Pakistan is a country located in South Asia, with an area of 881,913 square kilometers and a population of over 220 million people. The official language is Urdu, but English, Punjabi, Sindhi, Pashto and Balochi are also spoken. Islam is the main religion in Pakistan with 96% of the population adhering to it. The currency used is the Pakistani Rupee (PKR). The capital city is Islamabad, and other major cities include Lahore and Karachi. Agriculture plays an important role in Pakistan’s economy; cotton and wheat are among its most important crops. Manufacturing and services also contribute to the economy.
According to homosociety, Pakistan has a rich cultural heritage that can be seen through its traditional music, dance styles, art forms such as truck art and miniatures paintings as well as unique architectural styles like Mughal-era monuments.
Pakistan is known for its hospitality; visitors are often greeted with a warm welcome and generous hospitality. For those looking for adventure, there are plenty of activities to enjoy such as trekking through the northern mountains or exploring the coastlines of Sindh and Balochistan by boat. Pakistan also has a vibrant nightlife in its cities and some of the most beautiful natural landscapes in the world, including lush green valleys, snow-capped mountains, and vast deserts. Whether you’re looking to experience traditional culture or explore nature’s wonders, Pakistan has something for everyone.
The areas of the Indian subcontinent gathered in the state of Pakistan have their individual history long before Islam. Excavations at Kot Diji east of Indus, not far from Mohenjo-Daro, and at Amri a little further south show traces of a Bronze Age culture from about 3300 BCE. Findings from Baluchistan and from the Soan Valley near Rawalpindi, the twin city of Islamabad, go back much further. The remnants of such early cultures emerged in the 4th millennium Indus culture, which extended far beyond the borders of present-day Pakistan. The centers were Harappa and Mohenjo-Daro in Punjab and Sindh provinces respectively.
The culture reached its peak around 2300 BCE. Why it ruined approx. 1800 BCE is disputed. Climate change, new rivers and attacks by invaders from the west have been given as an explanation. In any case, the history of both Punjab and Sindh is virtually unknown in the following thousand years. A new culture emerged further east, in Gangessletta, where Aryan immigrants had settled and Brahmanism was already developing. See abbreviationfinder for geography, history, society, politics, and economy of Pakistan.
Iranian, Buddhist and Hindu realms
Sindh again came to light when the Persian king Dareios Hystaspes in 519/518 BCE. annexed site. Iranian influence also prevailed in the Gandhara area in the northwest. Parts of Punjab and Sindh were administered as a Persian satrapi (province). In 327 BCE. Alexander the Great marched over Hindukush. His conquests led to the area being influenced by Hellenistic culture for a period of time. It was later conquered by the Maurya kings from Magadha, and thus came under Indian supremacy. Numerous stupa, statues and reliefs in both Sindh and Gandhara district show that Ashoka’s attempt to spread Buddhism was not in vain.
- COUNTRYAAH.COM: Provides latest population data about Pakistan. Lists by Year from 1950 to 2020. Also includes major cities by population.
In the 100th century BCE. moved Hellenistic princes from Bactria into the northwest. The Maurya Empire collapsed in 184 BCE. How far down in Pakistan the Greek-Bakrit kingdom stretched is unknown. Menander (155-130 BCE) ruled from the Kabul Valley over Swat and Gandhara, where Buddhist art occupied Greek elements. When no coins have been found in Sindh, it indicates that this part of Pakistan was beyond Greek-Baktric influence.
The time around the beginning of our timescale is marked by waves of immigration from Central Asia. In 139 BCE reached Iranian-speaking shooters Indus Valley over Bactria and Seistan. About. 100 BCE came an Iranian business tribe led by Maues. In 78 AD, the so-called Yüeh-chi or Kushanas reached Sindh. Kanishka’s capital Parashapura was located at Peshawar, near the border with today’s Afghanistan. During the Gupta dynasty (320–540), Indian influence once again prevailed similarly to Chenab and lower Indus. A new situation arose in the 400s when the Heftalites, or the White Huns, settled in Sialkot, near today’s Lahore. From the following centuries little is left. Sindh was a time Sasanidic province. Later, a Buddhist dynasty, the Rai Dynasty, reigned in the Indus Valley.
The first Muslims came to Sindh already under the caliph Omar (634–644). In 711/712, an Arab army, led by 17-year-old Muhammad ibn al-Qasim, conquered the lower part of the Indus Valley. Sindh became a cultural center with good relations with Baghdad where the Abbasids ruled. Late in the 800s, Shi’ites got stuck in Multan. More extensive Islamization first took place during the Mahmud of Ghazni (death 1030). He was a Sunni Muslim, and unlike the Muslims in Sindh, he fought hard against the Hindus. By his death, Lahore became the capital and a center where Islamic culture flourished. Only during Muhammad of Ghor was the capital moved to Delhi (1198). During later dynasties such as the Khalji Sultanate (1290–1320), the Tughluq Dynasty (1320–1413), the Sayyid rulers (1414–51), the Lodi dynasty (1451–1526) and the Mogul emperors (1526–1857),
British India had about 100 million Muslims in its population. The demand to separate the predominantly Muslim areas as their own state was raised in 1938 by the Muslim League, led by Muhammad Ali Jinnah. In 1946, unsuccessful attempts were made to compromise autonomy for the Muslim territories. Pakistan was proclaimed its own state on August 15, 1947 with the status of so-called dominion within the British Commonwealth. Jinnah, the dominant leader, became the country’s first governor, but died as early as 1948. The first period of independent Pakistan’s history was marked by the mass riots in the partition of Punjab and Bengal as hundreds of thousands of lives were lost during clashes between Muslims and Hindus. There were also disputes with India over the state of Kashmir,
A fundamental problem for Pakistan was that the country consisted of two distinct parts, East Pakistan and West Pakistan. They were located on either side of India, about 1,500 km apart, and were only linked by common religious ties, without any geographical, economic or ethnic affiliation. Nearly 60 percent of the population lived in East Pakistan, but the political and military power was concentrated in the west. From the outset, Pakistan had great difficulties in establishing a viable political system. Political disputes and corruption hindered stable development. In 1956, Pakistan achieved the same full status as India in the Commonwealth. Two years later, the civilian government was replaced by a military dictatorship under Field Marshal Ayub Khan, who remained in power for eleven years.
Gradually, East Pakistani demands for increased self-government. The leading political leaders in eastern Pakistan came into conflict with the president in 1966 and were arrested, accused of conspiracy. Also in the west, unrest increased, and in 1969, eight opposition parties joined forces in a bloc, led by radical politician Zulfikar Ali Bhutto. Ayub Khan handed over the power to the commander of the army, General Yahya Khan. The first real elections to the National Assembly in Pakistan were held in 1970. In East Pakistan, the election was a big victory for self-goers with Mujibur Rahman in the lead, while Bhutto’s Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) triumphed in the west. The attempts to establish a coalition government between the two parties failed. On March 26, 1971, Rahman proclaimed East Pakistan as an independent state under the name of Bangladesh. A bloody civil war broke out, Bangladesh (history).
Yahya Khan resigned after the defeat and Bhutto took over as Pakistan’s first civilian leader in 14 years. Bhutto began his presidency with radical reforms, including the nationalization of banks and parts of the industry. Pakistan was granted a federal constitution in 1973, and Bhutto now became prime minister. The liberation of Bangladesh encouraged separatist forces also in the west. A 1973 uprising in Baluchistan was overthrown by the Bhutto government with heavy casualties.
In 1977, parliamentary elections were held. An election alliance of opposition parties accused Bhutto of electoral fraud and organized a disobedience campaign. For months, there was widespread political violence, and the unrest helped the commander of the army, General Muhammad Zia ul-Haq, seize power. Bhutto was tried, charged with participating in the murder of a political opponent, sentenced to death and executed in April 1979. In May of that year, all political activity was banned, and in May 1980 the state of emergency was declared.
Zia began a marked Islamization of the country. The Qur’an’s law, sharia, was reinstated, with severe penalties for violating religious injunctions. This sharpened the contradictions between the dominant Sunni Muslims and the Shi’ite minority, who fear that Sunnis’ interpretation of Sharia would lead to Shi’ite doctrine being declared non-Muslim. Members of religious minorities, such as the Ahmadiyya sect, were jailed for heresy, in some cases also condemned to death.
Zia, who had become president with close dictatorial powers in 1978, was renewed for five years by a referendum in 1984. At the 1985 parliamentary elections, only individual candidates could take part, not the parties. The state of emergency was abolished in 1986 and political activity allowed to a limited extent. Bhutto’s daughter Benazir, who had followed his father as leader of the PPP, returned from exile and was received with enthusiasm. In 1988, Zia died in a plane crash under mysterious circumstances. At the election that year, Benazir Bhutto defeated and became the first female head of government in a Muslim country. However, she was deposed by President Ghulam Ishaq Khan in August 1990, allegedly after corruption and abuse of power. Bhutto lost the election that year, and Muhammad Nawaz Sharif, a central politician in Punjab,
In the period 1988-99, in practice, Pakistan was ruled by a troika consisting of the Prime Minister, the President and the commander of the army. Stability depended on the balance of these three powers’ interests. In the 1990s, Pakistani politics was characterized by the contradictions between Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif as well as three main issues: Islamization, a constitutional provision that gave the president almost dictatorial powers and bloody factions in Sindh province.
Especially in the country’s largest city, Karachi, there were bloody confrontations between Indo-speaking immigrants from India, the Mohajirs, and the central government security forces. In the years 1992-97, the violence in Karachi cost about 4,500 lives. The turmoil also damaged Pakistan’s exports as operations in the country’s main port were regularly disrupted. The violence partially coincided with the rise of the Mohajir Party MQM (Mohajir Qaumi Movement, since 1997 Muttahida Qaumi Movement). The Mohajirs, who moved here from India in the late 1940s, dominate Sindh’s big cities and live in constant conflict with ethnic Sindis.
After fierce political strife, in July 1993, Nawaz Sharif was also deposed by President Khan, on the same grounds as Benazir Bhutto’s deposition three years earlier. In a new election that year, Bhutto triumphed tremendously and returned as prime minister. Bhutto strengthened its position by electing one of her closest associates, Farooq Ahmed Leghari, in November. In Bhutto’s second prime ministerial term, she, and especially her husband, Asif Zardari, met with new criticism of corruption and abuse of power. In November 1996, she was deposed for the second time, this time by President Leghari, her old political supporter. In a new election in February 1997, Bhutto suffered his biggest defeat so far. With a solid majority in the back, Nawaz Sharif could begin his second term of office to remove the disputed constitutional provision that authorized the president to oust the prime minister. By constitutional amendments, he gained greater power than any former civilian leader.
In October 1999, Pakistan’s Chief of Defense Pervez Musharraf and a group of other senior officers seized power at Pakistan’s third military coup. Prime Minister Sharif was overthrown. The reason was that Sharif had tried to give Musharraf the kick before the coup. When the general was on his way back after an official visit to Sri Lanka, Sharif refused to fly his plane to Pakistan. As the plane circled over Karachi, almost empty of fuel, military took control of the airport so that the aircraft, which also had 200 civilian passengers, could land. In April 2000, Sharif was sentenced to life in prison for hijacking and attempted murder; later he also received a sentence of 14 years for corruption. After mediation between Pakistani and Saudi authorities, he was pardoned and exiled to Saudi Arabia.
During three years of military rule, 1999-2002, Islamic extremist groups grew stronger. The Islamists could hold mass meetings under the guise of religious or solidarity with the Afghan people, while the political parties were forced into silence. In 2001, Musharraf appointed himself President, while retaining the position of Chief of Defense. After the October 2002 parliamentary elections, power formally reverted to elected civilian politicians. However, Musharraf still maintained a firm grip on power, including securing more far-reaching powers of presidential office. Parliament and the government were dominated by politicians who were close to Musharraf.
Ahead of the 2002 election, military-friendly politicians formed the Pakistan Muslim League Quaid-i-Azam (PML-Q), which triumphed with 118 seats. Several Islamist parties, some with close ties to the Taliban, joined the MMA (Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal)). With 60 seats, MMA became the country’s third largest party. Previously, religious parties had never had much support, but now the anti-American Islamic Alliance took control of the local government in the two provinces bordering Afghanistan, the Northwest Province and Baluchistan. In the former province, the Islamic Sharia law was introduced in 2003. The two traditional major parties were also allowed to stand for election, but with their leaders in exile. Benazir Bhutto’s PPP and Nawaz Sharif’s old PML secured 81 and 21 seats respectively. 22 percent of the representatives in the newly elected parliament were women; the proportion of women in the provincial assemblies was 30 percent.
By a special agreement with the MMA, Musharraf secured a constitutional amendment that allowed him to continue as head of state until 2007, when presidential elections were to be held. A promise by the president to resign from his military position as defense chief in 2005 was broken.
After the terrorist attack in the United States on September 11, 2001, Musharraf was forced into a drastic political course change. He succumbed to pressure from the United States, which demanded support in the war on terror, including the use of Pakistani airspace and two airbases in the Americans’ fight against al-Qaeda and the Taliban. Musharraf achieved substantial financial compensation for Pakistan, but his remission for the United States provoked strong reactions in large sections of the population. Leaders of militant Islamist organizations were jailed or detained. Following a bomb attack on India’s parliament in December 2001, he also intervened against Kashmiri separatists operating from Pakistani bases. The most extreme movements, involving both Pakistanis and volunteers from other Muslim countries, were banned. Restrictions were imposed on the thousands of religious schools, madrasas, which had been recruiting sites for the Taliban and other militant Islamists. Several domestic extremist movements were also banned, including Sunni Muslim Sipah-e-Sahaba and Shi’ite Muslim Tehrik-e-Jafria,who was held responsible for hundreds of murders during a multi-year intensified conflict between the two main Muslim communities. There have been many bomb attacks against the opposing party’s mosques, and also against Christian churches.
Rebellion in Baluchistan
Ethnic and nationalist unrest in the barren desert province of Baluchistan caught fire in 2005. Under extensive guerrillas and sabotages, Pakistan’s largest gas power plant was severely damaged. Explosion of gas pipelines and power transmission lines also led to a lack of electricity in Pakistani cities. Baluchistan is dominated by self-governing clans who have also previously opposed the central government in Islamabad. Baluchis make up less than four percent of Pakistan’s population, but a very significant part of the country’s natural resources can be found in Baluchistan; including copper, uranium, natural gas and potentially large oil deposits. The province accounts for over a third of the country’s energy production.
One of the foremost separatist leaders, Nawab Akbar Bugti, was killed in August 2005 during a bombing of his hiding place in the mountains. The clan leader’s palace was previously laid in gravel. This led to the formation of a new fighting organization, the Baluch Republican Army (BRA) with members mainly from the Bugti clan and with his grandson Brahamdagh Bugti as leader. Another prominent clan leader, Balach Marri, was killed in 2007. In spring 2008, the government again embarked on an offensive that resulted in tens of thousands of internal refugees from the Bugti region. After Musharraf’s resignation as president, the unrest quieted somewhat. A first attempt at peace talks was made in the fall of 2008, but also in 2009, continued tensions with occasional armed clashes were reported.
Earthquake disaster hits Kashmir
An earthquake of magnitude 7.6 on Richter’s scale ravaged the entire Pakistani-controlled part of Kashmir on October 8, 2005. The North West Province was also hit hard. One month after the strongest shake-up in South Asia of more than 100 years, the number of victims of deaths has risen to 87,500, while the number of homeless people has been reported at just over two million. Later, many succumbed to the severe winter climate at high altitude.
Musharraf under pressure
Increasing pressure from the United States for stronger efforts in the “war on terror” led Musharraf to a difficult balance. By alternating harsh and softer methods, he sought to counteract a growing religious radicalization. This led to confrontations with the Islamist six-party alliance MMA and other far-reaching groups, especially as the army expanded its operations against militant Islamists along the border with Afghanistan. Here, 80 people were killed in a plane attack on a Bajaur Quran school in October 2006. In a revenge campaign a few days later, 40 government soldiers were killed by a suicide bomber – the bloodiest attack against the Pakistani military in several years.
At the start of 2007, Pakistan stood at a crossroads. In religious circles and far into Musharraf’s own power apparatus, discontent grew over the alliance with the United States. Musharraf had not fulfilled the many promises of the 1999 coup for a more stable and democratic Pakistan. The Pakistan Muslim League (PML-Q) party, which Musharraf had piled on his feet before the 2002 elections, had served as a thin democratic facade.
The economy was back on track and could point to one of the strongest growth rates in Asia. But the distribution of value creation was extremely skewed, with widespread corruption and abuse of power. The judiciary worked on the premise of the rich. Attempts to decentralize power to the village level were counteracted by local, federal powers. Militant sects and movements, both political and religious, propelled the spiral of violence – with more and more suicide bombers. A bright spot has long been an outspoken press, but the freedom of expression has also been gradually tightened.
Against this background, the political temperature rose. In 2007, Musharraf came under even stronger cross-pressure – from the US and at home from militant Islamists as well as democracy advocates. The president was still the commander-in-chief and commander-in-chief of one of the world’s strongest armies, but still felt his position was threatened by, among other things, the judiciary which stated that Musharraf had violated several constitutional provisions. In March, Supreme Court Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry was deposed by Musharraf personally. This gave rise to a spontaneous, popular wave of protest. It quickly grew to become a mass movement against Musharraf’s increasingly authoritarian regime, led by the advocacy and middle-class activists.
The mosque battle in Islamabad
July 2007 was another crisis against the climax. For six months, militant Islamists had occupied the Red Mosque in Islamabad, challenging the authorities with demonstrative provocation, including hostage-taking. The rebellion was eventually fueled by massive military force: heavy artillery was deployed against fundamentalists in the central city of the capital. 109 were killed when the army stormed the Red Mosque. The battle of the mosque provoked resentment in Islamist circles; a wave of terror began to roll in earnest. By the end of the year, 700 had been killed in suicide attacks.
After the mosque battle, the so-called tribal belt at the border with Afghanistan was more and more frequently in the news. There were bloody confrontations between the Pakistani army and various Pakistani and Afghan Taliban militias, as well as fighters linked to al-Qaeda. The US put increasing pressure on Musharraf to make him hit harder in the border area. However, the army operated in a dual sense in a very difficult terrain.
Taliban retreat: Tribal belt
The Federally Administered Tribal Area (FATA) tribal area extends nearly 2,500 km along the border with Afghanistan, covering an area of 27,220 km². It is divided into seven districts, each with a dominant clan. The clans are strongly self-governing and have traditionally ruled themselves without outside interference – during the colonial period the British had to give up attempts to gain control over the fighting Pashtun tribes. Long-standing traditions were violated when the Pakistan Army moved in with large forces, for the first time in 2003, after Musharraf joined the United States in the “war on terror”.
About 100,000 soldiers from Pakistan’s 500,000-man standing army were eventually deployed in and just outside the tribal belt. In the period 2003–07, more than 1,000 Pakistani soldiers fell in battle against the fundamentalists here, according to the army’s own figures. Musharraf’s forces, however, came under criticism from the US and Afghanistan for only half-hearted efforts and relentless attempts to drive Pakistani and Afghan Taliban fighters out of the tribal area. The question was constantly raised: Is this where Osama bin Laden and his second-in-command al-Zahrawi are hiding?
Taliban Pakistani supporters have established in the tribal area their own Islamist emirate, almost a copy of the old Taliban regime in Afghanistan. Baitullah Mehsud, who lived in South Waziristan, led the Pakistani Taliban (Tehrik-e Taliban Pakistan, TTP) until he was killed in a drone strike in 2009. TTP is a relatively loosely linked coalition of dozens of different groups, formally established in December 2007. The Pakistani Taliban are mostly located in the tribal belt, but some of the subgroups have partners in other regions. In 2008–09, they took the leap out of the tribal belt to find new foothold among sympathizers in the Swat Valley and other districts. They thus became a major threat to the central government of Islamabad and Pakistan’s military headquarters in Rawalpindi, just outside the capital.
Obviously, fighting the Taliban in Afghanistan will be extremely problematic for the US and NATO as long as the guerrilla warriors can move relatively freely on Pakistan’s side of the border. Lack of control allows the Afghan Taliban to seek refuge in its many hiding places in the autonomous tribal belt, and from there, prepare for new advances across the border and into Afghanistan. Pakistani governments have been accused of belittling the presence of Afghan Taliban and al-Qaeda. Minister of the Interior Rehman Malik broke with this line in 2009, admitting that 10,000 foreign militants had been arrested in the tribal belt.
In July, Chaudhry was reinstated as Supreme Court leader after the charges against him were known groundless by the same court. The battle for the independence of the courts was apparently won. Democratic currents have now come to the surface in response to a long-standing military-dominated regime. The mood shift brought the old political parties back on track, especially after Musharraf opened for election in 2008.
Earlier in the year, the volatile Benazir Bhutto had resigned from the leadership position for a broad opposition alliance. After mediation by American diplomats, Bhutto and Musharraf, two political rivals, agreed to share power after the re-election. Assuming a reasonably good election result for her Pakistan People’s Party (PPP), Bhutto was to become prime minister for the third time. Musharraf was to serve as head of state for another five years. In return, he would renounce a number of serious corruption charges. These were the reasons why Bhutto went into exile eight years earlier.
In July, the Supreme Court also signaled that ex-prime minister Nawaz Sharif – another of Musharraf’s political enemies – could return from exile in Saudi Arabia. In October, Musharraf was re-elected president for another five years by parliament and provincial assemblies, but now the Supreme Court has set foot: Musharraf could not be considered re-elected until the Supreme Court had tried the validity of the election. Musharraf had been re-elected – without relinquishing the dual role of military commander. However, the Constitution does not allow the country’s president to wear a uniform. In November 2007, Musharraf made a drastic move: The state of emergency was proclaimed across the country. Justitiarius Chaudhry and other Supreme Court judges got fired again. At the same time, the president appointed new, cooperative judges – who, in return, gave him formal approval as legally elected president. With the presidential position well in port, Musharraf resigned as commander-in-chief on November 28, with General Ashfaq Kayani succeeding.
On October 18, Benazir Bhutto returned to his homeland after eight years in exile. She was received with ovations – and an extremely bloody suicide action. A bomb was blown during the welcome parade in Karachi’s hometown, 150 people were killed, hundreds more were injured. Bhutto barely escaped, unharmed. But then, December 27, 2007: Benazir Bhutto is about to leave an election meeting in armored car in Rawalpindi. A suicide bomber blew himself up in the air, allegedly after first firing shots with automatic weapons. Bhutto was mortally wounded and taken to hospital, but life was not saved.
Back stood a stunned and upset Pakistan. Violent riots spread over Bhutto’s home province of Sindh. Chaotic conditions also prevailed in other parts of the country. The suicide bomber took 20 others to death, but the riots in the days that followed cost even more lives. The protests were sparked against Musharraf’s rule. It had not given the opposition leader sufficient protection, it was claimed. The government blamed Baitullah Mehsud, the leader of the Pakistani Taliban.
Atomic arsenal in the danger zone?
It has long been common in international media to describe Pakistan as the world’s most dangerous country – with fierce political turbulence and a growing nuclear arsenal as a backdrop. In civil society, the influence of Islamists is growing, and terrorists are constantly chopping. Following the Bhutto killing, Pakistan responded with official protest to this comment from the Director of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), Mohammad ElBaradei: “I fear that chaos or an extremist regime will take root in the country, which has between 30 and 40 nuclear warheads. The fear that nuclear weapons could fall into the hands of extremist groups in Pakistan or Afghanistan is not entirely baseless. ”
The same concern was expressed in Washington and other Western capitals. Few things will be more unsafe for international peace and security than a nuclear-armed Taliban regime. A US research team concluded in the fall of 2007 that Pakistan lacks the most advanced control mechanisms for its nuclear arsenal – even though the United States had spent $ 100 million on technical security measures since 2002. Critical voices particularly highlighted the uncertainty surrounding the human factor: Taliban sympathizers have gained a foothold in the military for the past 30 years, and in particular within the powerful and self-serving military intelligence service, ISI.
In 2008, Pakistan’s nuclear weapons program reappeared in critical light. Disputed nuclear physicist Abdul Qadeer Khan, also called “Pakistani nuclear bomb father”, was released from house arrest. Khan had by then withdrawn the confession he made in 2004 about smuggling nuclear technology into Libya and Iran. He now also refused to have North Korea enriched uranium enrichment technology. The North Koreans had already developed a method of enriching uranium for use in nuclear weapons on their own, now reads Khan’s new explanation. The release of Khan created new doubts internationally about Pakistan’s credibility as a nuclear weapons force.
Succession of the Bhutto Dynasty
The aftermath of the Bhutto killing echoed the contradictions in a nation that was once plagued by internal unrest and tensions, ethnic and regional. All at once, much was turned into the political landscape. The plan for a key role for Benazir Bhutto in the transition from authoritarian presidential rule to parliamentary democracy has now fallen away. The leadership of the PPP, the country’s largest political party, now followed the dynastic tradition of inheriting Bhutto’s closest: Her 19-year-old son, the politically inexperienced Oxford student Bilawal Bhutto Zardari. This was not surprising as PPP has been considered almost the Bhutto clan’s family enterprise. Bhutto’s anti-corruption widow, Asif Ali Zardari, was elected deputy leader of the party. For now, he will continue the dynastic legacy and lead the party as a kind of substitute,
Zardari is highly disputed in most circles, both as a politician and businessman. The backdrop is not least his allegedly corrupt practice when he was investment minister in Bhutto’s last prime ministerial term (1993-96). Zardari has often been accused of putting her political career into disrepute. After Bhutto’s recent political defeat, Zardari spent over eight years in prison/house arrest, without the corruption cases coming to an end in the court system.
From Musharraf to Zardari
The parliamentary election on February 18, 2008 was a major setback for Musharraf’s support party, PLM-Q. PPP became the clear winner of the election, along with former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s Pakistan Muslim League – Nawaz (PML-N) with 121 and 91 respectively out of a total of 343 seats in Parliament. The latter two have traditionally been arch-enemies, but now joined forces in a coalition government. Youosaf Raza Gilani from PPP became prime minister. For the first time, a woman, Fahmida Mirza, was elected president of parliament.
After nine years in power, Musharraf resigned from the presidency in August 2008, following massive political and popular pressure. The government had threatened with national law. The National Assembly and the provincial assemblies elected PPP leader Zardari as Pakistan’s new head of state. In advance, a Rawalpindi court had drawn the last of a total of eight corruption cases that Musharraf’s government had brought against Zardari. Corruption cases against Zardari in Switzerland, Spain and the UK were also closed. The coalition between the political counterpoints PPP and PML-N was called historic, but after a short time the collaboration broke down. Zardari and Sharif had as their only common goal to push Musharraf out. After only two months, Sharif resigned from the government after an open dispute over whether Supreme Court judges should be re-elected to office. The PPP-dominated government faced formidable challenges: How to find secular alternatives that were durable enough to stop a feared “Talibanization” of Pakistan? The state had failed to provide basic services such as schools, health services and legal security. The country would need a dynamic leadership that could challenge the federal power system at the village level and unleash the enormous potential of a population of 170 million inhabitants, of which a significant proportion of young people. Religiously, Pakistan was a hot spot with confrontations between liberals and extremists, and on the outside bloody sectarian violence between Shia and Sunni Muslims. The United States, and the West at large, demanded guarantees that Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal was adequately secured against falling into the hands of extremists.
Army’s political play
An interplay between civil and military power has characterized Pakistan for 60 years. The army is the country’s most powerful institution, a political and economic factor of the first rank. The military attracts far more of the national resources than any other state institution. At the same time, the military is a large and self-employed player in the business sector, which owns many industrial companies as well as one of the country’s largest banks. A multifaceted military-industrial complex with tens of billions of dollars in assets has traditionally provided good returns to an elite corps of officers. The army is aware of its privileges, and has traditionally supervised the government and government even during periods of civil, elected government. The military has ruled for a total of 33 years, while the civilians have had the government in 29. After the change of power in 2008, With the ensuing national crisis, a possible military intervention became a topic of discussion again. However, it would appear that for the first time since Pakistan was established as an independent state, both the presidential and parliamentary offices were allowed to conduct a five-year term in full, and in May 2013 new elections were held. At the same time, former President Musharraf – despite the Taliban killings – returned from four years in exile, mostly in the United Kingdom. And Musharraf’s intentions were clear enough; to be able to take part in the elections in May. However, he did not succeed in following up his intention; the judiciary had not forgotten the dispute with the former president and Musharraf was placed under house arrest for over the election. The election also mandated Nawaz Sharif to form government – for the third time. Referring to his health situation, Musharraf again and again made a lawsuit against him. In March 2016, the country’s Supreme Court lifted the ban on Musharraf, who soon after traveled to Dubai in the United Arab Emirates.
The Karzai government in Afghanistan had for years criticized the Musharraf regime for not doing enough to rein in the Taliban and al-Qaeda on the Pakistani side of the border. The criticism was further heightened after 41 people were killed when a car bomb partially ravaged India’s embassy in Kabul on July 7, 2008. Official Afghan spokesmen did not hesitate to accuse the Pakistani intelligence agency ISI of contributing to the crime. Even before, ISI has been accused of participating in terrorist attacks in Afghanistan. The same was true of the raid on Serena Hotel in Kabul on January 14, 2008, when Dagbladet’s journalist Carsten Thomassen was among the eight killed. Like almost a state in the state, the self-sufficient ISI has been playing its own game for decades. No government in Islamabad has ever had full control over the service, which is said to still have close contacts with far-flung Islamists. Pakistan, for its part, is concerned about India’s obviously increasing influence in Afghanistan.
War in the borderland of the Pashtun tribe
While Musharraf had lost his political and military power, the new regime embarked on a softer line towards militant Islamists. Instead of military power, the PPP-dominated government would try to engage in dialogue with Pakistani Taliban and other militant Islamist groups. Northwest Province (NWBP) authorities signed a peace deal with local Islamist leader Maulana Fazlullah. The number of suicide attacks in the country now showed a marked decline. At the same time, it was reported from the tribal area near Afghanistan about greatly increasing activity from both Pakistani and Afghan Taliban fighters. Following international pressure, the army deployed a major offensive in the border areas, killing about 1,000 insurgents, according to army announcements. Several villages suspected of hiding al-Qaeda and the Taliban are said to have been completely or partially destroyed.
However, the United States was not satisfied with the efforts of the Pakistani army, and occasionally struck on its own against targets in Pakistani territory, especially in South Waziristan. US special forces on commando were transported across the border with helicopters. The main weapon was driverless surveillance aircraft, so-called drones, equipped with rocket fire. The drone attacks triggered formal Pakistani protests, such as when eleven Pakistani soldiers were killed by US bombing in June 2008. More than formal protests, however, Pakistani authorities were unable to deliver, not even when a growing number of civilians were killed – which resulted anti-American attitudes in Pakistan to flare up again. According to official figures, there were 36 US drone strikes in 2008, and in subsequent years this type of warfare became even more common.
Swat – from tourist idyll to war zone
While the Taliban came under stronger pressure in the tribal belt, the rebels expanded the field of operations to new areas. Various Taliban groups now gained a stronger foothold in the Swat Valley, one of Pakistan’s natural pearls which are often called “Afghanistan’s Switzerland” and which until 2007 were visited by several thousand tourists annually. A hotel that has been popular with winter sports tourists was blown up and several girls’ schools burned. In the autumn of 2008 abductions, summary executions and new attacks against girls’ schools and video shops were reported. The Taliban settled and pushed aside local governing bodies in Swat and the greater Malakand district. The army deployed forces of 12,000-15,000 men. Obviously, they were unable to cope with the Taliban militant’s estimated 4,000 fighters. In February 2009, the government of the North-West Frontier Province signed a ceasefire agreement in Swat, and opened up for the rebels to apply strict sharia laws in the area. It aroused international dismay when it became clear that the Taliban – with the government’s approval – actually now made up most of the government in the Swat region with approx. two million inhabitants. Ordinary courts were closed and over 200 girls’ schools closed.
The Taliban was supposed to relinquish its weapons, but this condition was not fulfilled. On the contrary, the rebels were now trying to expand their field of operation in the region. It struck many as the Taliban militia moved into the Buner district, just 10 miles from the capital Islamabad. The army went in with great forces and forced the rebels out. However, it was clear that the Taliban was about to seize power in much of the Northwest province. In Washington, the ceasefire in Swat was referred to as a capitulation by the authorities. In May, the army struck with its largest operation to date, which also hit the civilian population in the Swat region hard as the military made extensive use of artillery and bombing from the air. This also applied to Mingora, the largest city in Swat with over 200,000 inhabitants. The downtown area was razed during bloody street battles. A massive humanitarian crisis was developing as the civilian population fled the war zone in Swat and neighboring districts. UNHCR registered over two and a half million internal refugees during May 2009. Of these, one and a half million sought refuge in makeshift emergency camps, after what was termed “one of the most massive refugee flows in recent years”.
On June 1, the army claimed largely to have regained control of Swat. More than 1,200 rebels and 75 soldiers from the army must have been killed. Civil losses were not stated. The United States pledged $ 110 million in relief. Prime Minister Gilani urged the world community on further relief measures. From mid-July, people eventually returned to Swat, although occasional struggles continued and conditions were considered unsafe. In September, the army captured Muslim Khan, the Taliban’s foremost spokesman in Swat. The other Taliban leadership in this region was still on the loose.
In June, the government embarked on a new offensive in the tribal area further south, particularly targeting South Waziristan. Foremost Taliban leader Baitullah Mehsud had this county as his strongest bastion. The United States supported the operation with its driverless drone aircraft. In August, 35-year-old Mehsud was killed in a drone attack on his father-in-law’s house in South Waziristan. His relative, Hakimullah Mehsud, was elected new leader of Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), the umbrella organization that brings together 13 different Taliban groupings in Pakistan. His main counterpart, Waliur Rehman, was given responsibility for TTP’s civil administration in the Waziristan region.
More suicide shareholders
In 2007–08, around 60 suicide bombers blasted themselves and others in Pakistan. The suicide attacks cost over 1,000 people their lives. Eight people, including a Danish citizen, were killed when the Danish embassy in Islamabad was blown up by a car bomb in June 2008 – an action that was set in connection with a new Danish publication of disputed Muhammad drawings. In September, 56 lost their lives when the Hotel Marriott in Islamabad was blown up by a car bomb. The terrorist campaign could have aimed to wipe out the entire country’s top leadership: Pakistan’s president, prime minister and high-ranking military should have been at the hotel, but the venue changed at the last minute.
The terrorist attacks continued in 2009. Eight people, including six policemen, were killed when terrorists attacked Sri Lanka’s cricket team in the Punjab province’s capital Lahore in March. Eight Sri Lankan cricket players and coaches were injured. In April, more than 40 policemen and others were killed as terrorists stormed a police college in Lahore, which has been considered the most peaceful of the country’s major cities. Several terrorist attacks followed in Lahore and other cities following threats from the Pakistani Taliban to strike anywhere in the country in revenge for the Swat defeat. The terror has caused many foreigners to escape Pakistan. Tourist traffic has stagnated.
New tension Pakistan – India
The bloodiest terror attack in the world in 2008 was targeted at Mumbai in India in November. 179 people were killed and hundreds more seriously injured in a coordinated campaign against several targets, including the famous hotel Taj Mahal. Among ten terrorists, only 21-year-old Ajmal Amir Kasab survived. He questioned that all ten were Pakistani citizens and belonged to the militant Islamist group Lashkar-e-Taiba. Preparations for the attack were made in the group’s training camp in Punjab.
Lashkar-e-Taiba has for many years operated as a guerrilla organization in Kashmir, but also carried out actions in the rest of India. The Mumbai terror may have been an attempt to sabotage a peace process that has since 2004 dampened the tension between Pakistan and India. Following the Mumbai attack, Pakistan withdrew troops from the border areas to Afghanistan and moved them to the border with India – although an estimated 80 percent of Pakistan’s military force was there. The US and NATO responded to this and urged Pakistan to use more of its force against the Taliban. The biggest threat to Pakistan today is hardly the traditional enemy of India, but the rebellion spreading within the country’s own borders, it sounds from the west. However, since 1948 the army has had as ingrained ideology to defend the country against the “Hindu threat”, and is trained with that goal. Many will feel that it is an ideological breach to fight the “US war” against their own Muslim compatriots.
Party political riots
While Pakistan seemed to become increasingly vulnerable during the growing uprising, the feuds between Pakistan’s top leaders continued. It was further spurred on when President Zardari trumpeted a Supreme Court ruling disqualifying opposition leader Nawaz Sharif and brother Shahbaz Sharif from all political positions. The reason was that the brothers were convicted of hijacking and attempted murder during the prelude to the Musharraf coup in 1999. The ruling forced Shahbaz Sharif to step down as chief of provincial government in the populous Punjab. The brothers’ retreat was to mobilize for battle in the so-called judicial battle, where Nawaz Sharif and Zardari had stood stiff against each other since the failed coalition government’s attempt to cooperate.
Many were upset that Zardari had failed to keep the promise of reinstating Supreme Court Justice Chaudhry and other judges given by Musharraf. Chaudhry had declared that he would make sure that all Musharraf’s decrees and additions to the constitution were repealed. Zardari now allegedly feared that the justice would also cancel a personal amnesty for corruption. On the other hand, Sharif saw an obvious advantage in getting Chaudhry back: Musharraf had changed the law so that no one could be prime minister for more than two periods. Sharif was twice prime minister in the 1990s, but his ambitions for a further term were evident. A mass pattern of Nawaz supporters defied the government’s demonstration ban, with subsequent street strikes against rebel police. The situation became explosive following Nawaz’s appeal to leave the house and march towards the capital and the presidential palace. At the last minute came the message which averted a threatening confrontation: Chaudhry had become justice again. Thus, Sharif took the last sting in the refereeing match. But in a situation where the Pakistani Taliban is gaining ground at the expense of state power, it was a concern in the West that time and effort go to party political riots. As a nuclear weapons force, Pakistan has a key role to play in regional and global security. it was of concern in the West that time and effort go to party political riots. As a nuclear weapons force, Pakistan has a key role to play in regional and global security. it was of concern in the West that time and effort go to party political riots. As a nuclear weapons force, Pakistan has a key role to play in regional and global security.
Obama’s new AfPak strategy
In March 2009, President Barack Obama presented an Afghanistan strategy, which also largely focuses on Pakistan. Afghanistan’s problems can only be solved by solving the problems in Pakistan, and vice versa, the reasoning reads. The fight against the Taliban and al-Qaeda in Afghanistan cannot succeed without the same extreme movements being suppressed in Pakistan as well. Movements that have bases and hiding places on the Pakistani side in hard-to-reach mountain areas bordering Afghanistan.
Conversely, the war in Afghanistan reinforces the same forces that want to overthrow the Pakistani government and introduce an Islamist dictatorship. In this way, Pakistan and Afghanistan are now viewed as two sides of the same issue on the American side. The problems in the two countries are so closely linked that the Obama administration mentions the conflict area under the collective term AfPak. In practice, an expanded US role in Pakistan, military and civil, is being proposed. The US will continue its attacks on Taliban targets in Pakistan, mainly with rocket fire from the unmanned drone aircraft. Nor is American commandoid excluded in the border areas which, according to Obama, is “the most dangerous place on earth”. The strategy is guided by Obama’s special envoy to Pakistan and Afghanistan, the renowned diplomat Richard Holbrooke. Obama had President Karzai and Zardari visit Washington in May 2009 and could then promise expanded aid, both civilian and military. Congress was asked for an additional $ 7.5 billion grant to Pakistan for the period 2009-14.
Pakistan’s economic development has been slowed by large budget deficits, primarily due to large expenditures (about one-third of the state budget) for the military. Tax collection is inefficient and only a small part of the population pays income tax.
The nationalization of the big industry and banks during Zulfikar Ali Bhutto’s reign (1973–77) was followed by deregulation and liberalization under Zia ul-Haq’s military regime and subsequent governments. Almost all restrictions on capital movements, banking establishments and private investments were lifted in the 1990s. The economy was still suffering from chronic deficits in the trade and operating balance abroad. The deficits have been partially covered by money transfers from Pakistanis living abroad. The international sanctions following the nuclear tests in 1998 became a heavy financial burden, and Pakistan was close to having to suspend the payment of repayments on foreign debt. The sanctions were lifted after Pakistan took the United States party in the “war on terror” from 2001. International aid increased.
With a comprehensive economic reform program launched by Musharraf at the turn of the millennium, Pakistan had a solid economic growth of approx. seven percent annually. The growth was primarily in areas close to the border with India in Punjab province, which holds the majority of the country’s well over 192 million inhabitants (2011). Other regions, such as Baluchistan and the tribal belt, on the other hand, had little growth. Poverty has been somewhat reduced since the turn of the millennium, but a strong increase in the population made the poverty struggle difficult. In 2008, an estimated one quarter of the population still lived on one dollar a day. About half were illiterate.
The positive trend reversed in 2008 when Pakistan came dangerously close to a financial collapse. This is due to a sharp decline in exports and rising inflation, primarily due to sharply rising prices in the world food and fuel markets. The currency was devalued. Foreign investors fled the country in apparent skepticism towards Zardari as the country’s new head of state. Foreign exchange reserves, which had been the largest ever in 2005, had shrunk in October 2008 to cover only six weeks of imports. Pakistan appealed in vain to strategic allies such as China, Saudi Arabia and the United States. A $ 3.8 billion crisis package from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) needed to save the country from bankruptcy. In April 2009, a group of 31 donor countries, known as the Friends of Pakistan, pledged $ 5.3 billion in additional aid over two years.
Faced with the IMF, the government had to commit itself to tightening fiscal policy to reduce inflation and the budget deficit. The IMF also wanted tax reform – only one percent of Pakistani citizens pay income tax. The government has cut its development budget, but rejects taxation on the country’s landowner elite, which dominates political life. Both the Zardari and Bhutto clans belong to this elite.
Corruption is a widespread problem in the private and public sectors and the country scores low on most social indicators, and there are major differences between the provinces and the living conditions of men and women. However, since the 1990s, Pakistan has advanced on a sub-index from a country of low “human development” to a country of “medium human development”.
Relations with Afghanistan have had an increasing impact on social, political and military conditions in Pakistan over the past few decades. While the Islamabad government has long practiced non-interference in border areas with Afghanistan, US authorities have been increasingly pushing for Pakistani military action against the activities of the Taliban and other resistance groups close to Afghanistan. The development has sharpened the authorities’ relationship with the Pakistani Taliban. When the latter killed 132 schoolchildren and several adults at a school in Peshawar in mid-December 2014, this was seen as a response to military projections in the border areas six months earlier. The Pakistani Taliban stood in the time that followed a series of terrorist attacks; Among the most serious was a suicide bombing against Christians who in March 2016 celebrated Easter in a family park in Lahore.