In March 2009, growing demonstrations led Zardari to agree to restore the chief justice to office; the government also subsequently announced it would appeal the banning of Sharif and his brother from politics. The supreme court overturned the ban in May, and in July it ruled that Musharraf’s emergency rule had been unconstitutional and illegal. In April, the government received pledges of .2 billion in foreign aid (over two years) to help finance social programs.
As government forces moved to restore control over areas near Swat, the situation in Swat deteriorated, and in May the military mounted a major offensive against the militants there. In subsequent weeks Islamic militants in response mounted a number of suicide bomb attacks in Pakistani cities, and fighting also intensified in S and N Waziristan and other areas.
Some 2 million people were displaced by the fighting. The fighting in Swat was declared largely over by late July and by September four fifths of the residents had returned to Swat. Militant attacks continued in Pakistani cities, however, and in Oct., 2009, the military launched a major offensive against militants based in S Waziristan; after some two weeks of fighting militants largely pulled back, ceding most of their main bases to the military by mid-November. In Mar., 2010, an offensive was launched in Orakzai agency in the Tribal Areas, against militants believed to have fled there from S Waziristan; some 200,000 people were displaced by the fighting.
Fighting continued also in Bajaur and other parts of the Tribal Areas. In Dec., 2009, the supreme court ruled illegal a 2007 Musharraf decree that had declared an amnesty on corruption cases. Benazir Bhutto and the PPP had sought the amnesty in order to end prosecutions begun under Prime Minister Sharif that they asserted were politically motivated, but some 8,000 government officials, politicians, and others were ultimately absolved by the decree.
The court also called for any case that was derailed by the decree to be reopened. Pakistan and India resumed talks in Feb., 2010; it was the first meeting since the 2008 Mumbai attacks, and agreed a year later to restart formal peace talks. In Apr., 2010, Pakistan adopted constitutional changes that reduced the powers of the president and increased those of the prime minister and parliament, making the president a largely ceremonial head of state; the powers of the provinces were also increased, and the North-West Frontier Province was renamed Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.
Beginning in late July, the monsoon season resulted in devastating floods of unprecedented proportions along the Indus and its tributaries that impacted, to a greater or lesser degree, all of the country’s provinces and submerged roughly one fifth of its land area. Some 20 million people, the vast majority of them farmers, were affected by the floods, which continued in some areas through September. Some 1,800 died, and the damage was estimated at .7 billion.
Zadari, who left the country during the crisis, was increasingly unpopular as a result, and the scale of the disaster overwhelmed the government’s ability to respond. Pakistan’s government, which was in financial difficulties before the floods, was faced with estimated rebuilding and recovery costs of billion. By December the financial difficulties threatened the government when the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) withdrew from the governing coalition over an impending fuel price increase.
Prime Minister Gilani was forced to roll back the increase in early January in order to regain MQM’s support, and a sales tax overhaul—a condition imposed by the IMF for the release of additional loans—was postponed. The first week of January also saw the assassination of the governor of Punjab because of his support for reforms to Pakistan’s blasphemy laws; in March the minorities minister was similarly killed. In May, 2011, Osama bin Laden, who was in hiding in Abbottabad, Pakistan, was killed there by U.S. commandos, leading to tense relations between Pakistan and the United States; in July the U.S. government announced significant cuts in U.S. aid to Pakistan.
In Sept., 2011, severe monsoon flooding again hit the country, mainly in Sind. Relations with the United States were further strained in November after U.S. forces, under unclear circumstances during nighttime operations, launched deadly air attacks on Pakistani forces by the Afghanistan border.
In early 2012 the Pakistani supreme court sought to force the prime minister to ask Swiss officials to reopen a corruption case against President Zadari; the case was among those affected by the 2007 amnesty that the court overturned in 2009. Prime Minister Gilani refused, arguing that the president had immunity, leading the court to convict Gilani of contempt in Apr., 2012. The court then disqualified Gilani as a member of parliament and prime minister in June. Raja Pervez Ashraf, the minister for water and power and a PPP member, subsequently succeeded Gilani as prime minister; Ashraf subsequently also refused to ask the Swiss to reopen the Zadari corruption case.
Ashraf’s arrest, on corruption charges relating to his previous post, was ordered by the supreme court in Jan., 2013, but anticorruption officials called the charges questionable and refused to arrest him.
May 11, 2003, saw historic elections in Pakistan. Despite the violence in the run-up to the elections, which saw regular bomb blasts and the kidnapping of the son of a former prime minister, May 11 votes marked the first time the country has transitioned from one democratically elected government to another. Former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif is expected to be the new prime minister, based on preliminary results.
KEY EVENTS IN PAKISTAN’S POLITICAL HISTORY
-Aug. 14, 1947: Pakistan is founded when British rule over the region ends and the Asian subcontinent is partitioned into Islamic Pakistan, divided into East and West, and predominantly Hindu India.
-Sept. 11, 1948: Pakistan founder Muhammad Ali Jinnah dies.
-Oct. 16, 1951: Pakistan’s first prime minister, Liaquat Ali Khan, assassinated in gun attack, triggering political instability.
-Oct. 27, 1958: Pakistani army chief Mohammed Ayub Khan seizes power.
-March 25, 1969: After months of opposition rioting in West and East Pakistan, Mohammed Ayub Khan hands over power to army chief Gen. Yahya Khan.
-Dec. 7, 1970: East Pakistan-based Awami League wins general elections. In response, Yahya Khan suspends the government, triggering widespread rioting in East Pakistan. Civil war breaks out in the wake of army action.
-Dec. 16, 1971: Pakistan troops surrender in East Pakistan after India’s intervention in the civil war. East Pakistan becomes independent Bangladesh.
-Dec. 20, 1971: Yahya Khan resigns, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto becomes president. A parliamentary system of government is adopted later, and Bhutto becomes prime minister.
-July 5, 1977: Pakistani army chief Gen. Mohammed Zia ul-Haq seizes power.
– April 4, 1979: Bhutto hanged after Supreme Court upholds his death sentence on charges of conspiracy to murder and Zia rejects his mercy petition.
-Aug. 17, 1988: Zia dies in a mysterious plane crash.
-December 2, 1988: Bhutto’s daughter Benazir becomes Pakistan’s first woman prime minister.
-Aug. 6, 1990: Ms. Bhutto’s government dismissed amid charges of corruption and mismanagement.
– Nov. 1, 1990: Nawaz Sharif becomes prime minister following election.
-April 18, 1993: President Ghulam Ishaq Khan dismisses Sharif’s government on corruption charges but the Supreme Court revokes the order and reinstates Sharif.
-July 18, 1993: Due to serious differences between President Khan and Prime Minister Sharif, then-army chief Gen. Waheed Kakar forces both to resign.