Pakistan. The May elections led to a change of government, from the PPP-led coalition government under Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf to a PMLN government with Nawaz Sharif as the head of government. The conservative PML-N (Muslim League-Nawaz) won big, while the PPP (Pakistani People’s Party) declined sharply. The populist and reform-friendly PTI (Pakistan’s Justice Movement), led by former cricket star Imran Khan, went ahead strongly and became the third largest party. The turnout was low (55%), as it usually is in Pakistani elections, but still higher than in 2008 (44%).
According to Countryaah, the PML-N took home 126 of the elective 272 seats in Parliament’s lower house. As independent members switched to PML-N after the election, its representation increased to 185. Thereafter, Sharif was able to form a stable government with almost only PML-N ministers. Nineteen of the 25 ministers came from Sharif’s strongest foothold in the eastern Punjab province. PTI, which during the election campaign suffered a severe attack on both the PPP and PML-N, said after negotiations with Sharif that the party would cooperate with the government on certain issues, such as terrorism and security issues.
In March, the PPP government had, in accordance with the constitution, as the first Pakistani government ever, peacefully surrendered power to a transitional government after expiring the entire term of office. The transitional government would lead the country to the elections. During the election campaign, Sharif and PML-N profiled by demanding a halt to US drone attacks in the northwestern parts of the country, where Taliban groupings were active. The PML-N also promised a reconciliation dialogue with these groups with a view to achieving greater security in the country, which was constantly affected by the assaults of militant groups of various kinds with many dead as a result. Another election promise was to improve the country’s crisis economy.
During its 2008-13 term, the PPP government had spent most of its energy on survival. Its relations to powerful societal forces, such as the military and the Supreme Court, were continually deteriorating. Among other things, it was fought against a number of serious corruption charges. Ashraf himself was suspected of bribery and the Supreme Court issued an arrest warrant at the beginning of the year. PPP President Asif Ali Zardari was also accused of corruption. He and his wife, the former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, would have embezzled money. The Supreme Court tried to get Switzerland to investigate a suspected case of corruption in which the spouses would have been involved, but Switzerland said in February that the case was prescriptive.
Before the election, the former dictator, General Pervez Musharraf, returned to his home country to run with his party of the All-Pakistan Muslim League (APML). He had been in exile because of four charges brought against him: for the lack of security in the assassination of Benazir Bhutto in 2007, for the murder of a separatist leader in Baluchistan during a military action in 2006, for high treason in connection with his dismissal and detention. high judges in 2007 and for the military offensive against the Red Mosque in Islamabad in 2007 when over 100 people were killed. Musharraf had to stay in the country until he paid the bail.
But Musharraf had obviously misjudged his popularity and his ambition to “save the country” came to shame when it turned out that it was difficult to get any constituency to stand with him as a candidate. The courts in April ordered him to be arrested, but he then fled to his armored home, where he was jailed for some kind of house arrest. He was banned from being politically active and running for election. His party got a single seat in parliament in the elections. In 1999, Musharraf took power from Sharif, who was then head of government for the second time. Sharif was sentenced to life in prison for, among other things, terrorism and corruption, but he fled to Saudi Arabia where he lived in exile until 2007, when Musharraf allowed him to return home for the election the following year.
Taliban umbrella organization TTP staged a campaign of violence during the April election campaign. The attacks were aimed at parties that were perceived as Islamist, in effect the country’s three major secular parties: the PPP, the Sind-based MQM and the National Awami Party (ANP) in the clan areas in the northwest. Among the many assaults is a suicide attack against an ANP meeting in Peshawar when 17 supporters were killed. The wave of violence also led to many political meetings being canceled due to fear of attacks. The PML-N is generally relaxed, probably because they advocated dialogue with the Taliban.
In the Pashtun clan areas in the northwest, many people were killed during the year in the constant violence between Taliban on the one hand and military and police on the other. Among other things, the Taliban carried out several attacks on volunteers and medical personnel who worked on vaccinating people against polio. Taliban groups accused the polio campaign of spying for the United States and sterilizing Muslims with the vaccine.
The city of Quetta in Baluchistan in the southwest was hit on January 10 by a series of explosions that killed around 90 people and injured over 100. Most victims belonged to the Shiite ethnic minority Hazar, while the perpetrators were identified as belonging to the banned Sunni militant group Lashkar-e-Jhangvi a long history of attacks against Shia Muslims (in 2012, more than 400 fatalities were killed in such atrocities).
The attacks aroused strong feelings among the country’s Shia Muslims who held sympathetic manifestations for the Hazarese. Shia accused the government and the authorities of not doing anything to protect them. Ashraf then chose to dissolve the provincial government and give the provincial governor the order to have the military rid the Sunni extremists. But in February, an explosive charge was detonated in a square in a Shiite-dominated area in Quetta and at least 84 people were killed. Ashraf now replaced parts of the police line. There were suspicions that local authorities saw between the fingers of the attacks against the Shi’a Muslims, who make up about one-fifth of Pakistan’s population. In March, Karachi’s Shia Muslims became the target in an explosion that demanded 48 lives.
Despite the promises of dialogue with the Taliban, the new government soon turned out to be as vulnerable to extremist violence as the previous one. In June, Lashkar-e-Jhangvi hit a bus with female students in Quetta, and 14 of them were killed. Then another 15 people were killed when the group attacked the hospital where the injured students received care. The group also carried out new attacks against Shia Muslims with dozens of dead as a result. In September, over 80 people were killed in two concerted suicide attacks in a church in Peshawar. Islamists with ties to the Taliban took on the blame for the deed, which was the worst ever targeted at the country’s Christian minority.
The United States’ disputed drone attacks against the Taliban strongholds also continued. In August, a report came out saying that more than 3,400 people, including many civilians, had been killed in Pakistan by drones since they began use in 2004.
In July, Parliament’s two chambers elected 73-year-old Mamnoon Hussain from PML-N as new president after Zardari, who did not stand for re-election because of the PPP’s large electoral loss. The change of head of state post happened in September.
In November, concerns over the security situation in the clan areas in the northwest rose after the Taliban organization TTP’s senior leader Hakimullah Mehsud was killed in a drone attack. New leader was elected the notorious Mullah Fazlullah, whose hard-fought Taliban faction TNSM in Swat Valley among many other attacks was believed to be behind the assassination attempt in October 2012 at Malala Yousafzai, international icon for the fight for girls’ right to education. Following the election of Fazlullah as Taliban leader, plans for talks and dialogue between the Taliban and the government were on ice for the time being.