Pakistan passed through a unique moment in its history in March. The civilian democratic government completed a full, five-year term. In the past, the elected governments were thwarted by military coups or shunted aside by subtler means. Now, for the first time, one democratically elected government may be succeeded by another. The next elections are scheduled to take place in early May.
Five years ago, few would have predicted the achievement. In that period, Pakistan experienced political crises, Taliban insurgencies, a wave of terrorism, military offensives, dangerous standoffs with India, epic national floods and a breakdown of relations with the U.S., especially after the discovery of Osama bin Laden in Abbottabad. There were many moments when it seemed the shaky and unpopular ruling coalition would suffer the fate of its predecessors and either collapse before serving out its term or be deposed by the country’s military.
“There’s a lot of despair regarding the deteriorating security situation in Pakistan, continuing high levels of corruption and political kowtowing to extremist elements, which makes the significance of this moment easy to overlook,” says Huma Yusuf, a policy analyst. “But it’s a true milestone that signals an emerging consensus that democracy is the right governing system for Pakistan. There’s a long way yet to go.”
By completing a full term, many are hopeful that Pakistan has turned its back on military rule and other interruptions to democracy. “The question of who remains at the helm of power does not remain a question mark but has become an answered question,” Hina Rabbani Khar, Pakistan’s outgoing Foreign Minister, told TIME. “It should be nothing for a country to be proud of that in 66 years, there’s a peaceful democratic transition from one civilian government to another,” she added, “but because it’s the first time, it shows how much there is to be proud of.”
As the country moves towards elections it needs prayer to break the bonds of corruption, sectarianism. There are forces of darkness that hold this country and it sinks into darkness in new ways. Pray for the Church and witness of the glory of God to shine in this darkness.