The Return of Benazir Bhutto
Bhutto returned to Pakistan on Oct. 18 amid much fanfare and jubilation from her supporters. The triumphant mood gave way to panic when a suicide bomber attacked her convoy, killing as many as 135 people. Bhutto survived the attack.
On Nov. 3, Musharraf declared a state of emergency, suspended Pakistan's constitution, and fired Chief Justice Iftakar Mohammed Chaudhry and the other judges on the Supreme Court. In addition, police arrested at least 500 opposition figures. Political opponents said Musharraf had in effect declared martial law. Analysts suggested that Musharraf was trying to preempt an upcoming ruling by the Supreme Court, which was expected to declare he could not constitutionally run for president while head of the military. Musharraf, however, said he acted to stem a rising Islamist insurgency and to "preserve the democratic transition.” On Nov. 5, thousands of lawyers took to the streets to protest the emergency rule. Many clashed with baton-wielding police. As many as 700 lawyers were arrested, including Chaudhry, who was placed under house arrest. Under pressure from U.S. officials, Musharraf said parliamentary elections would take place in Jan. 2008.
On Nov. 9, thousands of police officers barricaded the city of Rawalpindi, the site of a protest planned by Bhutto. She was later placed under house arrest. On Nov. 15, the day that Parliament's five-year term ended, Musharraf swore in a caretaker government, with Mohammedmian Soomro, the chairman of Pakistan's senate, as prime minister. He also lifted Bhutto's house arrest. Later that month, the Supreme Court, stacked with judges loyal to Musharraf, dismissed the case challenging the constitutionality of Musharraf being elected president while head of the military. Former prime minister Nawaz Sharif returned to Pakistan on Nov. 25 after eight years in exile and demanded that Musharraf lift the emergency rule and reinstate the Supreme Court justices that were dismissed on Nov. 3. Sharif, who has refused to share power with Musharraf, poses a formidable political threat to Musharraf.
Musharraf stepped down as military chief on Nov. 28, the day before being sworn in as a civilian president. Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, the former head of Pakistan’s intelligence agency, Inter-Services Intelligence, took over as army chief. Since he no longer controls the military, Musharraf's power over Pakistan has been significantly diminished.
Musharraf ended emergency rule on Dec. 14 and restored the constitution. At the same time, however, he issued several executive orders and constitutional amendments that precluded any legal challenges related to his actions during and after emergency rule and barred the judges whom he fired from resuming their positions. "Today I am feeling very happy that all the promises that I have made to the people, to the country, have been fulfilled," he said.