After plenty of depressing news, one finally gets to hear that things are changing in Pakistan for the better. This is good news for the whole world.
The people of Pakistan overwhelmingly voted in favour of democracy in the elections to the National Assembly and the Provincial Assemblies held last month. The Pakistan People’s Party[PPP] and the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz[PML(N)] are forming a coalition government with the help of other parties and the Vice-President of the PPP, Syed Yusuf Raza Gilani has been sworn in as the Prime Minister. There are rumours that he is a stand-in Prime Minister till Asif Ali Zardari of the PPP takes over the reins. Another good news is that Pakistan’s National Assembly gets a woman Speaker for the first time in its history. Dr. Fehmida Mirza was elected as the Speaker of the National Assembly by the newly elected deputies of the Lower House. It is very interesting to note that she was not elected from a seat reserved for women, but from a general constituency.
The most heartening news was that immediately after being sworn in as the Prime Minister, Yusuf Raza Gilani ordered the deposed judges of Pakistan’s Supreme Court to be freed from house arrest. The newly formed coalition government has also pledged to reinstate all the judges of the Supreme Court within a month of assuming office. This is a great victory for democracy, freedom and the rule of law in South Asia’s second largest country.
Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry is a very courageous man indeed. He and the other deposed judges of the Supreme Court have taken some very important decisions. The most courageous decision of them all was the decision to order the release of hundreds of people who were detained for being suspected terrorists. Many people have been “disappearing” in Pakistan in what is a gross violation of human rights. Their case has been taken up by two courageous people, Fakhruddin Ebrahim and Asma Jahangir from the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan. I wish them all success in their endeavours to stand up for human rights and justice and truth.
Pakistan is a country with plenty of problems. Strained relations between the Army and the government, judiciary and the civil society, strained relations between the federal and provincial governments, suicide bombings that have become a regular feature, parts of the North-West Frontier Province bordering Afghanistan that are not exactly under the control of the government, widespread poverty in the rural areas that is a result of the feudal system and illegal practices that go against human rights can make one believe that Pakistan is a state that is failing.
As the events of the past few weeks show, things are indeed changing for the better in Pakistan. The people of Pakistan have reposed their faith in the democratic process and an independent and free judiciary that is willing to uphold human rights and justice even at a great cost to itself. In a nuclear armed country that holds the key to peace, prosperity, democracy and stability of the entire region, these are very good signs indeed!