PAKISTAN, January 5, 2013 — Pakistan’s civilian government will complete its five-year term on 16 March 2013, the first time in history that a civilian government in Pakistan has served to the end of its legal term.
This year is also important for Pakistani politics because the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, the Army Chief of Staff, and the President are going to retire.
According to the Pakistan’s constitution, as one government completes its term, it is succeeded by an interim government formed by consensus of the two major political parties. The interim government then conducts elections for the national and provincial assemblies within 90 days of the dismissal of the previous government.
Pakistan’s two major political parties are the Pakistan People’s Party and the Muslim League (Nawaz). The leadership of these two parties has repeatedly shown their commitment to hold elections within the required 90 days. Although Pakistan has a history of prolonging the duration of interim governments run by military dictators, the current Pakistani military leadership seems disinclined to do that this time, preferring to make the politicians accountable for the government.
If elections are held as required, the Muslim League is expected to win a majority in the National assembly and form the Federal government. The Pakistan People’s Party was unable to win the hearts of the people in its five year term.
One other party, the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (Movement for Justice), which seeks to create an Islamic welfare state, is likely to make a difference in the next election. Headed by a former cricketer turned politician, it has gained popularity among the youth of Pakistan, especially in the big cities. The age of voters has been decreased to eighteen years by constitutional amendment, and these new voters are going to play an important role in the next election.
Although no election in the history of Pakistan had been declared completely free and fair since the country’s inception, regular elections every five years will play a role in the evolution of democracy in Pakistan. Military dictators have disrupted the democratic process in Pakistan many times, but the current trend of giving politicians a chance is a good sign for Pakistan’s political development. Widespread irregularities in the electoral process should not be an excuse to postpone the elections and thus pave the way for military intervention, as some minor political parties seem to want.
The retirement of three major officials in Pakistan’s leadership creates opportunity and risk. The President is also the co-chairman of the largest political party, the Pakistan People’s Party. Mr Asif Ali Zardari is going to complete his five-year term in September 2013. The electoral college will select a new president in September 2013.
The Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Pakistan, Mr Justice Iftikhar Choudhery, will retire in December 2013. The Chief Justice gained popularity in recent years because of his skirmish with the dictator of Pakistan, General Pervez Musharraf, in 2007. His retirement is also seen as a big step in the history of Pakistan, as he raised his voice against the wishes of a dictator who dismissed him twice but was forced to reinstate him in response to demonstrations by the legal community and civil society.
Last but not the least, the Chief of Army Staff (COAS) of Pakistan’s army, General Ashfaq Pervez Kiani will complete his second three-year term as COAS. General Kiani was given an extension of three years in 2010 by the then Prime Minister of Pakistan, Mr Yousaf Raza Gilani. If he does not get a second extension, then he will retire in November 2013. The post of COAS is the most powerful in Pakistan, but Pakistan’s army is the most organized institution in Pakistan. Its operation is not much affected by the change of COAS. What will be the mindset of the new COAS, only time will tell.
Qaisar Gondal is a Communities writer; more of his work can be read in Letters from Pakistan at communities.washingtontimes.com
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