Countryaah.com, Pakistan was in deep crisis in 1996. In
Karachi, the country's financial center, the unrest between
security forces and immigrants from India, the so-called Muhajirs, continued. Almost 200 people were killed by bomb
attacks in the Punjab province, without a single assailant
being arrested. Extremist Shia and Sunni Muslims performed
massacres on one another, and common crime with violent
incidents increased greatly. The country's economy was
disastrous. In the February budget, the government greatly
increased VAT to reduce the deficit and prompt the
International Monetary Fund to resume the payments of a $
600 million loan frozen in 1995. The government needed to
withdraw an additional $ 1 billion in a short time. The tax
hikes triggered strikes across the country and bloody
crowds. New tax increases came when the budget was revised
in October, then the currency, the rupee, was devalued by
8%. The intention was to speed up exports to strengthen the
dangerously low foreign exchange reserves. However, the tax
increases caused a large part of industrial production to
Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto clashed with President
Farooq Leghari over the right to appoint high judges and was
rebuked by the Supreme Court for his attempts to limit the
independence of the judiciary. Bhutto also challenged public
opinion in July by appointing his husband, businessman Asif
Ali Zardari, as investment minister. He had a reputation for
being extremely corrupt and improperly involved in several
large state business.
A severe crisis for Bhutto was also the September
assassination of her brother Murtaza. He had broken up with
his sister and countered her politically. Suspicions were
directed at the Prime Minister's circle, and in December
Asif Ali Zardari was indicted for the murder.
In early November, President Bhutto resigned. Parliament
was dissolved and new elections were announced until
February 3, 1997. The President motivated the dismissal by
the government's inability to cope with the crimes of
violence, violations of human rights, corruption and
slanderous policies and contempt for the justice system.
Former President of Parliament, 80-year-old Meraj Khalid,
was appointed to lead a neutral interim government. Bhutto
vainly appealed the dismissal to the Supreme Court.
In January 2006, 18 civilian Pakistanis were killed as
the United States bombed a tribal area near the Afghanistan
border. The attack was reportedly targeted at No. 2 in
al-Qaeda, Ayman al-Zawahiri, which, however, was not in the
In February, the country - like the rest of the Muslim
world - was characterized by extensive demonstrations aimed
at Denmark, which a few months earlier had launched an
anti-Muslim campaign, cited by the daily newspaper
Jyllandsposten. The Danish embassy in Islamabad was
temporarily closed and the Pakistani ambassador to Denmark
called home for consultations.
In March, US President George W. Bush visited Islamabad,
taking the opportunity to commend military dictator
Musharraf for his "bold decision" to join the "war on
terror," and at the same time praised the US and Pakistan's
"strategic cooperation" in this fight. A few days earlier, a
suicide bomber in Karachi had killed a North American
diplomat and 3 Pakistanis.
In April, an attack on a Sunni Muslim ceremony in Karachi
cost at least 57 lives. In February, an attack on a Shiite
procession in Hangu in the northeast of the country had cost
Perez Musharraf admitted in September 2006 that in
October 2001, the United States threatened the country with
annihilation if it did not support the US attack on
Afghanistan. In previous years, Pakistan had been the
architects behind the installation of the Taliban ruled in
Afghanistan, and it was precisely this rule the US now
wanted to remove. Hence the cash threats to Pakistan. The
country did not want to go out with the superpower,
therefore severed ties with the Taliban and supported the
United States in the attack on Afghanistan.
The US government declared in August 2007 that the
superpower "would not hesitate to bomb Pakistan if it
received intelligence that members of al-Qaeda or the
Taliban were staying there". At the same time, the
government declared itself incomprehensible to Islamabad as
opposed to North American bombing of Pakistan.
In 2007, military dictator Musharraf sought to give the
country a more democratic facade by allowing parliamentary
elections. In September, Musharraf's political opponent,
Nawaz Sharif, returned to Pakistan after eight years of
exile. However, he was detained by the authorities at the
airport and subsequently chose to return to his exile.
However, the following month Benazir Bhutto of the PPP was
allowed to return from his exile. Already during her drive
from the airport to the center of Karachi, her convoy was
hit by a suicide bomber that killed 139 and wounded 450.
Bhutto himself was not hit. On December 27, however, she was
caught dead when a new suicide bomber struck in Rawalpindi.
In addition to Bhutto himself, 23 others were killed.
Musharraf and the US immediately blamed al-Qaeda's
assassination, but Musharraf's own - and particularly active
- military intelligence had a far greater interest in
getting Musharraf's worst political opponent out of the way.
The murder was unresolved.
The attack threw the country into political crisis.
Parliamentary elections were scheduled to be held on January
8, 2008. This was postponed for 1 month. The February
election was won big by Bhutto's PPP, who got 30.6% of the
vote and 121 seats in parliament. It was followed by
Pakistan Muslim League (N) which got 19.6% of the vote and
91 seats. Musharraf's main support party, Pakistan Muslim
League (Q) had to settle for 23.0% and 54 seats. An alliance
of PPP, PML (Q) and a number of smaller parties agreed to
elect PPP Vice-President Yousaf Raza Gillani as prime
minister, and this was put in the post in March. In August,
Parliament decided to sue Musharraf for a state court.
Everything pointed to the fact that the United States' close
allies were advancing their political and military careers.
Musharraf resigned 10 days later, after the United States
had slapped the hand of its former ally. US overall policy
towards the country is guided by the desire to prevent
Pakistan's "bomb" from falling into the wrong hands. For
some periods this function is best fulfilled by a military
dictatorship (1999-2008). In others, it is best fulfilled by
parliamentary democracy. Musharraf's resignation was met
with cheering scenes across the country. In the subsequent
presidential election, Asif Ali Zardari of the PPP won a
landslide victory and was deployed to the presidential post