Pakistani democracy delivers — by Wajid Shamsul Hasan

Why Pakistan needs strong institutions is amply demonstrated in recent events of monumental importance. However, these events did not get enough attention either because of indifference from analysts or their lack of comprehension about these issues. It is a tribute to democracy that, despite the challenges of security and economic downturn due to the fight against extremism and terrorism, the government of Pakistan has succeeded in meeting major challenges. Of course, in doing so it enjoyed the support of the masses and the major political forces in the country.

Let us talk about those monumental events at an international and national level, events that have been taking place ever since the democratic government came to power in March 2008. Seven such major events and developments are discernable.

First of all, the government succeeded in its campaign to reorganise the war on terrorism. Just imagine, a war called the US’s war or Musharraf’s war soon became the whole Pakistani nation’s war, with the brave Pakistani armed forces putting their heart and soul into eliminating the scourge of terrorism. The international community posed no more questions about Pakistan’s sincerity in this war. The whole nation has turned the tables against the Taliban, when a year ago even some of our friends described the Taliban onslaught as “a mortal threat to Islamabad”. The Taliban are not only on the run now, they are considered to be an anathema to the common Pakistani’s way of life.

Secondly, there is a marked improvement in relations between Pakistan and Afghanistan. Unlike the Musharraf-Karzai tiff, there is positive chemistry between President Zardari and President Karzai. President Karzai appreciates that the current leadership in Pakistan means business and is sincere about the stability of Afghanistan.

Thirdly, the Pak-US strategic dialogue, although in its fourth session during the past five years, entered into forward gear for the first time with structured discussion on 10 substantive issues encompassing security, economic, defence and cultural cooperation as well as cooperation in the energy sector. Clear benchmarks have been decided by the two sides in order to achieve tangible results. On the war on terror, it is no more a “do more” demand by the US but a real appreciation of Pakistan’s role in tackling extremism. Not only that, Pakistan’s participation in the Nuclear Security Summit in Washington has reasserted the confidence of the international community in the safety of Pakistani custodial control over its strategic assets.

Fourth, the Balochistan Package, Aghaz-e Huqooq-e Balochistan (Initiation of Balochistan’s Rights), is a historical initiative by the government that enjoys the support of all the political forces in the country. For the first time in the history of Pakistan, a government has taken extraordinary measures to address the deprivation of the people of Balochistan. The government has also succeeded in sensitising the international community towards Indian machination in the province in the garb of its reconstruction work in Afghanistan.

Fifth, the National Finance Commission (NFC) Award is another major success of the present government, a step that enjoys the support of all the provinces as well as all major political parties. The NFC Award has also removed a major irritant amongst smaller provinces regarding their share in the national income.

Sixth, the unanimous adoption of the 18th Amendment by the National Assembly and the Senate is another major feat for the government that steered the constitutional reforms process after President Zardari’s first address to the joint session of parliament in 2008. A number of objective analysts have described the passage of the 18th Amendment as a ‘miracle’ after the adoption of the 1973 Constitution because of divergences grappled by the Parliamentary Committee on Constitutional Reforms. Nevertheless, these amendments will prove to be a precursor to laying the foundations of a stable democratic order in the country.

Seventh, although part of the constitutional amendments, the renaming of the NWFP province to Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa is the fulfilment of a longstanding demand of the people of the province. Unfortunately, a section of the people of Hazara has expressed its dissatisfaction over the renaming of the province. But a democratic order always has the capacity to address such grievances.

Given the challenges faced by Pakistan, the achievements of the democratic government in a short span of two years cannot be underestimated. Our brand of democracy may be noisy, but it delivers!

The writer is High Commissioner of Pakistan to UK and former Advisor to Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto, former Prime Minister of Pakistan\04\17\story_17-4-2010_pg3_4



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