Pakistan government survives, makes history

Pakistan government survives, makes history

Pakistan government survives, makes history

Pakistan's Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf (C) walks after offering prayers at the shrine of Sufi saint Khwaja Moinuddin Chishti at Ajmer in the desert Indian state of Rajasthan March 9, 2013. REUTERS photo

Pakistan’s elected government completed its full five-year term on March 16, the first in the country’s turbulent history to do so, leaving a legacy of Taliban violence, sectarian unrest, chronic power cuts and a fragile economy.

Parliament was dissolved at midnight after completing its term, and a caretaker administration will manage the government until general elections which must take place within 90 days. Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf was expected to remain in office until the appointment of a caretaker prime minister, a process expected to take a few days.

Pakistani newspapers noted the historic nature of the changeover in a country known for political upheaval and long bouts of military rule, while attacking the outgoing government’s record on the economy and security. “For the first time in the history of this country, an elected government has completed its tenure in office; and to that extent it can be said that history has been made,” said an editorial in The News.

Ashraf defended his government in a televised farewell speech, saying it had launched economic reforms, raised the salaries of state workers and launched development projects. The government managed to stay in power despite frequent showdowns with Pakistan’s powerful generals and an increasingly interventionist Supreme Court that pursued top officials. The military, which has ruled Pakistan for more than half its 66-year history through coups or from behind the scenes, has long regarded the civilian rulers as corrupt and incompetent.

Army chief General Ashfaq Kayani, however, has vowed to keep the military out of politics and there are no signs the generals are backing any particular party for the poll.