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Wednesday, 26 September 2007, 12:50 GMT 13:50 UK
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Timeline: Pakistan's political rivals
Benazir Bhutto is sworn in as Pakistans first female prime minister
It is a remarkable personal triumph for the Pakistan People's Party PPP leader following five years of imprisonment after the execution of her father the former Pakistani President and Prime Minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto in 1979. Ms Bhutto becomes one of the first democratically elected female prime ministers in an Islamic country.
Ms Bhutto is dismissed by President Ghulam Ishaq Khan for alleged corruption
The euphoria that followed Benazir's election evaporates amid allegations strenuously denied that she and her controversial husband Asif Zardari have stolen millions of dollars from state coffers.
Nawaz Sharif becomes prime minister
Mr Sharif is in many ways the political opposite of Benazir Bhutto. He is a businessman she comes from a landowning family. He was an ally of General Zia ulHaq the man responsible for the execution of Benazir's father.
Pervez Musharraf is promoted to army major general
Pervez Musharraf's rise through the ranks shows that he is a highflyer. So far he has shown little interest in politics.
Nawaz Sharif dismissed for corruption by President Ghulam Ishaq Khan
Mr Sharif accused of financial impropriety resigns after a long struggle to fend off the allegations. It is a huge personal rebuff for the Pakistan Muslim League PML leader who had said that ridding the country of corruption was one of his top priorities.
Benazir Bhutto becomes prime minister for the second time
It is a spectacular political comeback. Because no single party emerged with an absolute majority in the elections Ms Bhutto's PPP forms a government by allying with smaller parties. But she faces a determined and powerful opposition led by Nawaz Sharif.
Opposition general strike
The difficulties facing Ms Bhutto's government are clearly illustrated by the strike organised by Nawaz Sharif which paralyses the country. Similar protests continue throughout the year.
Pervez Musharraf is promoted to lieutenant general
Mir Murtaza Bhutto Benazir Bhuttos younger brother is shot dead
Mir Murtaza Bhutto Benazir Bhuttos estranged younger brother along with six of his political party members is gunned down by policemen outside the family home in Karachi. The incident brings to a climax three years of political violence in the port city in which thousands have died.
Benazir Bhutto is dismissed for corruption by President Farooq Leghari
Ms Bhutto is not only accused of embezzlement but her government is also alleged to have carried out a series of extrajudicial killings. She denies the charges. Supporters of Nawaz Sharif hold rapturous celebrations on the streets.
Nawaz Sharif becomes PM again after general elections
The PML leader again ends up in the driving seat this time with an overwhelming mandate from the electorate. But like Ms Bhutto the new prime minister has an uneasy relationship with the judiciary.
Nawaz Sharif accused of contempt of court
Mr Sharif is accused of making derogatory comments about the chief justice and the Supreme Court.
Pakistan conducts first nuclear weapons test
Mr Sharif becomes an overnight hero after Pakistan carries out tests making it the first Islamic country to have nuclear weapons. India has just carried out its own tests. Newspapers proclaim 'we will destroy India'.
Pervez Musharraf is promoted to the chief of staff of the Pakistani army
Gen Musharraf is now the most powerful army officer in the country and relations with the government are strained. Only a few months earlier the prime minister rejected calls from a former army chief that the army should have a formal say in the running of the country.
Benazir Bhutto and husband Asif Zardari found guilty in corruption cases
The case involves allegations of kickbacks involving a Swiss company. Ms Bhutto and Mr Zardari are given jail sentences. He is already behind bars. She is out of the country and stays out.
Infiltration by troops and militants into the Kargil area of Indianadministered Kashmir
Troops and militants capture ground from India in the disputed territory of Kashmir. But it ends up as a major military confrontation between the two countries and leads to heightened tension between Gen Musharraf and Mr Sharif.
Pakistan withdraws from Kargil
Nawaz Sharif addresses the nation on the withdrawal. There are reports suggesting that it was made only after considerable pressure from the West and was done against Gen Musharraf's wishes. The relationship between the two men appears to have broken down irrevocably.
Gen Musharraf dismissed as army leader but then seizes power in a coup
Gen Musharraf is dismissed by Mr Sharif but returns to the country from abroad to take command of thousands of troops who refuse to accept his dismissal. Mr Sharif is placed under house arrest and faces criminal charges.
Nawaz Sharif sentenced to life imprisonment on hijacking and terrorism charges
Supreme Court orders President Musharraf to hold elections by October 2002
By now firmly ensconced in power President Musharraf faces a constitutional quandary how can he remain head of the army while at the same time be president of the country
Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif barred from active politics
Nawaz Sharif goes into exile
Gen Musharraf supports US war on terror
Musharraf swings in behind the US in its fight against terrorism and supports attacks on Afghanistan. US lifts some sanctions imposed after Pakistan's nuclear tests in 1998 but retains others put in place after the 1999 coup.
Referendum is held to extend the presidents term
Voters give Gen Musharraf a fiveyear extension to his rule. But the referendum is overshadowed by allegations of poll abuse and opposition charges that the turnout was very low.
Court sentences Benazir Bhutto
The PPP leader fails to turn up in court to answer corruption charges and is sentenced in absentia for not turning up for three years. The ruling prevents her from contesting general elections the same year. The sentence is later suspended. An appeal into the case is pending.
Benazir Bhutto and husband convicted of money laundering by a Swiss court and given jail sentences and fine
Benazir Bhutto and husbands convictions in Switzerland overturned by higher court
Gen Musharraf survives two assassination attempts
Gen Musharraf vows to "cleanse the country of extremists" after two attempts on his life in 11 days one of which leaves 14 people dead. Islamic militants opposed to his alliance with the US are blamed for the attacks.
Benazirs husband released from jail
The release of Ms Bhutto's husband Asif Zardari in jail on corruption and conspiracy to murder charges is hailed by some commentators as a sign that her political career could be rekindled.
Benazir Bhuttos PPP party says it is increasing contacts with Gen Musharraf
Musharraf election timetable controversy develops
Gen Musharraf's supporters say they want him to be reelected by the current parliament and provincial assemblies. The opposition insist there should be assembly elections first confident that his support would then be much weaker.
Supreme Court rules that Nawaz Sharif can return from exile
10 September, 2007
Nawaz Sharif returns to Pakistan and is promply sent back into exile.
Nawaz Sharif hopes for a triumphant return. His supporters fail to turn out en masse. At Islamabad airport he is charged with corruption and money laundering and put back on a plane to Jeddah.
14 September, 2007
Benazir Bhutto says she will return from selfimposed exile on 18 October
The former PM says she is confident her supporters will "rally round" her when she goes home. It is not clear how the government will react if she does go back. Talks between her and Gen Musharraf appear to be stalled.
18 September, 2007
Gen Musharraf will resign from the army if elected president his lawyer says.
20 September, 2007
Presidential election to be held on 6 October Election Commission says.
5 October, 2007
Corruption charges dropped against Benazir Bhutto
Gen Musharraf quashes corruption charges against Benazir Bhutto but not Nawaz Sharif. It's seen as a crucial step towards a powersharing deal between Ms Bhutto and the president.
6 October, 2007
Gen Musharraf secures landslide in presidential vote but must wait to be declared winner
Pervez Musharraf wins nearly all the ballots cast in the presidential election which most opposition parties say is illegal. They abstain or boycott. But Gen Musharraf must still wait for the Supreme Court to rule before he can be declared winner.
18 October, 2007
Benazir Bhutto flies to Karachi ending years of selfimposed exile
Crowds of people greeted Benazir Bhutto's return to Pakistan. But as she travelled to a homecoming rally two bombs exploded near her motorcade killing at least 130 people. Ms Bhutto was not hurt.
3 November, 2007
Gen Musharraf declares state of emergency and suspends the constitution
Gen Musharraf says the state of emergency is needed because of violence by Islamist militants and interference from the judiciary. The chief justice is removed and TV channels are taken off air. Benazir Bhutto demands a timetable for elections. Nawaz Sharif accuses Gen Musharraf of treason.
25 November, 2007
Nawaz Sharif returns to Lahore after seven years in exile
Correspondents say Gen Musharraf's decision to end Mr Sharif's exile could be a bid to dent the electoral chances of Benazir Bhutto's Pakistan's People's Party PPP in forthcoming general elections. The PPP is the country's largest party and observers say the government fears Ms Bhutto is becoming too powerful.
28 November, 2007
Gen Musharraf hands over control of military
President Musharraf handed over command of the military to Gen Ashfaq Pervez Kayani in a ceremony in Rawalpindi. The most serious pressure on the president to give up his uniform had come from the United States his main international backer. As a civilian leader President Musharraf will still have considerable powers including the ability to sack a civilian government.
29 November, 2007
Mr Musharraf is sworn in for a second term as president
Mr Musharraf was sworn in for a second term this time as a civilian ruler having stepped down as commander of the military. He said it was an historic day for Pakistan. Mr Musharraf was elected to serve as president for another five years in a legislative election on 6 October the legitimacy of which has been hotly contested.
27 December, 2007
Benazir Bhutto is assassinated in Rawalpindi
Ms Bhutto had just finished addressing a crowd of PPP supporters in a park in the town of Rawalpindi when a gunman opened fire. Almost simultaneously a bomb exploded. She suffered severe head injuries but the cause of her death remains a dispute between her supporters and police investigators. Ms Bhutto had been campaigning ahead of elections which had been due in January.
30 December, 2007
Ms Bhuttos son is named titular head of party
Ms Bhutto's son Bilawal 19 is named as his mother's successor as leader of the PPP party. He will remain titular head until he finishes his studies at Oxford University. His father Asif Ali Zardari will run the party daytoday in the meantime.
18 February, 2008
President Musharraf suffers election humiliation
The parliamentary elections are held more than a month after they were originally scheduled following Ms Bhutto's death. As the parties await the final result it emerges that the main party backing President Musharraf has suffered a heavy defeat. The PMLQ looks likely to be excluded from any coalition.
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