Constitutional transfer of power victory for democracy: Pak PM

Islamabad: Pakistan's Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf has said the constitutional transfer of power by an elected government is a victory of democratic forces, as the parliament made history by becoming the first National Assembly in the country to complete a full term of five years.

In his farewell address to the nation over Radio Pakistan and Pakistan Television network last night, Ashraf thanked all democratic forces and institutions that played their role in strengthening democracy.

Ashraf, who became prime minister in June last year after Yousuf Raza Gilani was disqualified over contempt of court charges, pointed out that going by the fact that the current government remained a victim of negative propaganda and concocted allegations, completion of term by his government is an extraordinary and historic event.

He said the democratic process went through various difficulties, challenges and trials in its journey.

Ashraf said the government faced bitter criticism during the last five years but it upheld the freedom of media and cooperated with it so that media could play its role in the development of the democratic traditions.

Referring to the situation of the country in 2008 when the Pakistan People's Party-led government took over, he said the country was facing dreaded crises and was almost isolated at the international level. The economy was in a bad shape, there was an energy crisis, foreign exchange reserves had depleted to dangerous levels, the country was facing food shortages and its survival was threatened by terrorism.

Ashraf said the government promoted national harmony, improved performance of institutions, laid foundations of an independent foreign policy and national flag was hoisted once again in Swat after an insurgency by the Taliban.

The Prime Minister acknowledged that the government could not do enough during the last five years. However, it lessened the problems it inherited and strengthened roots of democracy so that no one could ambush it in future.

Recounting the achievements of the government, he said by pursuing vision of reconciliation of former premier Benazir Bhutto, President Asif Ali Zardari initiated the policy of consensus and reconciliation and as a consequence country's first woman Speaker was unanimously elected beside unanimous election of the Prime Minister. The 1973 constitution was restored in its original form through unanimous amendments while almost all legislation was done through consensus.

Pakistan is due to go to the polls to elect a new parliament sometime in May, and the election will mark the first time in the country's history that power will be transferred from one democratically elected government to another.

The PPP and main opposition PML-N are currently conducting negotiations on installing a caretaker administration to oversee the polls.