Pakistan's new parliament met for the first time on Monday. Now the scene has been set for a showdown with President Pervez Musharraf who will most likely see a hostile coalition government that could drive him from power.
Pakistan's former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif arrives at Parliament House to observe the assembly's first session in Islamabad
More than 300 elected lawmakers have taken oath of office under the 1973 constitution of Pakistan. The members of Pakistan People’s Party -- or PPP -- of slain Benazir Bhutto were wearing black bands and badges featuring a picture of Bhutto.
The new ruling coalition of PPP and the Pakistan Muslim League Nawaz – or PML/N -- has vowed to reinstate the judiciary, which President Musharraf had dismissed in November, within 30 days.
Imtiaz Alam is a political expert and believes they can do it: "A two-third majority in the lower house is (made up) of those people who are committed to the restoration of democracy and constitutional rule. They are committed to press freedom and do also believe in the independence of the judiciary. This parliament is fated to change the civil-military relationship in Pakistan. And the balance of force, which had tilted in favour of the presidency under a uniformed President, will now be changing in favour of a Prime Minister in the cabinet. Parliament will be asserting its sovereignty.”
Slow process of democratisation
Nasim Zehra another Pakistani political commentator believes that the process of democratisation can only be a gradual one:
“There are elements who will be seeking to amend the constitution. First and foremost they will not indemnify the November 3rd steps that were taken by President Musharraf like the imposition of emergency and all that followed. They are near a two third majority but they don’t have a clear majority. That will probably take some time but I think they will gradually move towards the implementation of the elements in the charter of democracy signed in May 2006 and that’s important.”
Major problems ahead
Besides the constitutional issues the new government will also inherit other major problems, says journalist and author Ahmed Rashid:
“The two major issues they have is the war on terror and what they are going to do to tackle the extremism which is now spreading in Pakistan and the economic crisis. And beyond that there will be many constitutional crises. What to do with the judiciary, how to handle President Musharraf? But I think all these will take a back seat to these two immediate problems of economy and the war on terror. And all the indications are that they will co-operate with each other in trying to create a joint policy.”
It is the first time the two parties who have always been at loggerheads with each other in the past have come together to form a coalition government in Pakistan. The new parliament will elect its Speaker on Tuesday. It is still not clear who will become the Prime Minister. The nomination is expected by the end of this week.