Pakistan. Pakistan celebrated 60 years as a country near collapse. The year was marked by extremist violence and political chaos.
Protests erupted across the country since President Pervez Musharraf dismissed Supreme Court President Iftikhar Chaudhry in March after accusations of unspecified abuse of office. Assessors likely found that Musharraf, before the presidential election to be held towards the end of the year, wanted to get rid of the chief judge, who made himself known as a critical reviewer of the state’s actions and defenders of human rights. Musharraf’s supposed plans to allow the incumbent, loyal parliament to re-elect him and only then announce new elections to the presidential post, as well as to be re-elected without first leaving the post of defense chief, were expected to lead to complicated legal trips.
According to CountryAAH, Islamabad is the capital city of Pakistan. Chaudhry’s campaign journeys around the country in protest of the sacking made him something of a madman figure for the opposition, whose chief leader was on the run. In July, he was reinstated by his court colleagues; a tough political blow for Musharraf.
Another difficult crisis for the president took shape a few blocks from the government offices in Islamabad. In the Red Mosque, Lal Masjid, thousands of mainly young followers of the extreme mosque leader Abdul Aziz entrenched themselves. With demands for the introduction of Islamic law, Sharia, kidnapped or abused the people they considered behaved immoral. A female minister was threatened with life. In July, the army besieged the mosque, turned off the electricity and water supply and prevented food supplies from entering the area. Abdul Aziz was arrested as he tried to escape with the hundreds of youths who took advantage of the offer to capitulate. When, after a week, the army stormed the mosque, some 70 people were killed.
The storming of the Red Mosque triggered a wave of suicide attacks against military and state targets. In the clan-controlled area of North Waziristan, the local militia canceled a ten-month-old peace agreement with the army. Hard fighting erupted there, as in other clan-controlled areas along the border with Afghanistan. In the fall, political violence, including a large number of suicide attacks, was estimated to have claimed over 800 lives.
Former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif returned in September after seven years of exile. He was deposed by Musharraf in a coup in 1999. However, he was deported after only a few hours. At the same time, the second former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto was reported to negotiate with Musharraf on some sort of power-sharing after the upcoming elections. The Supreme Court gave Musharraf the go-ahead to run for re-election, and he appeased the opposition by appointing another general to his successor as military chief at an undetermined time. He then won by a large margin in the elections, which were decided by Parliament and the four provincial assemblies. However, the Supreme Court did not want to approve the election until a number of appeals had been examined.
After being pardoned by corruption charges, Benazir Bhutto returned from her country escape in October. During a triumphant cortege through Karachi, she was subjected to an attempted murder. She escaped unharmed but 139 people were killed in two explosions near her vehicle.
On November 3, President Musharraf announced a state of emergency. He justified it with the increasing extremist violence and with the judiciary’s complicating the fight against terrorists. The constitution was repealed and most members of the Supreme Court, including Iftikhar Chaudhry, were replaced. A large number of lawyers and human rights activists were arrested. A new, provisional government led by the Senate President was appointed. The new HD judges approved both the presidential election and the state of emergency, while the Commonwealth excluded Pakistan. Prior to the repeal of the exception laws on December 15, Musharraf made amendments to the Constitution which stated that everything he did during the six weeks was legal and could not be questioned by any judicial or political body. He then left the post of Defense Chief.
In November, Nawaz Sharif was allowed to return and the electoral movement started, despite the fact that the leading opposition parties were biased to stand. On December 27, the whole world was shaken when Benazir Bhutto was killed in connection with an election in the garrison city of Rawalpindi. Most of it indicated that she was taken care of by a man who then triggered an explosive charge that killed another 20 people. The murder led to severe unrest and deepened the country’s difficult crisis. The PPP quickly appointed Bhutto’s 19-year-old son Bilawal and her husband Asif Ali Zardari to jointly lead the party and demanded that the election be carried out programmatically. However, the situation in the country was so tense that it was not yet clear on New Year’s Eve what would happen.
In the Swat Valley in northern Pakistan, battles between a Taliban-like militia and the army were fought during the fall. A radical mob called on radio broadcasts to holy war against the state and his followers took control of a number of major places. Only in December did the army claim that it was overcome with extremists after fighting that claimed up to 300 lives. However, the leaders of the uprising managed to get away.