ISLAMABAD - Political heavyweights from the mainstream, nationalists and religious parties will prominently figure in the 14th National Assembly of the country as members are all set to take oath on Saturday (today) at its first session.The administration of oath to the newly elected members (323 out of total 342) may be ceremonial in nature, but public expectations from the treasury and opposition benches in this parliament seem far more in terms of delivery and good governance – a phenomenon that lacked badly in the last government. As a result, PPP had to face wrath of the masses in the three provinces and it is still finding difficult to come to terms. The process which is starting today will, however, entail a smooth constitutional transition from one democratic dispensation to another, unprecedented in the country’s history. Compared with the last one, the 14th National Assembly seems more representative in composition. National political leaders like Nawaz Sharif and Imran Khan, Pashtun nationalist Mahmood Khan Achakzai and Baloch nationalists like Sardar Akhtar Mengal will be making it to the house after a gap of many years. The presence of political heavyweights like Chaudhry Pervaiz Elahi, Amin Fahim, Maulana Fazlur Rehman, Makhdoom Javed Hashmi, Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan, Ijazul haq, Sheikh Rashid Ahmed and Shah Mahmood Qureshi will add colour and weight to the lower house of the Parliament. Around 18 parties and independents have entered the new assembly with 10 new political parties adding to the total. The 13th National Assembly, in particular, and Parliament in general had solved some key legislative issues the country required to sail along the democratic and constitutional path. The 18th, 19th and 20th constitutional amendments really led the country to a smooth democratic path, which paved the way of setting up of an autonomous election commission and a neutral caretaker government. The issues at hand for the upcoming parliament seem more practical, magnanimous in nature. Besides legislation, it will have to monitor and guide the incoming PML-N government on key issues of governance like corruption-free administration and financial revamping as well as improving the overall security and law and order situation. Talks with Taliban and an end to insurgency-cum-anarchy in the tribal belt of the country bordering Afghanistan seem the topmost challenge the incoming government faces. American predator drone that killed the Taliban second-in-command the other day in fact proved a nerve-testing spanner for an incoming regime yet to take off informally. Solution to Balochistan insurgency and winning hearts and minds of those having taken up arms against the state will also test nerves and skills of the incoming government. Though he enters the National Assembly hall after a long wait of 14 years, Nawaz Sharif makes history to become a third-time premier of the country. This gap was, perhaps, the toughest of his political life with around 14 months of jail under a military regime and more than six and a half years’ exile. He was not able to make it to the National Assembly in the 2008 elections despite his party bagging second highest seats in the lower house of Parliament, while securing government in the Punjab province. Though his aides deny forcefully insiders termed Sharifs’ inability to enter the parliament due to his 10-year-exile agreement which was in place till 2010. For now, the incoming premier and his lieutenants have geared up to take up the most challenging job in the country’s history. Sharif is expected to face a forceful yet divided opposition in the house with Pakistan Tahreek-e-Insaaf all set to take up a proactive opposition role even if PPP grabs leader of the opposition slot due to its numerical strength. Pakistani democracy saw a unique coalition government setups at the Centre and in the provinces from 2008-13, but the setup coming in place is more unique and testing in nature. The two main opposition parties, PPP and PTI, while sitting on opposition benches at the Centre, have already started leading Sindh and Khyber Pakhtookhawa governments. The PML-N is all set to lead the Punjab government on its own due to clear majority and a coalition government in the Balochistan province. Like the elections 2013 scene, PTI, under the leadership of Imran Khan, will prove a new, yet powerful phenomenon, having all the potential to keep the treasury on its toes on key governance issues. PTI scored third in terms of National Assembly seats, but secured second highest popular votes from across the country, so all eyes will be fixed to evaluate its performance as a provincial government in KPK and opposition at the Centre. Though bruised and taken aback by its recent electoral defeat across the country except Sindh province, PPP will try to bounce back in the new National Assembly with an effective opposition role. Known for his smooth and tactful handling of parliamentary affairs, the nomination of Syed Khurshid Shah as the opposition leader sent a mixed signal to the incoming government. The near future working relationship between PML-N’s central government and PPP-led Sindh government will set tone and tenor of Khurshid Shah who has been preferred over Amin Fahim, the party’s technical president and a dummy leader. Mutahida Qaumi Movement’s decision to sit on the opposition benches will definitely swell the opposition ranks, but may not unite it in the wake of deep post-election differences that have propped up between MQM and PTI. Same is the case with religious parties. Jammat-e-Islami (JI), the key coalition partner of PTI-led coalition government in KP province, is expected to side with PTI. While Maulana Fazlur Rehman, having deep political differences with PTI and JI, is expected to sail along PML-N even if it doesn’t join the government at the Centre. Baloch and Pashtun nationalists from Balochistan will side with PML-N, except BNP-M led by Akhtar Mengal who seems unwilling to accept the 2013 election results as his party scored fourth position in the Balochistan province.

This news was published in The Nation newspaper. Read complete newspaper of 01-Jun-2013 here.