History made: One giant leap for democracy

Published: March 17, 2013
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Group photo of the National Assembly of Pakistan upon completion of their five year term. PHOTO: APP/FILE

Group photo of the National Assembly of Pakistan upon completion of their five year term. PHOTO: APP/FILE

ISLAMABAD: 

As politicians basked in the afterglow of rare, democratic pride on Saturday night, news of the official dissolution of the country’s first full term National Assembly was greeted with muted celebrations. In the end, it was the 13th National Assembly that broke the jinx of interrupted governments. None of the previous 12 lower houses of parliament survived a full term in office.

This time, all centres of power seem mindful that the country’s first proper transition since 1947 will come to naught if power is not transferred to an elected successor. Even as this realisation sinks in deeper within the polity, intrigues appear to have continued over the interim set-up in the centre and the provinces.

While all four chief ministers, in a meeting with outgoing Prime Minister Raja Pervaiz Ashraf, have agreed in principle to hold the elections for all assemblies on the same day, they failed to reach consensus on when the provincial assemblies – whose terms expire on separate dates – will be dissolved.

“As proposed by the prime minister, the chief ministers have agreed in principle that the elections of the national and provincial assemblies will be held on the same day for logistical, administrative and financial reasons, and to promote political harmony in the country,” read a statement by the prime minister’s office following the meeting on Saturday.

The move was confirmed by Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif as well.

The dissolution of the 13th National Assembly was pronounced through a notification under Articles 52 which reads: “The National Assembly shall, unless sooner dissolved, continue for a term of five years from the day of its first meeting and shall stand dissolved at the expiration of its term.”

With the term of 342-member National Assembly over as of March 16, the federal cabinet too stood dissolved. A separate notification was issued by the Cabinet Division in this regard.

Parliament Speaker Dr Fehmida Mirza, however, will continue to hold her office till the 14th National Assembly will elect a new custodian of the lower house of Parliament. Prime Minister Ashraf too will continue in office until the interim prime minister takes charge.

Although, both the government and opposition have publicly rejected two names proposed by either side for interim prime minister, it has been learnt that there is a broader understanding between the ruling Pakistan Peoples Party and the main opposition Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz. The opposition may agree to a mutually-acceptable candidate nominated by PPP for interim premier if the ruling party will repay the favour in Punjab, which the PML-N rules.

During an earlier interaction with leader of opposition in the NA Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan and the Punjab chief minister, Prime Minister Ashraf emphasised Dr Ishrat Hussain’s name among nominees for interim premier. The PML-N, meanwhile, has placed Justice (retd) Nasir Aslam Zahid on the top of its list of nominees.

Despite this, political manoeuvring by the country’s major political parties has hindered the smooth transition to interim set-ups in the provinces. Apart from Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, the names of caretaker chief executives for the other three provinces have yet to be decided. No clear picture has emerged regarding the dissolution of provincial assemblies.

The PML-N has linked the dissolution of the Punjab Assembly with having a say in the interim set-up in Sindh and Balochistan.

“We will not agree if any caretaker chief minister is installed in Sindh and Balochistan under a covert deal,” Shahbaz Sharif told reporters before leaving for Lahore after a tête-à-tête with PM Ashraf.

The five-year term of the Punjab Assembly is set to expire last, on April 12. The provincial government will continue till then if the assembly is not dissolved before that.

Meanwhile, amid ongoing constitutional crisis in Balochistan – where governor’s rule expired two days ago – restored Chief Minister Nawab Aslam Raisani has refused to agree to a date for the provincial assembly’s dissolution unless the PPP leadership concedes to his demands. Key among them is a demand for changing the Balochistan chief secretary.

In Sindh, the Muttahida Qaumi Movement is negotiating the interim set-up with Chief Minister Qaim Ali Shah, a PPP leader.

The PML-N, however, has demanded that its allies Pakistan Muslim League-Functional and other nationalist parties be consulted before an interim chief minister is installed.

In case provincial assemblies are not dissolved before the end of this month, it will be impossible to hold general elections for national and provincial legislatures on the same day. The NA elections have to take place within 60 days of its dissolution. The election schedule for provincial legislatures requires a minimum 45 days and will not fit the 60-day deadline for the NA polls.

There are still three days left for negotiations between Chaudhry Nisar and PM Ashraf, before they will have to refer the names of two candidates to a parliamentary panel. In case a stalemate continues, a new name can be added from both sides till the matter goes to the parliamentary committee by Wednesday.

Published in The Express Tribune, March 17th, 2013.

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Reader Comments (14)

  • Truth detector
    Mar 17, 2013 - 2:39AM

    One giant leap for democracy: One gigantic mess of the country !!!

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  • lololol
    Mar 17, 2013 - 2:46AM

    “History made: One giant leap for democracy”…..and ten giant steps back for Pakistan.

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  • Hasan
    Mar 17, 2013 - 2:55AM

    Finally… thank God that’s over!

    Vote for PTI!

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  • Ahsan
    Mar 17, 2013 - 2:57AM

    Now lets impose Martial Law.

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  • Buttler
    Mar 17, 2013 - 5:06AM

    GOD please dont show these faces again in Parliament… Ameen

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  • Ahad Khan
    Mar 17, 2013 - 5:43AM

    To say the least, the present day government did manage to hold power by means of hook and crook. So does this reticence itself to hold power holds up the definition of Democracy, let alone the other factors that beget the reticence? What kind of an after taste is this government leaving of,” Democracy?” Were the opposition parties a safety net for the ruling government?- “It never looked like cake, it never tasted like cake, but we were told to take their word for it that it was cake, now how are we to know what the cake really tastes?
    Is hukoomat nay aisi jamhooriat say nawaaza hay jis say hum phir 50 saal peechay jaaney kay kwahish mand ho gaey hein. keh nahi? Barahi mehebani PPP, ab koi Qurbani nahi deejiye ga/

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  • Yoghurt lover
    Mar 17, 2013 - 6:31AM

    Congratulations!

    Special congratulations to Zardari, who seldom gets any credit.

    This man proved to be the Sonia Gandhi of Pakistan. Seemingly not-so-bright, taking the help of trusted advisers, mostly remaining behind the scenes, holding a group of disparate people together and finally doing something good but nothing great.

    If Pakistan can have another 6 full term democracy, I think the country will see some real but small progress. But if the army intervenes, the country will see a mirage of progress but regressing in reality.

    The first order of the next government whoever it is, is to clamp down on all terrorist and extremist organizations. If this is not done, there may not be another elections.

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  • Dr.X
    Mar 17, 2013 - 6:52AM

    Pakistan’s democracy has made us free but unequal.

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  • uet
    Mar 17, 2013 - 8:31AM

    Democracy won courtesy Nawaz Sharif
    Governance lost courtesy Asif Zardari.

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  • Saeed
    Mar 17, 2013 - 9:23AM

    Let the games begin. Muk muka, blunder bant, this is all these politicians are capable of, the country and the rest of the 180million people be damned.

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  • Ashraf P
    Mar 17, 2013 - 9:45AM

    The photo is appropriate. First and last perhaps?

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  • Syed A. Mateen
    Mar 17, 2013 - 10:21AM

    It is a good omen for democracy that after the independence of Pakistan, a democratically elected parliament has completed its tenure for the first time in the history of Pakistan.

    As the first step has now been completed, we should now move to strengthen various institutions in Pakistan.

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  • Aschraful Makhlooq
    Mar 17, 2013 - 10:37AM

    Countless thanks to Allah Almighty that a brigade of the ministers of a poor and indebted country “Pakistan” has been completed its tenure and removed which made Pakistan,Pakistan’s economy,Pakistan’s key departments and Pakistan’s nation most especially importantly poor and common and poor man’s life the most miserable and destroyed their economy and backbone by taking the most harmful decisions economically and financially on the name of welfare and betterment of Pakistan and Pakistan’s nation and increased Pakistan’s debts with heavy markups to a great degree…..

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  • Mar 17, 2013 - 12:14PM

    @Buttler: ” GOD please dont show these faces again in Parliament… Ameen”

    There is no reason to seek GOD’s help every time. Why trouble GOD when it can be done by yourselves ( collectively).

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