A Shaky Government
In the 1990s, Pakistan saw a shaky succession of
governments—Benazir Bhutto was prime minister twice and deposed
twice and Nawaz Sharif three times, until he was deposed in a coup on Oct.
12, 1999, by Gen. Pervez Musharraf. The Pakistani public, familiar with
military rule for 25 of the nation's 52-year history, generally viewed the
coup as a positive step and hoped it would bring a badly needed economic
To the surprise of much of the world, two new
nuclear powers emerged in May 1998 when India, followed by Pakistan just
weeks later, conducted nuclear tests. Fighting with India again broke out
in the disputed territory of Kashmir in May 1999.
Close ties with Afghanistan's Taliban government
thrust Pakistan into a difficult position following the Sept. 11 terrorist
attacks. Under U.S. pressure, Pakistan broke with its neighbor to become
the United States' chief ally in the region. In return, President Bush
ended sanctions (instituted after Pakistan's testing of nuclear weapons in
1998), rescheduled its debt, and helped to bolster the legitimacy of the
rule of Pervez Musharraf, who appointed himself president in 2001.
On Dec. 13, 2001, suicide bombers attacked the
Indian parliament, killing 14 people. Indian officials blamed the attack
on Islamic militants supported by Pakistan. Both sides assembled hundreds
of thousands of troops along their common border, bringing the two nuclear
powers to the brink of war.
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