When the year 2008 dawned, most Pakistanis were still in a state of shock, trying to recover from the tragic assassination of former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto on Dec 27th. A looming economic crisis and political uncertainty stared the nation in the face.
A view of destruction caused by a bomb explosion at Marriott hotel in Islamabad on Sept 20, 2008
Even the general elections in February did not help in removing the pal of gloom that had overtaken the country to the backdrop of Bhutto's murder as well as the simmering political turmoil over the judges former president Pervez Musharraf had removed in November.
The post-election coalition government also broke up soon after the ruling Pakistan Peoples party rejected former premier Nawaz Sharif's demand that judges must be restored to save the coalition.
As these protests resonated on the streets of Pakistan, President Musharraf's resignation in August following immense political pressure marked the end of almost nine years of his controversial and turbulent rule.
In an ironic twist of fate, the widower of Ms Bhutto, Asif Ali Zardari replaced Musharraf in September. But Zardari and his Prime Minister Yousaf Reza Gilani could not prevent the country from sinking deeper into political turmoil.
State’s failure to contain violence
Professor A.H. Nayyear, a social development analyst, describes it a terrible year for the people of Pakistan. “The year put Pakistani people in great deal of danger of militants, there was a great sense of loss of security, no corner of Pakistan safe from the militants and the state failed completely to contain militants and provide security to the people.
More than 30 US missile attacks on suspected Al Qaeda targets in the border areas also contributed to the crisis, with common people and political parties outraged over the government's inability to stop such strikes.
“We are very clear in minds, it is not a war on terror. It is a war of terror, unleashed by the Bush administration first in Iraq, then in Afghanistan and now in the tribal areas of Pakistan, says Tahira Abdullah, a prominent Human Rights Activist.
But US officials like Michael Mullen, the chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff, insist the hunt for Al Qaeda based in tribal areas is legitimate. “They have found safe havens here and it is in those safe havens that we are now very focused on,” says Mullen.
Some 50 suicide attacks including the one on the Marriott Hotel in Islamabad, and a fierce insurgency in the north-western province shook the investors' confidence to the core.
Rising inflation and soaring oil prices forced Pakistan in November to knock at the doors of the International Monetary Fund for a multi-billion dollar bail-out package.
Tensions with Afghanistan over alleged Pakistani support for militants, and terror attacks in Mumbai in late November added another dimension to the crisis of Pakistan. India claimed the attacks were planned by militants based in Pakistan, and asked for the custody of the masterminds.
Pakistan asked for actionable evidence, and this brought the normalization process to a grinding halt, triggering fears of another armed conflict between the south Asian nuclear-armed neighbours. Led by Washington, the international community is meanwhile trying hard to prevent both India and Pakistan from going to another war.