The year 2018 saw many major happenings in Pakistan, with many ups and down for the entire nation. The country witnessed some important events and historic court verdicts, which will always be remembered in history.

With 2018 coming to an end, here is a recap of some of the most talked about events and happenings in the country that left a mark.

Zainab murder case

The year began with the horrific rape and murder of a seven-year-old girl, Zainab, in Kasur, Punjab. Soon after the culprit was arrested, an anti-terrorism court issued orders to execute the rapist and murderer Imran Ali. The culprit was hanged at Lahore's Kot Lakhpat Central Jail on October 17.

The minor girl was found dead at a garbage dump five days after she went missing from her house. Zainab was raped and then murdered by Imran, who was taken into custody after his DNA matched the samples taken from her body. During interrogation, he also confessed to raping at least seven other minor girls.

Nawaz Sharif, Maryam Nawaz sent to jail but later released

Deposed prime minister Nawaz Sharif was sentenced to 10 years in jail by an accountability court on July 7. The National Accountability Bureau (NAB) initiated an investigation against Sharif and his family for corruption in offshore properties. The court convicted Nawaz, his daughter Maryam Nawaz and son-in-law Captain (retd) Safdar in the Avenfield case.

Judge Mohammad Bashir sentenced Nawaz to 10 years, Maryam to seven and Safdar to one year imprisonment. However, Islamabad High Court later suspended their jail sentences until further judgement and released the trio only after a couple of months.

Sharif is still being investigated in two remaining references filed by NAB, Al-Azizia and Flagship reference. The verdict in the remaining corruption cases is expected to be announced on December 24.

General Elections 2018

The country held its general elections on July 25. Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf emerged victorious in elections, ending the reign of two major political parties, Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) and Pakistan Muslim League – Nawaz which usually came into power one after the other in past elections.

Although the opposition parties raised a hue and cry over alleged rigging, the Election 2018 was termed as ‘fair and transparent' by Election Commission of Pakistan, while Director-General Inter Services Public Relation Major General Asif Ghafoor also said that history will prove that the 2018 elections were fair and transparent.

Imran Khan becomes prime minister after 20 years of struggle

After a struggle of 20 long years, Imran Khan's dream of becoming the prime minister came true as his party managed to form the government in the Center after securing enough seats in the National Assembly.

Bilawal Bhutto makes it to National Assembly after debut elections

Following his family's footsteps, Pakistan Peoples Party Chairman Bilawal Bhutto contested for the first time in the general elections. Bilawal submitted his nomination papers from three constituencies and contested the elections from NA-246 Karachi South 1, NA-8 Malakand and NA-200 Larkana 1.

Bilawal emerged the victor from Larkana only and managed to secure a seat in National Assembly. His debut speech in the Parliament was hailed as a ‘historic' one by many.

PML-N President Shehbaz Sharif taken into NAB custody

On October 5, Pakistan Muslim League – Nawaz (PML-N) president and opposition leader Shehbaz Sharif was taken into NAB's custody in the Rs14 billion Ashiana Housing case. Lahore Development Authority former director general Ahad Cheema and former principal secretary to Nawaz, Fawad Hasan Fawad accused in the same case have already been remanded into NAB custody. Fawad had named Shehbaz in his statement before NAB and provided evidence against him.

Shehbaz has also been arrested in a case pertaining to Ramazan Sugar Mills. NAB has accused Sharif of using public funds for the construction of a bridge linking to their mills in Chiniot, Punjab. Shehbaz is still in custody while his residence in Lahore has been declared a sub-jail for him.

Supreme Court frees Asia Bibi in blasphemy case

In what is called a historic verdict, the Supreme Court (SC) acquitted Christian woman Asia Bibi on October 31, who was accused in a blasphemy case. Bibi was on death row since 2010, after she was accused of blasphemy during a row over drinking water with women she was working in a field with. This decision by the SC was not met with approval by a few religious-political parties, who started huge protests across the country, which lasted for three days.

Tehreek-i-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP) chief Khadim Hussain Rizvi who had started the protest following Asia's acquittal, was taken into protective custody by police and shifted to a guest house.

Anti-encroachment drive: Restoring Karachi to its former glory

With the aim to restore the port city to its former glory, the Karachi Metropolitan Cooperation started an anti-encroachment operation in the metropolis on Supreme Court's (SC) orders. The authorities, along with the help of police and Rangers, started the operation against encroachment from Karachi's historic Empress Market. Around 1000 shops were cleared around and inside the historic market. Soon after, work began to give the building a facelift.

Apart from the building, illegal constructions in other areas of Saddar, Gulistan-e-Jauhar, Gulshan, Tariq road, Mohammad Ali Society and more locations in Karachi were also cleared. The authorities are also currently clearing encroachments on lands of Karachi Circular Railway.

Chinese Consulate in Karachi came under attack

On November 23, the Chinese Consulate in Karachi came under attack which killed four people including two police officials. The attack by the three assailants was foiled by the security forces who took down all three terrorists. During the attack, a man and his son  were also killed by the terrorists.

Opening of Katarpur Corridor 

Since assuming office as prime minister, Imran Khan has several times extended invitation to neighbor India to hold talks and also discuss Kashmir issue. However, India has refused Pakistan's every invitation of round table talks. However, PM Khan did not back down and initiated talks to open the Katarpur Corridor, to give the Sikh pilgrims easy access to Gurdwara Darbar Sahib, which is located in Kartarpur, Narowal.

On November 28, the PM performed the groundbreaking of the corridor in a ceremony attended by Indian ministers and foreign diplomats. Former Indian cricketer-turned-politician Navjot Singh Sidhu was also present during the ceremony. Sidhu said that Kartarpur Corridor would eventually ‘immortalize' Imran Khan and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

A bad year for rupee

After a series of major devaluation of rupee since the beginning of 2018, the rupee hit an all time low against the dollar on November 30. For the first time ever this, Dollar hiked up to Rs144 in the interbank market. This devaluation of rupee occurred amid government's talks with International Monetary Fund. The government has sought a bailout package from the US-based lender as the need for an IMF programme cannot be ruled out due to the country's economy.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2018