Pakistan. According to countryaah, Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani noted in early May that Pakistan was fighting for its survival as a nation. At that time, army associations had just been sent to the Swat Valley in the northwestern border province to fight the Taliban militia that had taken control of the area. At that point, it became clear to the government that it had made a devastating mistake when in February it bowed to the Taliban’s demand that Islamic Sharia law be applied in the area and thus effectively transferred responsibility for Swat to the fundamentalist militia.
Just two weeks after the Taliban guaranteed permanent ceasefire, the militia moved south, in the direction of the capital, Islamabad, some ten miles away. This obvious threat, and a video that showed how the Taliban in Swat perverted a 17-year-old girl who, judging by all things, is without any basis accused of a relationship with a married man, aroused a strong opinion against the Taliban and shook lives in the government. Yet, since mid-2007, Pakistan had been in a state of near-civil war against Islamist groups with links to the terror network al-Qaeda.
Also in 2009 was characterized by an uninterrupted wave of attacks on civilian and military targets. What was particularly troubling was that the Pashtunian Taliban groups in the North West appeared to have begun collaborating with Sunni extremists in Punjab and other areas, including groups mainly engaged in terrorist activities in Indian Kashmir. The fighting in Swat between the army and the Taliban in a short time triggered the most acute refugee crisis in the world. About 1.5 million civilians joined the roughly half a million refugees fighting in the area in 2008. The army began to gain some control over Swat in July and hundreds of thousands of refugees returned quickly.
However, sporadic fighting and assaults occurred during the rest of the year, and several of the local Taliban leaders remained at large. By contrast, the highest Pakistani Taliban leader Baitullah Mehsud was killed in a US rocket attack in August. After a period of power struggle, barely 30-year-old Hakimullah Mehsud emerged as the new leader of the Pakistani Taliban umbrella organization (Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan, TTP). The attacks continued with unabated force and demanded hundreds more deaths during the fall. The Taliban’s determination to fight against civil society appeared to have increased soon after the army launched a major offensive against the clan area of South Waziristan in October.
In August, the government presented a large political and social reform package for the clan-controlled areas with the ambition of incorporating them more closely into the Pakistani society. At the same time, it was decided that the so-called Northern Territories, areas that were part of Kashmir during colonial times, should be linked closer to the Pakistani state and, under the name Gilgit-Baltistan, be given a position similar to the other provinces. Among other things, a people-elected parliament would be appointed. Pakistan has not previously formally claimed these districts as a sign that the Kashmir issue is waiting for a solution.
A proposal for judicial, economic and administrative reform in the troubled province of Baluchistan was coolly received by local leaders, who first called for a halt to “disappearances” and military action. The terrorist threat helped create a need for national unification. Under pressure from the opposition in March, the government reinstated Iftikhar Chaudhry in the post of chairman of the Supreme Court. He had been dismissed by former military dictator Pervez Musharraf in 2007. HD then rescinded the judgments that banned former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and his brother Shahbaz from holding political office. Shahbaz Sharif was re-elected as head of government in Punjab province. Shortly thereafter, HD also tore up the verdict against Nawaz Sharif for aircraft hijacking – the charge that Musharraf took as revenue for the 1999 military coup. Thus, all obstacles were removed for Sharif’s return to national politics. HD Musharraf then decided to illegally declare a state of emergency in 2007, to dismiss the then HD judgments and to make additions to the constitution. A short time later, the police launched a preliminary investigation against Musharraf for possible charges. Even the amnesty law that Musharraf announced in 2007 was annulled by HD after the parliament’s refusal to extend the law’s validity. Thus, legal proceedings could be resumed against approximately 250 politicians and officials, including the Minister of the Interior. President Asif Ali Zardari retained his immunity through his position as head of state but formally handed over responsibility for the country’s nuclear weapons to the prime minister. However, demands were made on Zardari’s departure with reference to his being chosen on illegal grounds.
Despite the crisis, Pakistan remained an important ally of the United States in its fight against al-Qaeda. However, the new US government under President Barack Obama made quite different demands on cooperation than did George W. Bush. When the US adopted a five-year US $ 7.5 billion aid project in October, it did so with the proviso that Pakistan must tear down networks dedicated to the proliferation of nuclear weapons technology, discontinue all support for militant Islamists, ensure no US weapons go to the forces located along the border with India and enable the United States to control exactly where all military equipment provided by the country is headed. The strong US demands raised protests within Pakistan’s military leadership but were nevertheless approved by Parliament.