The just concluded election in Pakistan should be hailed as a landmark in its democratic progress. PML (N) leader Nawaz Sharif is set to return to power at a time when the country is facing major challenges, including a stalled economy, growing extremism and serious threats from Taliban insurgency. For the first time in 66 years of its existence, Pakistan has seen one elected government complete a full five-year term. It will hand over power to another elected government in the ountry vulnerable to military takeovers. It is indeed a resounding victory for democracy.
But given the volatile nature of the country, it will not be easy for democracy to flourish. Undemocratic elements are on the lookout for gaps and lapses to create challenges.
It is Imran Khan who should be most worried. The Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf has won the highest number of seats in the tribal belt of Khyber Pukhtunkhwa — the breeding ground for armed militia groups, including the Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan, which was formed in December 2007. The leadership of both Mr. Sharif and Mr. Khan will be put to the test in a country where social receptivity to democracy is still very lukewarm.
With Mr. Sharif almost certain to become Prime Minister (“Second chance to mend ties,” May 13), there is cautious optimism on both sides of the border. The subdued anti-India rhetoric during the poll campaign points to a congenial environment for fruitful talks. Both countries should pick up the threads pre-Kargil.
Prathit Charan Misra,
What does India expect from Mr. Sharif? A change of mind and outlook towards India? Most Pakistani leaders have used India as a tool for their survival. ‘Hate India and win people’s sympathy’ has been the mantra. From that flow Pakistan’s dependence on the U.S. and China, and need to keep the Kashmir issue burning. As a result, the army gets a chance to call the shots, and democracy becomes a casualty sooner rather than later.
Mr. Sharif must survive minus the hate India rhetoric. He must view India as a well-wisher, and as a partner in progress.
Col R.D. Singh (retd.),
Since Pakistan has always been an unstable and unreliable neighbour, India needs to tread with caution. Mr. Sharif’s statement that he wants to build better relations with India, although welcome, needs to be taken with a pinch of salt given the bitter experience of the Kargil war.
B. Suresh Kumar,
The people of Pakistan have decisively shown their preference for democracy. The new government should, therefore, refrain from doing anything that will defeat the spirit of the verdict. There is a real opportunity now to assert the primacy of the civil establishment. This can happen only if governance tops the agenda, leaving the military with no excuse for meddling in politics.
P. Prasand Thampy,
An elected government completed its full term although there were fears of military intervention after the killing of Osama bin Laden by the U.S. forces. The people of Pakistan need to be praised for turning out in good numbers to vote for the next government. The army, too, deserves to be lauded for resisting the temptation to intervene. So does its benefactor, the U.S., which refrained from extending its support to a military regime. With democracy taking root, let us hope politicians in Pakistan will not indulge in competitive hatred towards India to score brownie points.
Despite threats from the Taliban and other militant groups, voters turned out in large numbers to vote. It is hoped that the army will not interfere with the civilian rule and do anything that could derail the democratically elected government. India should welcome a dialogue with Mr. Sharif, who appears more sober and reasonable after being out of power for over a decade.
Mr. Nawaz’s friendly remarks point to a possible change for the better in India-Pakistan relations. However, Mr. Sharif will have to contend with the Inter-Services Intelligence and the hardliners in the army before he puts the ties between the two nations on an even keel. He should demonstrate his good intentions by making sincere efforts to bring to book the perpetrators of 26/11.
The PPP has lost the election because of grave charges of corruption against its leadership. But it ought to get the credit for keeping democracy alive for five years and holding a general election at the end of its term.
Of the three major political parties, the PML(N) has the strongest pro-India attitude as seen in the previous two regimes of Mr. Sharif. He has already declared that improving relations with India will be one of his priorities. We should feel elated on two counts — our neighbour is gradually coming out of the clutches of the army and a friendly party will be in power for the next five years.