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Context of 'August 30-November 4, 2007: Pakistani Militants Hold Nearly 300 Soldiers Hostage, Successfully Trade Them for 28 Jailed Militants'

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Iftikhar Chaudhry being arrested by secret agents. An agent is holding Chaudhry’s hair as he is being pushed into a car. Iftikhar Chaudhry being arrested by secret agents. An agent is holding Chaudhry’s hair as he is being pushed into a car. [Source: Public domain]In June 2005, Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf appointed Iftikhar Chaudhry as chief justice of Pakistan’s Supreme Court. Pakistan’s judiciary had traditionally been complaint to military rule, and Chaudhry was not expected to act any differently. But in 2007, as the date for Musharraf’s relection neared, Chaudhry leads the judiciary in becoming more proactive defending civil rights and the rule of law. The Supreme Court begins issuing rulings against police abuse, forced marriages, unjust rape laws, and more. Most controversially, the judiciary begins demanding the appearance in court of hundreds of prisoners who had been secretly arrested by the ISI in recent years and never brought to trial. The ISI responds by mysteriously releasing about 200 people in late 2006 and early 2007.
Fearing an Independent Judiciary, Musharraf Acts - Musharraf claims that Chaudhry has become dangerous because he is releasing al-Qaeda linked militants, but in fact most of those released are political opponents from the regions of Sindh and Balochistan, where there are separatist movements. There is speculation that the Supreme Court will rule against allowing Musharraf to run again as president, since Pakistani law states that a serving military officer can not be elected president, and Musharraf has not resigned from the military. On March 9, 2007, Musharraf suspends Chaudhry on charges of corruption and misuse of authority and places him under house arrest.
Mass Protests Culminate in Chaudhry's Reinstatement - Musharraf and most political observers are surprised when mass protests ensue, mostly made up of Pakistan’s middle class, which is tired of military rule. Over the next months, the protests grow in size and number. The Pakistan government responds by frequently beating and/or arresting protesters. Press censorship is imposed and live television broadcasts are forbidden. But this does not stop the movement. On July 20, 2007, the Supreme Court reinstates Chaudhry as chief justice, dealing Musharraf’s reputation a heavy blow. [Rashid, 2008, pp. 380-381]

Entity Tags: Pervez Musharraf, Pakistan Directorate for Inter-Services Intelligence, Supreme Court of Pakistan, Iftikhar Chaudhry

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

Baitullah Mahsud.Baitullah Mahsud. [Source: Associated Press]On August 30, 2007, Pakistani militants led by Baitullah Mahsud surround a convoy of more than 270 soldiers belonging to Pakistan’s Frontier Corps. The militants are vastly outnumbered, but get the soldiers to surrender without firing a shot. In the following days, dozens more soldiers surrender or even desert to Mahsud. This is a humiliating debacle for the Pakistani army and a reflection of low morale. The Washington Post comments: “The troops’ surrender has called into question the army’s commitment to fighting an unpopular war that requires Pakistanis to kill their countrymen. It has also exposed the army to ridicule.” [Washington Post, 10/3/2007] Mahsud demands the release of 30 jailed militants and the end of Pakistani military operations in South Waziristan, the tribal region where Mahsud is the de facto ruler. After weeks of slow negotiations, he orders the beheading of three of his hostages. On November 3, Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf declares a state of emergency throughout Pakistan (see November 3-December 15, 2007). Musharraf claims that his emergency powers will give him a stronger hand to fight militants like Mahsud, but the next day he releases 28 jailed militants in return for the release of the nearly 300 soldiers still held. Eight of the released militants are would-be suicide bombers. For instance, one of them had just been sentenced to 24 years in prison after being caught carrying two suicide belts. The incident propels Mahsud into becoming the figurehead of Pakistan’s militant movement, and from this time on many violent incidents are blamed on him, although his forces are probably not linked to them all. Mahsud had strong ties to the Taliban and al-Qaeda. He fought with the Taliban in the 1990s and helped al-Qaeda leaders escape the battle of Tora Bora in late 2001. [Washington Post, 10/3/2007; Rashid, 2008, pp. 385-388; Newsweek, 1/7/2008]

Entity Tags: Pervez Musharraf, Taliban, Baitullah Mahsud, Pakistani Army, Frontier Corps, Al-Qaeda

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

The Washington Post reports, “Pakistan’s government is losing its war against emboldened insurgent forces, giving al-Qaeda and the Taliban more territory in which to operate and allowing the groups to plot increasingly ambitious attacks, according to Pakistani and Western security officials.” Since the government’s raid on the Red Mosque in July 2007 (see July 3-11, 2007 and July 11-Late July, 2007), militants have gone all out in trying to overthrow the government, but Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf has been consumed by a struggle to stay in power (see October 6, 2007 and November 3-December 15, 2007) and has done little in return to fight them. Brig. Gen. Mehmood Shah, a top security official in the tribal regions until he retirement in 2005, says: “The federal government is busy with its problem of legitimacy. Getting Musharraf elected for another five years—that is keeping everything on hold.” Militants not only control much of the country’s mountainous tribal regions, but they are increasingly moving down the hills to threaten larger towns and cities. A Western military official based in Pakistan says the militants have “had a chance to regroup and reorganize. They’re well equipped. They’re clearly getting training from somewhere. And they’re using more and more advanced tactics.” But this official says that Pakistan’s military are “not trained for a counterinsurgency. It’s not their number one priority. It’s not even their number two priority.” This person adds, “The sad thing about it is that a lot of these militants are better off than the Frontier Corps,” referring to the Pakistani paramilitary force guarding the tribal region. The militants “have rockets. They have advanced weapons. And the Frontier Corps has sandals and a bolt-action rifle.” The Post notes that although the US has given about $10 billion to Pakistan since 9/11, “the aid does not seem to have won the United States many friends here. Nor has it successfully prepared the Pakistani army to battle insurgents.” [Washington Post, 10/3/2007]

Entity Tags: Taliban, Al-Qaeda, Frontier Corps, Pervez Musharraf, Pakistani Army

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf wins reelection to a second five-year term as president. In Pakistan, the president is selected by a simple majority from the parliament. Musharraf made a deal with former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto two days earlier in which her party abstains from the vote and in return she is granted amnesty and is allowed to return to Pakistan (see October 4, 2007). Other parties also abstain, and as a result Musharraf wins almost unopposed, with 57 percent of total number of MPs voting for him. However, Pakistan’s Supreme Court rules that the official results can only be declared after it rules if Musharraf is eligible to win. Musharraf is both president and head of the military, and Pakistani law prohibits an active military official from being president. However, analysts doubt the court will overturn the result. [Associated Press, 10/7/2007]

Entity Tags: Benazir Bhutto, Pervez Musharraf

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

Ashfaq Parvez Kayani.Ashfaq Parvez Kayani. [Source: Anjum Naveed Associated Press]On October 6, 2007, Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf won a parliamentary vote that gave him a second term as president (see October 6, 2007). However, Pakistani law prohibits an active military officer from running as president, and Musharraf is both president and the head of the military. Pakistan’s Supreme Court is to decide soon if Musharraf’s reelection vote is valid. The outcome is uncertain, especially since the Supreme Court is headed by Iftikhar Chaudhry, who was fired by Musharraf earlier in the year and then reinstated against Musharraf’s will (see March 9, 2007). But on November 3, before the court renders a verdict, Musharraf declares a state of emergency. He suspends the constitution and basic rights. He fires Chaudhry and all the other Supreme Court judges, and places them under house arrest. He also forces all other high court judges to sign a loyalty oath validating his actions. A majority refuse to sign and are placed under house arrest as well. All private television stations are taken off the air, leaving only one state-controlled network to give the news. Up to ten thousand activists and politicians are arrested. The main opposition politician, Benazir Bhutto, is placed under house arrest for several days. Musharraf then passes six constitutional amendments legalizing his rule. In a further effort to legitimize his rule, he also resigns from the army on November 28 and gives command of the army to Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, a former ISI director. But still facing widespread condemnation at home and abroad, he lifts the state of emergency on December 15, rescinds the draconian measures he imposed, and releases the thousands who have been arrested (however, Chaudhry and the other fired judges remain under house arrest). He announces that elections to pick a new prime minister will be held in January 2008. Pakistani journalist and regional expert Ahmed Rashid will later comment, “The forty-two-day-long emergency had blighted Pakistan, undermined its economy, destroyed what little trust the political parties and public had in Musharraf, and turned the increasingly influential middle-class and civil society against both the army and the president.” [Rashid, 2008, pp. 387-388]

Entity Tags: Pervez Musharraf, Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, Iftikhar Chaudhry, Benazir Bhutto

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

Nawaz Sharif, leader of the Pakistan Muslim League-N political party and a former prime minister who had spent seven years abroad due to corruption charges, returns to Pakistan and is welcomed by supporters ahead of planned elections. He had made a failed attempt to return two months earlier (see September 10, 2007), but subsequently obtained the support of Pakistan’s ISI intelligence agency, smoothing his path (see November 20-23, 2007). [International Herald Tribune, 11/25/2007] He returns in the middle of a state of emergency declared by Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf (see November 3-December 15, 2007).

Entity Tags: Pakistan Muslim League-N, Nawaz Sharif

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

Maulana Fazlullah.Maulana Fazlullah. [Source: NBC News]In mid-December 2007, 40 militant commanders in Pakistan’s tribal region and the North-West Frontier Province hold a secret meeting and unify their forces. They create a new umbrella organization called Tehrik-i-Taliban, meaning Movement of the Taliban. They are also known as the Pakistani Taliban. They appoint Baitullah Mahsud, head of militant forces in South Waziristan, as their overall leader. Mahsud became a key figure after his forces successfully kidnapped almost 300 Pakistani soldiers and then traded them for about 30 imprisoned militants (see August 30-November 4, 2007). Other key leaders attending the meeting are: Maulana Fazlullah, militant leader in the Swat Valley, Faqir Mohammed, leader in the tribal region of Bajour, and Sadiq Noor, leader in North Waziristan. Together, these commanders at the meeting are estimated to lead about forty thousand armed followers. The leaders are closely tied to the Taliban, as the name of the new organization indicates, and many are also linked to al-Qaeda. Mahsud in particular is believed to be in regular contact with al-Qaeda leaders, and looking to them for strategic direction. [Rashid, 2008, pp. 386]

Entity Tags: Taliban, Tehrik-i-Taliban, Sadiq Noor, Faqir Mohammed, Maulana Fazlullah, Baitullah Mahsud, Al-Qaeda

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

Pakistan holds parliamentary elections, and opposition parties are the overwhelming winners. President Pervez Musharraf does not lose his presidency, as he was reelected by the National Assembly several months earlier (see October 6, 2007). However, his party, Pakistan Muslim League-Q (PML-Q), loses control of the National Assembly, enabling the opposition parties to select their own prime minister a short time later. Much power will now shift to the position of prime minister, which had been completely overshadowed by Musharraf and his presidency since he took power in a coup in 1999 (see October 12, 1999). The Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) wins 120 seats. The PPP was led by Benazir Bhutto until her recent assassination, and is now led by her husband, Asif Ali Zardari. The Pakistan Muslim League-N (PML-N), the party led by former primer minister Nawaz Sharif, gets 90. Musharraf’s PML-Q only wins 51 seats. Surprisingly, the Islamic parties are almost completely wiped out. The alliance of Islamic parties, the Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal (MMA), did well and won two provincial elections in the last election in 2002, but this time it only wins six seats. A secular and moderate party, the Awami National Party, wins in the North-West Frontier Province, taking control from the MMA and forming the new provincial government there. No single party holds a majority, but the PPP immediately announces a coalition with Sharif’s PML-N party, shutting Musharraf’s PML-Q party out. Musharraf once had 80 percent popularity ratings in polls, but after many recent controversial moves, including declaring a state of emergency for over a month to stay in power (see November 3-December 15, 2007), his popularity rating is down to about 20 percent. [Rashid, 2008, pp. 390-391] One month later, the coalition selects a relatively unknown figure, Yousaf Raza Gillani, to be the new prime minister (see March 22-25, 2008).

Entity Tags: Benazir Bhutto, Awami National Party, Pakistan People’s Party, Pervez Musharraf, Asif Ali Zardari, Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal, Pakistan Muslim League-Q, Pakistan Muslim League-N, Nawaz Sharif

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

President Musharraf swearing in Yousaf Raza Gillani as Pakistan’s latest prime minister.President Musharraf swearing in Yousaf Raza Gillani as Pakistan’s latest prime minister. [Source: Agence France-Presse - Getty Images] (click image to enlarge)In parliamentary elections in February 2008, a coalition of opposition parties led by the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) took effective political control from President Pervez Musharraf, although Musharraf remains president (see February 18, 2008). On March 22, the leader of the PPP, Asif Ali Zardari, picks Yousaf Raza Gillani to become Pakistan’s new prime minister. Gillani assumes the position in a ceremony on March 25. Zardari is the husband of the recently assassinated and very popular Benazir Bhutto. He reportedly wants the prime minister position for himself, but he is not yet eligible for it as he does not hold a seat in parliament. Gillani is a relatively unknown low-key party stalwart. The New York Times comments that Gillani’s selection seems a “prelude to a drive by Mr. Zardari to take the job himself in the next few months.” [New York Times, 3/23/2008] Within hours of becoming prime minister, Gillani frees the judges that had been placed under house arrest during Musharraf’s state of emergency several months before (see November 3-December 15, 2007). He frees Supreme Court head Iftikhar Chaudhry, the 13 other Supreme Court judges, and 48 High Court judges who refused to sign a loyalty oath. [New York Times, 3/25/2008]

Entity Tags: Yousaf Raza Gillani, Pakistan People’s Party, Asif Ali Zardari, Iftikhar Chaudhry, Pervez Musharraf

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, War in Afghanistan

Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf announces his resignation. Opposition to Musharraf’s rule had been slowly growing, especially since he declared a state of emergency in late 2007 to remain in power (see November 3-December 15, 2007) following a controversial reelection (see October 6, 2007). In early 2008, opposition parties united and won parliamentary elections (see February 18, 2008). The opposition then chose Yousaf Raza Gillani as the new prime minister, and Gillani took away much of Musharraf’s power (see March 22-25, 2008). The opposition parties united again to start impeachment hearings against Musharraf for his state of emergency and other claimed abuses of power. His resignation speech came hours after the opposition finalized its charges against him and prepared to launch an impeachment trial. Musharraf claims he could have defeated the charges, but he wanted to spare the country the conflict caused by the trial. Gillani remains prime minister, and the Speaker of the Pakistani Senate, Muhammad Mian Sumroo, automatically takes over as caretaker president. [BBC, 8/18/2008]

Entity Tags: Muhammad Mian Sumroo, Yousaf Raza Gillani, Pervez Musharraf

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, US International Relations, War in Afghanistan

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