Pakistan. A wave of bombings shook Pakistan at the beginning of the year, in the first month of which an explosion in a market in the city of Parachinar took the lives of 20 people. In February, 14 people were killed and over 80 injured when a bomb exploded among a group of demonstrating pharmacists in the country’s second largest city of Lahore. Just a few days later, close to 90 people died and hundreds were injured in a suicide attack targeting a Sufic sanctuary in the city of Sehwan in Sind Province. According to Countryaah.com, the attack, taken by the terrorist group IS, was one of the deadliest in Pakistan in recent years.
Following the terrorist attacks, two major border crossings against Afghanistan were closed in February. However, these were reopened in March. At the same time, the country’s army stated that it has begun to build a fence along the border with Afghanistan in an effort to fight terrorism.
In March, a census was started with a view to getting a better picture of the country’s minority groups. The census, which was carried out only a year before the parliamentary elections, had a political charge and was subjected to several deadly attacks. For example, in April at least ten people died of a bombing aimed at “the country’s Shiite Muslim minority,” according to a Taliban group that took the attack. The group claimed that the attack was also directed at the country’s ongoing census.
A truck accident caused more than 200 people’s deaths in June. The accident happened after the truck, full of fuel, overturned on a highway in central Pakistan. From the car, gasoline ran out and people rushed to get it right. But someone in the crowd lit a cigarette and a fire broke out, followed by a violent explosion. The explosion, in turn, set fire to a dozen cars and motorcycles.
According to OGRA, which is responsible for oil and gas regulations, Shell Pakistan was responsible for the accident, which according to the authority was caused by poor driving and vehicle failure. Thousands of mourners came to the funerals.
In the same month, at least 85 people were killed and more than 200 were injured in two bomb attacks during the same day in the cities of Parachinar and Quetta in the western part of Pakistan. Two different Sunni extremist groups claimed to be behind the attacks.
In July, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif was forced to resign after the Supreme Court declared him unfit for office. The decision was made following a lengthy corruption investigation with links to the leaked Panama documents in which Sharif’s children appeared. According to the investigation, the children had, among other things, luxury properties in London that the family could not account for. Sharif defended herself by buying the apartments legally, but critics said Sharif had used her political stance to increase family wealth. Finance Minister Ishaq Dar was also banned by the court from holding a public job and left his ministerial post in November, according to Reuters news agency. Former Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi was elected as new Prime Minister in August.
In October, a court issued an arrest warrant against Nawaz Sharif, who was charged with two cases of corruption. Sharif dismissed the charges as a conspiracy. The indictment, which also included Sharif’s daughter and her husband, came after an investigation by the Pakistan Anti-Corruption Agency (NAB).
A court in Islamabad in November ordered the authorities to disperse upwards of 2,000 protesters who, for over two weeks, blocked a highway between Islamabad and the neighboring city of Rawalpindi. The protesters were supporters of a radical Islamist group called Tehrik-e-Labaik Pakistan (TLP). Islamists demanded the resignation of Justice Minister Zahid Hamid after the PML-N leading party voted in favor of a proposal by the minister to soften the blasphemy laws. The proposal was quickly withdrawn by the government, which apologized to Parliament and said it was all a mistake. Despite the retreat, the protests continued.
Pakistan was hit the same month by a thick smog that settled like a cover over parts of the country. At the same time, media stated that the pollutants in Pakistan, which are among the worst in the world, take more lives than terrorism does. According to global statistics from IHME (Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation), 159,000 Pakistanis were estimated to die prematurely per year due to smog and similar pollution.
Pakistan is hit hard by the second corona wave
The second wave of the corona pandemic is hitting Pakistan harder than the first. The authorities are struggling to get residents to follow the advice and rules that have been introduced to prevent the spread of infection. The intensive care unit works to full capacity and 95 percent of the intensive care units are occupied. Doctors testify about how suspected covid disease is denied care due to lack of space in some places. Schools and universities have been closed and it is forbidden to serve food indoors in restaurants. During the first wave of the spring, the Government of Pakistan chose not to shut down society so as not to risk the economy being adversely affected. Pakistan has had just over 382,000 confirmed cases of covid-19 and over 7,800 deaths from the viral disease that entered the country in February. India, which has a five times larger population,
Ultra-conservative leader Rizvi dead
Preacher Khadim Hussain Rizvi, leader of the influential ultra-conservative TLP (Tehrik-e-Labaik Pakistan) movement, died suddenly in the evening. The cause of death is unknown but Rizvi had been taken to hospital with fever and respiratory problems. Rizvi and the TLP have made themselves known for organizing mass protests throughout Pakistan, primarily in support of the country’s harsh blasphemy laws but most recently in protest of France’s defense of the secularsociety. Rizvi and the TLP were notorious for harassing religious minorities, and they attracted a great deal of attention when they protested against the acquittal of the wrongly blasphemous Christian woman Asia Bibi after many years in prison. TLP is also suspected of taking part in several murders of people who have criticized the blasphemy laws. Hundreds of thousands of people attended Rizvi’s funeral a few days later, and Prime Minister Khan sent his condolences. The military praises him as “an important scholar”.
Protests against France
After a period of demonstrations against France in various parts of the country, the ultra-conservative preacher Khadim Hussain Rizvi and his movement TLP are holding a large demonstration in Islamabad. To prevent protests from continuing, the Khan government agreed with the TLP to consider certain measures against France, such as a boycott of French goods and to ask the French ambassador to leave Pakistan. Demonstrations in Pakistan and other Muslim countries were triggered when French President Emmanuel Macron condemned the murder of a French teacher at a school outside Paris. The teacher had his throat cut off by an Islamic extremist after the teacher in his teaching showed the Muhammad caricatures to his students. Prime Minister Khan has accused Macron of attacking Islam.
Khan promises provincial status to Gilgit-Baltistan
Prime Minister Khan makes a controversial statement in the city of Gilgit when he promises that Gilgit-Baltistan will be given provisional status as a Pakistani province. However, Khan does not mention when this will happen and the amendment requires a constitutional amendment. Gilgit-Baltistan has been managed by Pakistan since 1947, but India also claims the area that the neighboring country sees as part of Kashmir. The statement provoked strong reactions in India. Gilgit-Baltistan is important for the construction of the Sino-Pakistani Economic Corridor (CPEC), which is part of the Silk Road Initiative (see Foreign Policy and Defense).