Islamabad: The government of Pakistan has accomplished an unprecedented fete by pulling off the first complete 5 year-term in its political history.
It is for the first time ever since 1947, when Pakistan was born as a result of partition, that a democratically elected government has stayed the course and didn’t dissolve before time.
Pakistan has been under military regime for over half of the period since independence and has witnessed three military coups.
On the midnight of March 16, Pakistan’s Parliament was dissolved as the government’s mandate expired. A caretaker government will be in place until the next elections which are scheduled in May.
Underscoring divisions, politicians failed to reach agreement on a caretaker government in time for the final session of parliament before new elections are held. The country's constitution calls for a vote within 60 days, although no date has yet been set.
Hailing the historic milestones as a victory and a success for his Pakistan People's Party, Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf said, "There is a long history of tussle between the democratic and undemocratic forces in Pakistan, but the democratic forces have finally achieved a victory."
Speaking in a televised address, PM, "We have strengthened the foundations of democracy to such an extent that no one will be able to harm democracy in future."
Confessing to the flaws and failures the government had to face, PM said, "It is true that in the past five years we have not been able to flow rivers of milk and honey... But we have tried to control the number of problems that we had inherited. We have used all our resources to strengthen the foundations of democracy and - by the grace of Allah - today democracy is so strong that no one will dare to dislodge it in the future."
Ashraf portrayed the problems in the country as something inherited from the previous regime of ousted leader Gen. Pervez Musharraf.
One of the ruling party's main achievements has been its sheer survival — no small feat in a country that has experienced three successful coups and many more unsuccessful ones.
The government's most high-profile accomplishments in the past five years have involved changing the power structure, rather than dealing with basic problems facing ordinary Pakistanis.
Many in the government argue that the economy hasn't fared that poorly considering the catastrophic flooding of 2010, security problems that scare off foreign investors and the global economic downturn.
But critics contend the government has failed to address major issues such as restructuring state-owned companies like the national airline, PIA.
And then there are the blackouts.
Under the PPP, the government has tried to address the energy crisis by employing so-called rental power projects under which the government imports power stations and links them to the national grid. But the projects have been unable to generate much electricity, and critics say they were just an opportunity for graft.
The PPP insists it is tackling the energy problems. Zardari went to Iran on Monday for a high-profile ground-breaking ceremony on a pipeline intended to bring natural gas from Iran — despite American objections.
The PPP may pay a price for ongoing terror attacks despite five years of military operations against the Pakistani Taliban and likeminded groups in the lawless tribal areas near the Afghan border.
Just this year, more than 250 people have been killed in three bombings targeting members of the minority Shiite Muslim sect. Security in Karachi, the country's largest city and economic heart, continues to unravel as political, ethnic and religious wars escalate.
The PPP rose to power after the Dec. 27, 2007 assassination of Bhutto during a rally in Rawalpindi where she railed against terrorism. Her widower, Zardari, vowed to continue that legacy when he took over, but analysts say the government has failed to follow through on that promise.
Pakistani troops have been engaged in near-constant fighting against militants in the country's northwest near the Afghan border since 2009. But in areas like the Swat Valley, where the military drove out the Taliban, the civilian administration has been unable to take over from the military.
At the same time, Pakistan's relationship with its longtime but wary ally, the United States, has gone through some extremely rocky periods.
Zardari and the PPP have always struggled with a domestic perception that they are American stooges — an unpopular position in a country where anti-American sentiment is widespread. The view from Washington, though, has been that Pakistan is not doing enough to combat militancy within its borders.
With Agency Inputs
First Published: Sunday, March 17, 2013, 09:32