Pakistan - Politics
The army generals are in charge of Pakistan; they have a firm grip over defense and security policies, foreign affairs, and internal matters. There had been a struggle between the army and Nawaz Sharif for quite some time. During his second term as prime minister in the early 1990s, Sharif attempted to remove a military chief but instead had to resign himself. In 1999, Sharif replaced then army chief Pervez Musharraf,but army commanders launched a coup against Sharif, and Musharraf came to power. By 2016 Sharif faced much the same dilemma.
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 had 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 US 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 was 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, would only turn 25 in September 2013.
Violence, abuse, and social and religious intolerance by militant organizations and other nongovernmental actors contributed to a culture of lawlessness in some parts of the country, particularly the provinces of Balochistan, Sindh, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP, formerly known as the North West Frontier Province), and the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA). Militant and terrorist bombings in all four provinces and in the FATA resulted in hundreds of deaths and thousands of injuries. According to the South Asia Terrorism Portal, during the year 2013 terrorist and extremist attacks and operations to combat insurgency resulted in 4,369 deaths, of which nearly 2,413 were civilians, more than 544 were security forces, and more than 1,412 were terrorists or insurgents.
Mumtaz Qadri was executed in February 2016 at the order of the Islamabad High Court five years after he assassinated a liberal Punjab governor over his calls to reform the country's blasphemy laws. Thousands of hard-line Islamists rallied in the heart of the Pakistani capital for four days to denounce Qadri's execution and to call for the introduction of strict Shari'a law in Pakistan. The sit-in protest ended on 31 March 2016 after protest leaders said they were given assurances that controversial blasphemy laws would not be amended and more than 1,000 Islamists detained by police during the protest would be released. The government, however, denied it had acceded to any of the protesters' demands.
The PM found himself in a difficult situation following the April 2016 "revelations" made by the so-called Panama Papers. Leaked documents show that three of the prime minister's children had links with offshore companies that owned properties in London. One clear sign of the political pressure felt by the Sharif family from the Panama Paper scandal was that the family reportedly discussed the possibility of the prime minister stepping down for two three months while an independent commission conducted an inquiry. One possible replacement could be Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar. In case the PM’s post needs to be filled until the 2018 elections then getting Shahbaz Sharif or Ishaq Dar elected as members of the National Assembly and then getting them elected PM was also considered by the family.
Pakistan’s Supreme Court disqualified Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif from holding public office and on 28 July 2017 ordered him to step down immediately. The ruling noted that “having failed to disclose his un-withdrawn receivables constituting (overseas) assets” in his nomination papers filed for the 2013 elections and “having furnished false declaration under solemn affirmation….Sharif is not honest…and therefore he is disqualified” to be a member of parliament. The corruption case against Sharif stemmed from leaked financial documents, known as the Panama Papers, that also listed three children of the Pakistani leader as holders of offshore accounts and posh London property.
Nawaz Sharif served as prime minister of Pakistan twice in the 1990s but allegations of corruption and mismanagement of economy led to his ouster from power on both the occasions. His last government in 1999 was dislodged by a bloodless military coup, and Sharif was later exiled to Saudi Arabia. He returned to Pakistan in late 2007. His party won the 2013 national elections, bringing Sharif to power for a record third time in the troubled democratic history of a country that has experienced three military coups.
Pakistan’s ruling party appointed an interim chief executive of the country 29 July 2017, raising opposition complaints, a day after the Supreme Court ousted Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif for concealing assets. Sharif, 67, chaired an emergency meeting of his Pakistan Muslim League-N party in Islamabad, where leaders selected former petroleum minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi as his successor for a short term of 45 days. Abbasi still must pass a vote of confidence by the parliament before assuming office.
Sharif's younger brother, Shahbaz Sharif, would run in a parliamentary election for the seat vacated by the ousted prime minister so he could become a member of the national parliament and potentially take over as permanent prime minister of Pakistan.
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