Freedom in the World
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Freedom Rating (1 = best, 7 = worst)
Civil Liberties (1 = best, 7 = worst)
Political Rights (1 = best, 7 = worst)
In March 2009, the civilian government of President Asif Ali Zardari yielded to political pressure and allowed Iftikhar Chaudhry, the chief justice of the Supreme Court who had been ousted by then military ruler Pervez Musharraf in 2007, to reclaim his post. The court subsequently struck down a Musharraf-era amnesty law in December, exposing a number of politicians to possible prosecution. Also during the year, Islamist militants attempted to extend their territorial control in North-West Frontier Province, provoking a sustained military response that began in the spring. This in turn led to the mass displacement of civilians and a wave of retaliatory terrorist attacks throughout the country.
Although the military had stepped up its operations against Islamist militants in the FATA and NWFP in 2008, terrorist attacks and other violence continued into 2009. In February, the government agreed to a peace deal in the NWFP’s Swat district with an affiliate of the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP, or Pakistani Taliban), a network of militant groups based in the FATA. Under the agreement, the first of its kind outside the FATA, the militants would observe a ceasefire in return for the establishment of Sharia (Islamic law) in the district. President Zardari approved legislation in April that formally imposed Sharia in seven districts of the NWFP, including Swat. Meanwhile, militants seized control of additional districts in the province and began implementing their harsh forms of justice. By May, the government had acknowledged the failure of the peace deal and resolved to retake the affected districts by force. In August, a missile reportedly fired by a U.S. drone aircraft killed TTP leader Baitullah Mehsud, and by year’s end the Pakistani military had expanded its campaign by reasserting control in Swat and occupying Mehsud’s stronghold in South Waziristan, part of the FATA. Around two million civilians were displaced at various points by these military campaigns. Despite these territorial gains, Islamist militants continued to stage devastating suicide attacks throughout Pakistan.
Pakistan is not an electoral democracy. A civilian government and president were elected in 2008, ending years of military rule, but the military continues to exercise de facto control over many areas of government policy. The political environment is also troubled by corruption, partisan clashes, and Islamist militancy, among other problems.
The numerical ratings and status listed above do not reflect conditions in Pakistani-controlled Kashmir, which is examined in a separate report.