August 1988 President Muhammad Zia ul-Haq, U.S. Ambassador Arnold Raphael and several high ranking military officials die in a mysterious plane crash. Senate Chairman Ghulam Ishaq Khan becomes acting president.
November 1988 Benazir Bhutto leads the Pakistan People's Party (PPP) to a resounding victory in parliamentary elections. Bhutto is named prime minister, becoming the first woman ever to lead a modern Islamic nation.
August 1990 Alleging corruption and incompetence, President Khan unilaterally dismisses the Bhutto government and calls for new elections. The Islamic Democratic Alliance (IJI-Islami Jamhuriat Itehad) sweeps the elections in October, winning a two-thirds majority in the National Assembly and control of all provincial parliaments. Muhammad Nawaz Sharif becomes prime minister. The government initiates an economic reform program calling for deregulation and privatization.
May 1991 The Sharif government incorporates Islamic Shari'a law into the legal code.
April 1993 President Khan dismisses the Sharif government, charging it with maladministration and corruption, but the Supreme Court reverses Khan's action the following month. The ensuing deadlock between Sharif and Khan is resolved when, under pressure by the military, both men resign their offices in July. An interim government headed by former World Bank Vice President Moeen Qureshi takes office.
October 1993 In parliamentary elections, the PPP wins a plurality of seats and Benazir Bhutto again becomes prime minister. Bhutto's close ally, Farooq Ahmed Leghari, is elected president in November.
November 1996 President Leghari dismisses Bhutto's government, citing corruption and mismanagement of the economy.
February 1997 Nawaz Sharif returns as prime minister after his party, the Pakistan Muslim League (PML), wins an overwhelming electoral victory. A month later, Sharif, with the National Assembly's unanimous support, amends the constitution to strip the president of the power to dismiss the government and to curb the president's power to appoint military service chiefs and provincial governors.
December 1997 President Leghari resigns after a protracted power struggle with Prime Minister Sharif. Muhammad Rafiq Tarar is elected president in early January.
January 1998 Corruption charges are filed against former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto and her family, who are alleged to have received kickbacks from government contracts and siphoned off public money to foreign bank accounts.
April 1999 Benazir Bhutto and her husband are convicted of taking millions of dollars in kickbacks and are sentenced to five years in prison. Their convictions are set aside in April 2001, but both remain under investigation in other cases. Two months later, she is sentenced in absentia to three years in prison for failing to appear in court to face corruption charges.
October 1999 Pakistan again comes under military rule after a coup led by Gen. Pervez Musharraf ousts the increasingly unpopular civilian government. Gen. Musharraf declares himself chief executive and appoints an eight-member National Security Council to function as the supreme governing body, in addition to a National Reconstruction Bureau to enact structural reforms and a civilian cabinet. The coup is widely condemned around the world and leads to the suspension of Pakistan from the Commonwealth for five years.
April 2000 Former Prime Minister Sharif is sentenced to life imprisonment on hijacking and terrorism charges for trying to prevent an airplane carrying Gen. Musharraf from landing in Karachi in October 1999 when it was running out of fuel. Sharif is granted a pardon in December and goes into exile in Saudi Arabia.
May 2000 The Supreme Court unanimously validates the October 1999 coup and gives Musharraf legislative and executive authority for three years. In June 2001, Musharraf declares himself president and is sworn in.
April 2001 The Supreme Court orders changes to the anti-corruption law enacted by the military government after taking power in 1999. The Court reduces the period of detention without formal charge from 90 to 15 days and upholds the right of the National Accountability Bureau, the country's chief anti-corruption body, to decide when and where to try suspects.
September 2001 Following the September 11 terrorist attacks on the United States, Musharraf drops his support of the Taliban regime in neighboring Afghanistan and pledges close cooperation with the United States in its war against terrorism. Musharraf deploys tens of thousands of troops along the restive Pakistani-Afghan border to pursue suspected al-Qaeda and Taliban-linked militants.
April 2002 Musharraf wins five more years in office in a controversial referendum. During the summer, Musharraf amends the constitution to give himself sweeping new powers and sets an October date for parliamentary elections.
November 2002 Parliamentary elections bring about a handover of power from military to civilian rule. Mir Zafarullah Khan Jamali is named prime minister.
July 2003 A Swiss investigative magistrate finds Benazir Bhutto and her husband guilty of money laundering and accepting bribes and sentences them to six-month suspended jail terms. They are ordered to return to the Pakistani government the nearly 727 million rupees (US$12 million) in bribes they accepted from two Swiss companies seeking contracts in 1995, which they laundered through Swiss banks.
August 2003 Former Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto and her husband Asif Zardari are convicted by a Swiss judge of laundering millions of dollars while Bhutto was in office. Both receive six month suspended jail terms and fines of US$50,000. The ruling orders Bhutto to return roughly US$12 million and a diamond necklace worth $188,000 to Pakistan. Both deny misappropriating the money and plan to appeal.
Zardari had been in prison since 1996 when his wife's government was dismissed following allegations of corruption. Bhutto had been sentenced in absentia for corruption in Pakistan, and had been living in self imposed exile in Britain and the United Arab Emirates since 1999.
December 2003 President Musharraf narrowly escapes two assassination attempts in less than two weeks.
June 2004 Prime Minister Jamali resigns. An interim prime minister, Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain, assumes the post until Finance Minister Shaukat Aziz is elected prime minister in August.
December 2004 President Musharraf announces he will remain head of the army despite an earlier pledge to relinquish the role.
October 2005 A 7.6 magnitude earthquake in Pakistani-administered Kashmir kills tens of thousands of people. Children killed in school building collapses reportedly account for nearly half of the death toll, and systemic corruption in government construction projects is blamed for the shoddily-constructed schools and other public buildings that disintegrated during the earthquake.
November 2005 The Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA) raids a private radio station in Karachi and shuts it down after the station broadcasts a news program on the October earthquake produced by the BBC. PEMRA officials claim the station violated a law requiring radio stations to broadcast only news and current affairs programs produced by state-run radio networks.
May 2006 Exiled former Prime Ministers Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif meet in London and sign a "charter for democracy" in preparation for the 2007 elections. Despite facing serious legal consequences, both say they will return to Pakistan to take part in the elections. Under the charter, Bhutto and Sharif pledge to respect each other's political mandate, revive the 1973 constitution and restrict the military's power over civilian government.
March 2007 President Musharraf suspends Pakistan's top judge, Chief Justice Iftikhar Mohammed Chaudhry, for alleged misuse of office. The judge is a controversial figure noted for his firm line on government misdeeds and human rights abuses. The president supposedly received "numerous complaints and serious allegations for misconduct, misuse of authority and actions prejudicial to the dignity of office of the chief justice of Pakistan". Lawyers, opposition parties, human rights activists and some judges condemn the move as unconstitutional and a blow to the independence of judiciary. Many in the legal community believe the judge's dismissal is linked to his unpopularity with the government since he filed a petition to recover missing people, allegedly abducted by intelligence agencies, and he overturned the recent sale of Pakistan's state-run steel mill.
Following his dismissal, lawyers boycott courts across Pakistan, protest against the dismissal and as a result several are injured in clashes with the police. Witnesses claim the demonstration is one of the largest ever by High Court lawyers in the Pakistani city of Lahore. Chaudhry is reinstated later that year.
June 2007 President Musharraf signs into immediate effect a measure to increase control over media. Information Minister Mohammad Ali Durrani tells a press conference that private TV channels must seek prior permission to cover sensitive live events and that Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA) rules prohibit the broadcast of programs "against the armed forces and judiciary".
A Presidential ordinance is enacted that gives PEMRA the power to halt broadcaster transmissions, close offices, seize equipment and revoke licenses. The measure also increases the fines for violation of PEMRA regulations from 1 million rupees (US$16,665) to 10 million rupees (US$166,650). Since Justice Chaudhry' suspension in March, President Musharraf has openly criticized the media for its coverage of opposition protests.
October 2007 Former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto returns to Pakistan to prepare for the 2008 elections. Shortly after her return, suicide bombers attack her slow-moving convoy. The attack kills 136, and injures about 450, mainly Bhutto supporters. Bhutto is uninjured.
Bhutto is placed under house arrest; she is later released.
November 2007 Pervez Musharraf, acting as Chief of the Army Staff, declares a state of emergency and suspends the constitution. National television stations go off the air. Chief Justice Chaudhry is suspended again. Judges and lawyers protest, and demonstrations against the state of emergency are violently repressed by government forces.
November 2007 Opposition leader Nawaz Sharif returns to Pakistan from exile in Saudi Arabia. In December, Musharraf bans Sharif from participating in the upcoming election, citing corruption charges against him.
December 2007 Polling suggests two-thirds of Pakistanis want Musharraf to quit. Musharraf indicates the state of emergency will be lifted in December, but only after modifications to the constitution ensuring his immunity from prosecution. The Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority warns satellite TV stations not to carry "baseless propaganda against Pakistan" and threatens journalists with arrest.
Bhutto is assassinated at a campaign rally in Rawalpindi.
January 2008 Elections are postponed until the Feb. 18.
February 2008 In the postponed parliamentary elections, the two main opposition parties, PPP (Pakistan People's Party) and PML-N (Pakistan Muslim League), gain a clear majority. They later agree to form a coalition government.
March 2008 People's Party nominee Yusuf Raza Gillani becomes prime minister.
A Pakistani court cancels the last of seven corruption cases against Asif Zardari, widower of assassinated former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto. The charges are withdrawn as part of an amnesty agreed to in 2007 between Bhutto and President Pervez Musharraf.
Zardari developed a reputation for allegedly taking kickbacks when he served in Bhutto's governments in the '90s. Bhutto had formed a deal with Musharraf to win immunity from prosecution in exchange for her support to him. According to the BBC, there were indications that the chief justice would declare this pact unconstitutional before Musharraf sacked the chief justice in November 2007, when he introduced emergency rule.
April 2008 Senior members of Pakistan's governing coalition try to reach agreement on the reinstatement of judges fired by Musharraf. Both PPP and PML-N agree on restoration of the judges by the end of the month. Key divisions remain, however, about the details of the reinstatement. Questions that had not been reconciled include whether Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry should get his job back, whether judges should only be allowed to rule on cases brought before them and whether there should be limits to the terms they serve.
August 2008 Pakistan's governing coalition continue its discussion on the impeachment of Musharraf. According to the BBC, Musharraf is accused of misconduct and violating the constitution, and the governing coalition urges him to resign. A presidential spokesperson indicates that Musharraf has no plans to resign. The list of alleged constitutional violations and examples of the president's misconduct extends to more than 100 pages. The government insists that it has enough votes to impeach him.