Pakistan - Politics
Pakistan's political system is broken: its political parties are ineffective, functioning for decades as instruments of two families, the Bhuttos and the Sharifs, two clans, both corrupt. The Bhutto-Zardari axis may be considered "left leaning," while the Sharif brothers may be considered "right leaning." The Sharifs are much closer to Pakistan's military, and to Pakistan's Muslim fundamentalists. Punjabi, the Sharifs represent Pakistan's major ethnic bloc, and the devout Sunni Sharif has an advantage over the Bhuttos, who have Shiite ties.
Pakistan held successful elections in February 2008 and has a coalition government. Voting in Pakistan is intensely personal, with parties gathering votes primarily through allegiance to an individual candidate who is either a feudal or has a proven ability to deliver services. Pakistan is a developing country with some modern facilities in major cities but limited in outlying areas. The infrastructure of areas of Pakistan-administered Kashmir and the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) regions were devastated by an October 8, 2005, earthquake and have not yet been fully rebuilt. Massive flooding in 2010 destroyed infrastructure throughout the Indus River valley.
Pakistan continues to face extraordinary challenges on the security and law enforcement front. The country has suffered greater military, law enforcement, and civilian casualties in fighting extremism and terrorism than almost any other country. In the midst of this difficult security situation, Pakistan's civilian government remains weak, ineffectual, and corrupt.
Pakistan's long term stability depends more and more upon the government's willingness to confront difficult economic policy choices it has long sought to avoid. Pakistan must begin to address a breadth of economic challenges that would overwhelm many emerging economies: overhauling the tax infrastructure, eliminating over $4 billion in circular debt in its energy sector, altering revenue sharing agreements among the provinces and the Federal Government, reversing a contraction in consumer credit and expanding financial access, removing price controls in commodity markets, preventing a crisis in water distribution, and breaking Pakistan's dependence on external financial support.
A number of extremist groups within Pakistan continue to target U.S. citizens and other Western interests and Pakistani officials. Terrorists have demonstrated a willingness and capability to attack targets where U.S. citizens are known to congregate or visit. Terrorist actions may include, but are not limited to, suicide operations, bombings -- including vehicle-borne explosives and improvised explosive devices -- assassinations, carjackings, assaults, and kidnappings. Pakistani military forces are currently engaged in a campaign against extremist elements across many areas of the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) and parts of the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) Province, formerly known as Northwest Frontier Province (NWFP). In response to this campaign, militants have increased attacks against both civilian and government targets in Pakistan’s cities and in late 2010 launched several coordinated attacks against Pakistani government and civilian targets, especially in Bajaur and Mohmand Agencies.
By 2011 children of the country’s leading political figures were stepping out of their parents’ shadows and into the public realm. Maryam Nawaz, daughter of Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) chief Nawaz Sharif and wife of PML-N MNA Capt (Retd) Safdar, made her political debut in November 2011 while addressing a women’s convention. The 38-year-old defended her family against Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf chief Imran Khan’s ‘asset declaration’ campaign. Defending her father, Maryam said had Nawaz completed his second term, he would have made Pakistan an economic power at par with Malaysia, Turkey and Singapore. Nawaz Sharif had groomed Member of the Provincial Assembly Hamza Shahbaz [Hamza Sharif], son of the Punjab chief minister Shahbaz Sharif, for a future political role. Hamza, 40, was rocked by a succession of scandals. He was alleged to have amassed billions through speculative trading in the poultry industry. His problems were compounded when Ayesha Ahad Malik claimed she was Hamza’s legitimate wife. Maryam’s stepping out for her family and taking on a political role suggested Nawaz Sharif was not happy with the conduct and performance of Hamza Shahbaz. PML-N observers were of the view that Maryam was a far better option than Hamza Shahbaz.
The only son of assassinated former Pakistani prime minister Benazir Bhutto told hundreds of thousands of supporters on December 27, 2012, the fifth anniversary of his mother's death, that he would carry forward her legacy, an appearance designed to anoint him as a political heir. "I am the heir to the martyr,'' Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, 24, told the crowd in the southern province of Sindh, referring to his mother and to his grandfather, the founder of the current ruling party who was hanged by a former military ruler. "If you kill one Bhutto, there will be a Bhutto in every house.'' Bhutto was joined by hundreds of high-ranking officials, including the current president, his father Asif Zardari, to commemorate his mother's killing in a gun and suicide attack during a 2007 political campaign rally. He is still not old enough to contest the elections scheduled for spring 2013 - the minimum age is 25. Bhutto, who has his mother's good looks, will only turn 25 in September 2013.
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