By Jonny Lupsha, Wondrium Staff Writer
The Pakistani government has faced extensive turmoil. Coups, countercoups, contested elections, and more have made its leadership anything but stable. Its recent monsoon seasons are exacerbated by climate change and unsteady rule.
From June to August each year, monsoon season batters Pakistan. The country’s struggle to prepare for the months of intense flooding often lead to criticisms of the government itself. The capital city of Karachi, for example, is one of the wealthiest areas of the country, providing it with 40% of the nation’s revenue. However, it’s also a city of crumbling roads that lie beneath rivers of dirty water while sewage flows into homes.
Part of the blame for Pakistan’s uneven leadership is its tumultuous recent history. In his video series A History of India, Dr. Michael H. Fisher, the Robert S. Danforth Professor of History at Oberlin College, describes the last 25 years of governmental strife the country has faced.
The Rise of Pervez Musharraf
India and Pakistan have a longstanding conflict with each other. In the spring of 1999, Pakistani forces hunkered down in Kargil, in Kashmir, to expand Pakistan’s claim in the area. They did so at the order of former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif—who at the time was serving his second non-consecutive term as prime minister. Indian forces fought off Pakistani troops, who withdrew.
“The head of the Pakistani Army, General Pervez Musharraf, blamed Nawaz Sharif for the failed attempt at Kargil and then the humiliating retreat,” Dr. Fisher said.
Sharif, of course, denied responsibility for the operation or its failure.
“To assert his authority, Nawaz Sharif dismissed General Musharraf, choosing a time when the general was flying back on a commercial flight from an international conference and denying his plane landing rights anywhere in Pakistan. The general ordered his plane to land anyway and organized a counter-coup to seize the airport and then the government.”
The army, which already had experience taking over the government, arrested Sharif and put him on trial. Musharraf allowed Sharif to be exiled rather than be imprisoned, on the condition that Sharif never enter politics again.
Under Military Rule
Musharraf declared himself president and stayed in power politically and as the leader of the military for eight more years. In 2007, as opposition to his rule mounted, he suspended the constitution and declared a state of emergency. Sharif’s predecessor, Benazir Bhutto, returned to Pakistan to lead the opposition against Musharraf.
Bhutto had already served as prime minister and been ousted from government twice, ending in her own exile in the late 1990s. Now she returned to speak against Musharraf. She was assassinated and calls came for Musharraf to resign. The following year, he did so, and Bhutto’s widower—Asif Ali Zardari—won the 2008 election for president.
Political tensions remained throughout Zardari’s time in office.
“Nevertheless, when the election of 2013 was held, and his term ended, Zardari peacefully transferred power to the new prime minister, Nawaz Sharif, who had returned from exile to hold that office for the third time,” Dr. Fisher said. “Never before in all of Pakistani’s history had there been a peaceful, democratic transition from one full civilian term to the next.”
All three of Nawaz Sharif’s terms as prime minister have ended in his ouster. In 2017, the Supreme Court of Pakistan removed him from office for his involvement with incidents revealed in the Panama Papers. His brother Shehbaz is the current prime minister.
A History of India is now available to stream on Wondrium.