Guest contribution-Pakistani democracy may be noisy but it delivers

April 17, 2010

lahore mosqueThe following is a guest contribution. Reuters is not responsible for the content and the views expressed are the author’s alone. The writer is the High Commissioner of Pakistan to Britain.

By Wajid Shamsul Hasan

Why Pakistan needs strong institutions is amply demonstrated in recent events of monumental importance. These have not got the attention they deserved. It is a tribute to democracy that the government of Pakistan has succeeded in meeting major challenges, and in doing so, it enjoyed the support of the masses and major political forces in the country. Let us talk about those monumental events at the international and national level that have taken place since the democratic government took over in March 2008.

First, the government succeeded in its campaign in the war on terrorism. Just imagine, a war called America’s war or Musharraf’s war 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 no longer questions Pakistan’s sincerity in this war. The whole nation has turned the tables against the Taliban while 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 but they are considered to be an anathema to a common Pakistani’s way of life.

Second, there is a marked improvement in relations between Pakistan and Afghanistan. Unlike the Musharraf-Karzai relationship, there is a 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.

Third, the Pakistan-US strategic dialogue, although in its fourth session of 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. In the war on terror, we no longer hear a “do more” demand from the U.S. 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 re-asserted the confidence of the international community in the safety of Pakistani custodial controls 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 which 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 sensitizing the international community towards external machination in the province.

Fifth, the NFC award (distributing financial resources among the provinces of Pakistan) is another major success which enjoys the support of all the provinces as well as all major political parties. The award has also removed a major irritant amongst smaller provinces regarding their share in the national income.

Sixth, the unanimous adoption of the Eighteenth Amendment by the National Assembly and the Senate is another major feat of the government which steered the constitutional reforms process after President Zardari’s first address to the joint session of the 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 tackled by the Parliament’s Reforms Committee. 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 NWFP province to Khyber-Pakhtoonkhwa is the fulfillment of a long-standing demand of the people of the province. Unfortunately, a section of the people of Hazara has expressed their 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 Pakistanto UK and former Advisor to Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto, former Prime Minister of Pakistan)


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It would be a great thing if the above mentioned changes push Pakistan in the right direction. Sincere efforts need to continue for at least five years and things will become much better. I am glad to see Pakistan consciously making the right moves. I sincerely hope that the radical elements still present in the system do not derail the efforts. Moderate Pakistanis have to win against the odds. Radicals have taken the country down the path of self destruction. Peace will return the region only if the radical elements are defeated and rehabilitated. It is a tall order to ask. But I am sure Pakistan will rise.

Posted by KPSingh01 | Report as abusive

All these achievements by the present government are appreciable and must be recognized by the international community as well. Of course Taliban are still present, but hopefully in a short span of time this problem would be over and Pakistan will be liberated.

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Democracy in Pakistan is in its early stage of revival. If it is not nurtured properly, it can falter again. The political leaders and parties carry a primary responsibility to sustain democracy. They need to come forward to defuse both protests because if democracy fades away, they will be the main losers. The failure of democracy will substantiate the claim that the political leaders are unable to manage their affairs. The political parties should recognise that the future of democracy is threatened by an anarchy-like situation in different parts of the country.
Pakistan’s political leaders have a tendency to encourage the defiance of state authority and disruption of normal life for their immediate gains when they want to advance their agendas and put the government under pressure. For example, the PML-N leadership openly preached defiance after the imposition of governor’s rule in the last week of February 2009. Now, the PML-Q is actively supporting the violent Hazara agitation. Similarly Jammat-e-Islami and Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf are found indulged in such moves that led to agitation. Most political parties think that such protests and agitation will discredit the federal government and the ANP-led government in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa. This is a dangerous political trend. The gains of the 18th Amendment will be jeopardised if political parties do not learn from history.

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