Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari.
In the last week, Pakistan has held it’s Presidential elections in which PML (N) nominee Mamnoon Hussain won in a landslide 432 to 77 against Pakistan Movement for Justice party nominee Wajihuddin Ahmed.
Why is the election of Hussain such a big deal? Political handoffs take place all the time.
This is the first, in Pakistani history, that a democratic change, by the will of the people has come. For Pakistan, a nation nearly a century old, this is it’s first true democratically willed exchange of power.
Pakistan itself was conceived in 1930 by a proclamation by British Indian politician Sir Muhammad Iqbal, the nation itself formed in 1940 as a sovereign state for Muslims that was originally part of British-controlled India. Since then, it has been fraught with political problems and disaster that left many wondering if Pakistan would ever become democratically governed.
Pakistan received official independence on 14 August, 1947 from British India, becoming a British controlled dominion under control of King George V of the United Kingdom, under the title of “Emperor of India.” He later renounced this role and styled himself as the “King of Pakistan,” a title passed to his daughter, the incumbent Queen Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom, who styled herself as the Queen of Pakistan.
In 1956, a revolution created and installed an Islamic Parliamentary Republic, which was supposed to be civilian run, but in the process, a military coup took over the revolution and installed the army’s commander-in-chief, Ayub Khan, as the ruler of Pakistan.
Former Chief Executive and President General Pervez Musharraf
In 1970, free elections were held, heralded as a transition from a military junta to a democratically elected civilian government, but the sitting military government refused to hand power to the elected successor. Internal fighting in the nation sparked an independence movement which led to a secession of east Pakistan into the nation now known as Bangladesh.
Power was handed to a civilian government which didn’t last long, and Pakistan soon found itself under martial law again with the coup led by army General Zia-ul-Haq. Zia, who died in a plane crash 1988, was succeeded by Pakistan’s first female Prime MInister, Benazir Bhutto, followed by Nawaz Sharif after a scandal which cost her her seat. During Sharif’s time in office, Pakistan’s military nuclear weapons testing led to destabilization and the Kargill War of 1999, in which point Army Chief of Staff General Pervez Musharraf assumed power in a bloodless coup.
Ruling as both civilian and military leader of Pakistan, he executed his duties often under one title, as a civilian or commander in chief independently, theoretically, while being the same person. He resigned from his Army post amid massive protests for elections, but continued on as President of Pakistan until the return of Benazir Bhutto in 2007, returning from a self-imposed exile to see that Musharraf’s dictatorship was unseated. Assassinated in the twilight hours of 2007, Musharraf heeded calls for an election, which saw him replaced with Bhutto’s husband, Asif Ali Zardari.
President Zardari took the helm of Pakistan during some of it’s most trying times –and became a friend of the United States in the war on terror, which was extremely unpopular amongst voters in Pakistan, particularly since the capture and killing of Osama Bin Laden, which took place in an initially secret strike in Abottabad.
Which leads to today. For the first time in it’s history, a democratically elected government of Pakistan is set to hand authority and power over to a new democratically elected government. This is history in the making, particularly for a newer, nuclear-powered nation. What can the future hold for a stable, and flourishing Pakistan?