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On October 4, 2007, after secret talks with former Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto in London and Dubai, Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf issues an amnesty from prosecution for Bhutto and other exiled politicians. Bhutto and former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif have been living in exile as both had been facing corruption charges in Pakistan. Both are now free to return. As part of a deal, Bhutto agreed that the members of the main opposition political party she leads, the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) will abstain from voting when Musharraf runs for a second term as president two days later (in Pakistan, the president is chosen in a parliamentary vote). This ensures Musharraf’s victory (see October 6, 2007). Bhutto will return to Pakistan on October 18. (Rashid 2008, pp. 386-387)
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).
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.” (Perlez 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. (Masood 3/25/2008)
Asif Ali Zardari, the husband of assassinated former leader Benazir Bhutto, becomes president of Pakistan. Pervez Musharraf resigned as president the previous month after growing pressure suggested he could be impeached (see August 18, 2008). A three-week election campaign quickly followed, and Zardari easily won the election (an electoral college vote, not a general election). Zardari’s elections completes Pakistan’s return to civilian rule after Musharraf seized power in a military coup nine years earlier. (Or 9/9/2008)
"Mr. Ten Percent" - Zardari has a troubled history of numerous corruption allegations. His popular nickname, “Mr. Ten Percent,” refers to the widespread belief in Pakistan that he took a cut from many business deals when his wife Bhutto was prime minister of Pakistan twice in the 1990s. He spent 11 years in prison on corruption charges, although he was never actually convicted of a crime. Bhutto seemed poised for a return to power, but when she was assassinated in late 2007, Zardari essentially took her place as head of her political party, the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP). Supporters say he has matured during his years in prison. (Wonacott 9/5/2008)
Pakistan’s National Assembly passes a set of constitutional reforms that greatly reduces the powers of President Asif Ali Zardari. The unanimous vote turns the office of president into a ceremonial head of state and transfers powers to the prime minister and parliament. Zardari himself backs the reforms. Experts claim the move could help make Pakistan more democratic and less likely to return to military rule. Zardari will still hold considerable power in Pakistan because he is also head of the ruling Pakistan People’s Party (PPP), which has a parliamentary majority. Also, he has the loyalty of Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gillani, who is also a member of the PPP. (Haider 4/8/2010)
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