have gathered thousands of their supporters in the capital to force Sharif out of office.

The protesters have been gathering for days in front of the national parliament.

Effective shutdown

Interior Minister Nisar Ali Khan told reporters Friday the rallies have effectively disrupted life, along with business and education activities.
Observers are worried the political crisis could undermine democratic progress in the country.

Ahmed Bilal Mehboob, who leads the non-governmental Pakistan Institute for Legislative and Development Transparency [PILDAT], said, “We were moving toward what we thought was consolidation of democracy, and we [think] that if it continues, this is going to usher in a very stable era of democracy. But this current agitation going on, if it was just a protest it would not have bothered us, but it is demanding a change in government through undemocratic means and that is very disturbing.”

Opposition leader Imran Khan and firebrand cleric Tahir-ul-Qadri are leading the anti-government mass protests. Both have refused to leave until their demands are met.

Khan heads the third-largest political bloc in parliament and alleges a fraudulent vote enabled Sharif to win last year’s elections. He is demanding fresh elections under the supervision of a “non-political” interim government that would be set up after reforms in the electoral process.

In a bid to intensify pressure on the Sharif administration, Khan’s party resigned Friday from parliament.

Demands continue

Qadri is demanding that criminal cases be brought against top police officials, including provincial Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif, younger brother of the prime minister, for the murder of at least a dozen of his followers. Qadri also wants the removal of both Sharifs from office.  

The government has rejected as unconstitutional calls for Sharif’s ouster, and Mehboob said he is hopeful of resolving the crisis peacefully by addressing other issues.

Mehboob said authorities have to move quickly to end the impasse and allegations of vote-rigging need thorough investigations.

He said whenever prolonged anti-government agitations have reached a point where they paralyzed state business, it has paved the way for a military intervention.
“We have had our experiences, so a thing like that cannot be ruled out, but at this time I do not see that happening. So far we have not reached that stage but in the past we have seen that when things get bogged down, economy deteriorates and if politicians are unable to resolve things that is the time the military steps in,” said Mehboob.

In an unexpected statement Tuesday night, the military warned all stakeholders to demonstrate “patience and wisdom” to end the deadlock through “meaningful dialogue.”

Military's role

Defense Minister Khawaja Asif said the military’s move was aimed at dispelling suggestions it is backing the protests.
“It is a defining moment for our country, for our Pakistani nation. We are setting up new traditions that despite the demand, I would call it a covert desire of those people who are [protesting] outside on the Constitution Avenue [of Islamabad] that there should be intervention, but they [the army] have not intervened. They have already dispelled the rumors,” said Asif.

While addressing his supporters at Islamabad’s rally, Khan also has repeatedly accused the United States of interfering in Pakistan’s internal matters by supporting Sharif. Washington has rejected the charge.

Marie Harf, deputy spokesperson at the State Department, said, "We are in no way involved in the process or the discussion between the parties. Any suggestion to the contrary is completely false. So, we're watching it, but we do think that there needs to be peaceful dialogue and no attempts to change Pakistan’s government through extra-constitutional attempts.

Analysts believe that while the military may be trying to help resolve the political deadlock, it is unlikely to seize power in Pakistan. They cite as impediments a prolonged counterinsurgency army campaign in northwestern parts of the country, an ailing national economy and a deepening energy crisis.



You May Like

Afghanistan, Pakistan Leaders to Hold Icebreaking Talks in Paris

Two sides are expected to discuss ways to ease bilateral tensions and jointly work for resumption of stalled peace talks between Afghan government and Taliban officials

Corruption Busting Is Her Game

South African activist is building 'international online community of thousands of corruption fighters'

Former SAF Businessman Gives Books, Love of Reading to Students

Steve Tsakaris now involved in nonprofit Read to Rise, which distributes books in Soweto, encourages lower-grade primary school students to read

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
by: tahseen khan from: Texas
August 23, 2014 11:49 AM
It amazes me discover how foolish the Pakistan people are and how selfserving and hypocratic the Pakistani leaders are:
Both Imran Khan and this Guy Quadri are no leaders they are simply opportunists who are taking advantage of the situation. They are not in the least interested in establishment of democracry nor in the preservation of the democracy all both of these people want is power by using the most uneducated part of the population.

If these two were truely leaders interested in the demmocratic process, then, they should not be doing what they are doing right now . They are truely hurting Pakistan - Nawaz Sharif is hurting Pakistan anf these two have multiplied the hurt three times as much.
Responsible political leaders DO NOT behave this way .

As I have said before, PAkistan is not ready for democracy and should not even think about it because the entire population is clearly, in civic terms, totally uneducated, and that includes Imran Khan, Nawaz Sharif, Tahirul Quadri and the rest of them.

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Belgium-Germany Border Remains Porous, Even As Manhunt For Paris Attacker Continuesi
Ayesha Tanzeem
November 25, 2015 10:46 PM
One of the suspected gunmen in the Nov. 13 Paris attacks, Salah Abdeslam, evaded law enforcement, made his way to Belgium, and is now believed to have fled to Germany. VOA correspondent Ayesha Tanzeem makes the journey across the border from Belgium into Germany to see how porous the borders really are.

Video Belgium-Germany Border Remains Porous, Even As Manhunt For Paris Attacker Continues

One of the suspected gunmen in the Nov. 13 Paris attacks, Salah Abdeslam, evaded law enforcement, made his way to Belgium, and is now believed to have fled to Germany. VOA correspondent Ayesha Tanzeem makes the journey across the border from Belgium into Germany to see how porous the borders really are.

Video Islamic State Unfazed by Losses in Iraq, Syria

Progress in the U.S.-led effort to beat Islamic State on its home turf in Iraq and Syria has led some to speculate the terror group may be growing desperate. But counterterror officials say that is not the case, and warn the recent spate of terror attacks is merely part of the group’s evolution. VOA National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more.

Video Taiwan Looks for Role in South China Sea Dispute

The Taiwanese government is one of several that claims territory in the hotly contested South China Sea, but Taipei has long been sidelined in the dispute, overshadowed by China. Now, as the Philippines challenges Beijing’s claims in an international court at The Hague, Taipei is looking to publicly assert its claims. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.

Video Syrian Refugees in US Express Concern for Those Left Behind

Syrian immigrants in the United States are concerned about the negative tide of public opinion and the politicians who want to block a U.S. plan to accept 10,000 Syrian refugees. Zlatica Hoke reports many Americans are fighting to dispel suspicions linking refugees to terrorists.

Video After Paris Attacks, France Steps Up Fight Against IS

The November 13 Paris attacks have drawn increased attention to Syria, where many of the suspected perpetrators are said to have received training. French President Francois Hollande is working to build a broad international coalition to defeat Islamic State in Syria and in Iraq. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video US, Cambodian Navies Pair Up in Gulf of Thailand

The U.S. Navy has deployed one of its newest and most advanced ships to Cambodia to conduct joint training drills in the Gulf of Thailand. Riding hull-to-hull with Cambodian ships, the seamen of the USS Fort Worth are executing joint-training drills that will help build relations in Southeast Asia. David Boyle reports for VOA from Preah Sihanouk province.

Video Americans Sharpen Focus on Terrorism

Washington will be quieter than usual this week due to the Thanksgiving holiday, even as Americans across the nation register heightened concerns over possible terrorist threats. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports new polling data from ABC News and the Washington Post newspaper show an electorate increasingly focused on security issues after the deadly Islamic State attacks in Paris.

Video World Leaders Head to Paris for Climate Deal

Heads of state from nearly 80 countries are heading to Paris (November 30-December 11) to craft a global climate change agreement. The new accord will replace the Kyoto Protocol on Climate Change that expired in 2012.

Video Uncertain Future for Syrian Refugee Resettlement in Illinois

For the trickle of Syrian refugees finding new homes in the Midwest city of Chicago, the call to end resettlement in many U.S. states is adding another dimension to their long journey fleeing war. Organizations working to help them integrate say the backlash since the Paris attacks is both harming and helping their efforts to provide refugees sanctuary. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.

Video Creating Physical Virtual Reality With Tiny Drones

As many computer gamers know, virtual reality is a three-dimensional picture, projected inside special googles. It can fool your brain into thinking the computer world is the real world. But If you try to touch it, it’s not there. Now Canadian researchers say it may be possible to create a physical virtual reality using tiny drones. VOA’s George Putic reports.

Video New American Indian Village Takes Visitors Back in Time

There is precious little opportunity to experience what life was like in the United States before its colonization by European settlers. Now, an American Indian village built in a park outside Washington is taking visitors back in time to experience the way of life of America's indigenous people. Carol Pearson narrates this report from VOA's June Soh.

Video Even With Hometown Liberated, Yazidi Refugees Fear Return

While the northern Iraqi town of Sinjar has been liberated from Islamic State forces, it's not clear whether Yazidi residents who fled the militants will now return home. VOA’s Mahmut Bozarslan talked with Yazidis, a religious and ethnic minority, at a Turkish refugee camp in Diyarbakır. Robert Raffaele narrates his report.

Video Nairobi Tailors Make Pope Francis’ Vestments

To ensure the pope is properly attired during his visit, the Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops asked the Dolly Craft Sewing Project in the Nairobi slum of Kangemi to make the pope's vestments, the garments he will wear during the various ceremonies. Jill Craig reports.

Video Cross-Border Terrorism Puts Europe’s Passport-Free Travel in Doubt

The fallout from the Islamic State terror attacks in Paris has put the future of Europe’s passport-free travel area, known as the "Schengen Zone," in doubt. Several of the perpetrators were known to intelligence agencies, but were not intercepted. Henry Ridgwell reports from London European ministers are to hold an emergency meeting Friday in Brussels to look at ways of improving security.

Video El Niño Brings Unexpected Fish From Mexico to California

Fish in an unexpected spectrum of sizes, shapes and colors are moving north, through El Niño's warm currents from Mexican waters to the Pacific Ocean off California’s coast. El Nino is the periodic warming of the eastern and central Pacific Ocean. As Faiza Elmasry tells us, this phenomenon thrills scientists and gives anglers the chance of a once-in-a-lifetime big catch. Faith Lapidus narrates.

Video Terrorism in Many Forms Continues to Plague Africa

While the world's attention is on Paris in the wake of Friday night's deadly attacks, terrorism from various sides remains a looming threat in many African countries. Nigerian cities have been targeted this week by attacks many believe were staged by the violent Islamist group Boko Haram. In addition, residents in many regions are forced to flee their homes as they are terrorized by armed militias. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video Study: Underage Marriage Rate Higher for Females in Pakistan

While attitudes about the societal role of females in Pakistan are evolving, research by child advocacy group Plan International suggests that underage marriage of girls remains a particularly big issue in the country. VOA’s Ayesha Tanzeem reports how such marriages leads to further social problems.

VOA Blogs