Pakistan Faces Internal Strife
In April 2012, Pakistan tested an intermediate-range ballistic missile that can carry a nuclear warhead. Just a week earlier, India successfully launched the Agni 5, a long-range ballistic missile that can reach Beijing and Shanghai, China, and can also deliver a nuclear warhead. Both Pakistan and India denied that the tests were an act of brinkmanship. India said the exercise was a response to China's recent investment in its military and its growing assertiveness on the military front, while Pakistan said its exercise would "further strengthen and consolidate Pakistan's deterrence capabilities."
The relationship between the civilian government, the military, and the judiciary has historically been antagonistic and based on mistrust, and such strife was on display in late 2011 and into 2012. Many observers concluded that the military wanted to oust the governing coalition of Prime Minister Gilani and President Zardari, but rather than stage a coup, it attempted to use legal channels to force them out of office. First, shortly after Osama bin Laden was killed, the U.S. received an anonymous memo from a Pakistani source, reportedly an ally of the government, asking for U.S. help in tamping down the military's influence and to discourage it from attempting a coup. At the military's request, the Supreme Court ordered the government to investigate the source of the memo.
In another matter, the Supreme Court requested that the government allow the Swiss to pursue money-laundering charges against President Zardari that date back to the 1990s. The government, however, refused, citing presidential immunity, and the Supreme Court threatened to hold Prime Minister Gilani in contempt of court. In February, the Supreme Court indicted Gilani on charges of contempt of court. He was convicted in May, but was spared any jail time. The opposition called for his resignation. In June Supreme Court Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry ordered that Gilani step down. The court continued to intervene in the politics of the country. The day after President Zardari announced that former health minister—and ally, Makhdoom Shahabuddin, was his choice as Gilani's successor, the military ordered the arrest of Shahabuddin on drug charges. Gilani's son was also arrested. Parliament then elected Raja Pervez Ashraf, a former cabinet minister, as prime minister.
When he served as water and power minister, Ashraf was accused of corruption. The accusation came back to haunt him in January 2013, when Supreme Court Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry issued an order for his arrest and an investigation into the corruption charges. The order came in the middle of a series of large anti-government protests led by Muhammad Tahir-ul Qadri, a populist Sufi cleric, who emerged onto the political scene in late 2012 and quickly massed an enormous loyal following. The timing of the arrest order caused many to wonder if Chaudhry and Qadri were colluding to further intimidate Zardari’s Pakistan Peoples Party.
Taliban members shot 14-year-old Malala Yousafzai in the head and neck in October 2012 in the Swat Valley. The shooting occurred while Yousafzai, an internationally known activist for girls' rights to an education, was on her way home on a school bus filled with children. All three girls survived, but Yousafzai suffered critical injuries. She was airlifted to a hospital in England for treatment. Ehsanullah Ehsan, a Taliban spokesman, confirmed that Yousafzai was the target due to her outspokenness against the Taliban and her determination to get an education. Ehsan said, "She has become a symbol of Western culture in the area; she was openly propagating it. Let this be a lesson." The shooting highlighted the Taliban's scorched-earth tactics to deny women rights, particularly to an education.
Pervez Musharraf, who took power in a 1999 coup and served as president until 2008, returned to Pakistan in March 2013 from self-imposed exile in London to announce plans to run in May's election. His return lacked much fanfare, and he faces charges related to the murder of Benazir Bhutto and over his 2007 implementation of house arrest on Chief Justice Iftakar Mohammed Chaudhry and other justices. In August, Musharraf was indicted in the murder of Bhutto. He was charged with murder and conspiracy to murder. He pleaded not guilty to the charges.