By Ali Imran
WASHINGTON, Dec 16 : Pakistan witnessed landmark elections in May this year and then accomplished top-level transitions in key democratic, judicial and military institutions, making 2013 one of the most important years for democratic consolidation in the country grappling with a spate of challenges.
An important outcome of the democratic process, which saw Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif head the government for the record third time, has been that it has put to work almost all major political parties – the PML (N) at center and in Punjab, the PPP and MQM in Sindh, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and a group of prominent national and provincial parties in Balochistan.
Another major development has been the emergence of a three-way contest between PML (N), PPP and PTI in the national politics, meaning the country has moved away from two-party dominated contest.
These democratic changes of guard come with the first ever transfer of power from one elected government to another civilian government as a result of countrywide May 11 parliamentary elections for the national and provincial assemblies.
In addition to the PML(N) forming federal government in Islamabad, the Parliament elected a new President Mamnoon Hussain while former head of state Asif Ali Zardari completed his five-year constitutionally mandated term. The Supreme Court has a new chief justice of Pakistan Justice Tassaduq Hussain Jilani upon completion of term by former Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry while Gen. Raheel Sharif has been appointed new army chief as replacement for now retired general Ashfaq Parvez Kayani.
The smooth democratic process has tremendous significance for the country in terms of its ability to face internal economic and law and order challenges as well as have a successful policy in view of the high-stakes transitions in the region including formal end to war in Afghanistan by the end of 2014 and the outcome of 2014 election in India. The democratic consolidation also raises new hopes for a realistic relationship between Pakistan and the United States, which itself is transitioning to a new phase of engagement with the region.
To celebrate the smooth completion of political, military and judicial transitions under Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s government, a Washington-based PML (N) leader recently hosted an event.
Shahzad Chaudhry, who heads the Washington chapter of the party said the scheduled changes in the military command, appointment of the new chief justice of the Supreme Court, and before that election of the president of Pakistan have completed the vital phase of transitions that began with the victory of the PML (N) in May this year.
“These important developments have not only strengthened the political democratic system but also improved image of the country internationally,”Chauhdry said.
He noted that Pakistanis living abroad take pride in the fact that their country is firmly moving forward to democratic consolidation. Democratic development, he said, will also help Pakistan deal with economic and security challenges.