Islamabad: The May 11 general elections in Pakistan will not only decide which political party will form the next civilian government, but could also be a litmus for the country's powerful military, that has opted to stay out of politics.
In a country where the military has ruled for half of its history, the outgoing government, led by the Pakistan Peoples Party of President Asif Ali Zardari is the first to survive a full five-year term and hand over power to a democratically elected successor, a report in the Wall Street Journal has said.
According to the report, the PPP Government survived because it allowed generals to have a say in Pakistan's foreign policy and security issues. But according to the report, the next government is unlikely to be as pliant.
The Pakistan Muslim League of Nawaz Sharif, a former prime minister ousted in the latest coup, in 1999-is leading in the opinion polls. Sharif has repeatedly said that should he become prime minister again, he would ensure that the military knows its rightful place: implementing the civilian government's decisions.
Adding to the potential for conflict with the military, Army Chief General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani's term ends this year. The army chief is likely to be compelled to reassert the army's traditional authority, according to Western diplomats.
According to retired Maj. Gen. Mahmud Durrani, who served as national-security adviser in the PPP government, the military has taken a back seat, and the judiciary has taken the front seat in this election.