Perspectives on Pakistan
Guest contribution-Pakistani democracy may be noisy but it delivers
The 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)