The following are three events which – in my humble opinion – had a profoundly positive or negative effect on the future of Pakistan.
Assassination of Liaquat Ali khan
Liaquat Ali Khan was one of the Founding Fathers of Pakistan and the first Prime Minister of Pakistan. He was assassinated in Rawalpindi in in 1951.
Although he sided with the United States and the West, he always wanted to be a part of the Non-Aligned Movement.
Although he helped Pakistan gain independence, his tenure as Prime Minister saw political unrest and his government also survived an attempted military coup.
In 1952 at a political rally in Rawalpindi, Liaquat Ali Khan was murdered by a hired assassin named Sa’ad Babrak.
The assassination of Liaquat Ali Khan brought about a leadership void and was followed by continued political turmoil all over the country, especially East Pakistan. Eventually Martial Law was implemented in 1958 and the political fabric of Pakistan was damaged forever.
After Jinnah, Liaquat Ali Khan was the only person who could have held the country together, making his assassination the first major turning point in Pakistan’s history.
Separation of East Pakistan
The single most disastrous event in Pakistan’s history, in my opinion, is the formation of Bangladesh.
The tensions between East and West Pakistan climaxed in 1970 when the Awami League won the general elections by getting 160 seats allotted to East Pakistan. The Awami League thus had the right to form a government and Mujib-ur-Rehman, the leader of the Awami League, had every right to become Prime Minister.
However, things did not play out quite so smoothly and a certain Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto and Yahya Khan ended up leading Pakistan towards disastrous results.
Circumstances after the election led to the Military Dictator Yahya Khan imprisoning Mujeeb, which in turn led to a movement calling for the independence of East Pakistan.
The Army tried to crush the revolt and ended up fighting a war with India who – for its obvious benefit – helped the Bangalis break off from Pakistan and establish an independent nation, Bangladesh.
Losing East Pakistan resulted in Pakistan losing a huge strategic and military advantage in the region.
Pakistan’s Nuclear Tests
Pakistan’s nuclear program was established in 1972 by Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto. This program gained considerable momentum after India conducted a nuclear test in 1974. By this time Bhutto was leading the country and in 1975 he invited Dr. Abdul Qadeer Khan to join the program.
Fast forward to May of 1998. India conducted five more nuclear tests on May 11th and 13th of that year. By this time Pakistan had a full-fledged nuclear program as well as the capability to carry out its own test.
On the 28th and 30th of May 1998, a few weeks after the Indian tests, Pakistan carried out its own nuclear tests successfully and joined the elite club of nuclear countries; also becoming the only Muslim country in the world to be nuclear tipped.
The significance of this event was that it completely changed the security dynamics of the region. A region that had seen three wars fought in less than 50 years, is now much more stable. There was one incident at Kargil, but even that was defused and one of the underlying reasons was that no one wanted to see the two countries fight a potentially nuclear war.