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Who was General (retd) Pervez Musharraf?

By: Rashid Hussain Paracha 

Musharraf was born on August 11, 1943, in New Delhi and later moved to Karachi with his family after the independence in 1947.

Musharraf’s father was a career diplomat; therefore, he lived in Turkey from 1949 to 1956. He joined Pakistan Army in 1961, at the age of 18 and went on to lead an elite commando unit Special Services Group (SSG).

The former president tied the knot with Sehba Musharraf on 28 December 1968. They were both blessed with two children, a daughter Ayla and a son Bilal.

He was promoted to the rank of four-star general and appointed chief of army staff (COAS) in October 1998 by former prime minister Nawaz Sharif.

However, in October 1999, he toppled the Nawaz-led government and later sent him into exile. He remained COAS till 2007 and relinquished the position upon confirmation of his presidency.

He rendered Pakistan an ally of the United States in a war against terrorism after the 9/11 attacks. But his heavy-handed use of the military to quell dissent as well as his continued backing of the US in its war against Al-Qaeda and the Afghan Taliban ultimately led to his downfall.

He became one of Washington’s most important allies after the attacks, allowing US forces to operate armed drones from secret bases on Pakistani soil that killed thousands and ordering domestic troops into the country’s lawless tribal areas along the Afghanistan frontier for the first time in Pakistan’s history.

It helped legitimise his rule overseas but also helped plunge Pakistan into a bloody war against militant groups.

In his autobiography ‘In the Line of Fire: A Memoir’ published in 2006, Musharraf took credit for saving Pakistan from American wrath saying the country had been warned it needed to be “prepared to be bombed back to the Stone Age” if it did not ally itself with Washington.

Musharraf also successfully lobbied then-president George W Bush to pour money into the Pakistani military.

In other areas of foreign policy, Musharraf attempted to normalise relations between New Delhi and Islamabad.

At a regional summit in 2002, less than three years after launching the military operation against India, he shocked the world when, after finishing a speech, suddenly moved towards Indian prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee to shake hands and offered to talk peace.

Analysts say the issue of Kashmir — which remains the most potent point of contention between India and Pakistan — was close to being solved during the Musharraf era. But the peace process was derailed soon after his rule.

Under his reign, foreign investment flourished and Pakistan saw annual economic growth of as much as 7.5% — which remains the highest level in nearly three decades, according to World Bank data.

The later years of his presidency were, however, overshadowed, by his increasingly authoritarian rule.

On December 24, Musharraf announced he will step down as army chief by the end of 2004, though this was withdrawn when the time came.

In 2006, Musharraf ordered military action that killed a tribal head Akbar Bugti from Balochistan, laying the foundations of an armed insurgency that rages to this day.

The next year, more than a hundred students calling for the imposition of Sharia law were killed after Musharraf shunned negotiations and ordered troops to storm a mosque in Islamabad and led to the birth of a new militant group, Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) — which has since killed tens of thousands in suicide bombings and brazen assaults.

Later in 2007, a suicide blast that killed opposition leader Benazir Bhutto, triggered waves of violence. His efforts to strong-arm the judiciary also led to protests and a besieged Musharraf postponed elections and declared a state of emergency.

In 2008, the country’s first democratic elections in 11 years were held in which Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) came to power. The Musharraf-backed party lost in elections and facing impeachment by parliament he resigned from the presidency and fled to London.

In October 2010, Musharraf announced the formation of his political party, the All-Pakistan Muslim League (APML) and returned to Pakistan in 2013 to participate in the general elections 2013. The Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), led by Nawaz Sharif, won the most seats in the general elections.

The PML-N government 2014 initiated a high treason case against Musharraf for imposing a state of emergency on November 3, 2007.

The former president was indicted in March 2014 after he appeared before the court. He rejected all charges against him.

On March 18, 2016, the former president left Pakistan for Dubai to seek medical treatment after his name was removed from the exit control list (ECL) on the orders of the Supreme Court.

A few months later, the special court declared Musharraf a proclaimed offender and ordered the confiscation of his property owing to his continuous inability to attend the proceedings.

Later, his passport and identity card were also cancelled on the orders of the apex court.

The former president was pronounced guilty of high treason and sentenced to death by hanging for his crimes on Dec 17, 2019.

It is to be noted that in June last year, the former president’s party APML — rubbished the reports of his death.

According to APML, the former military ruler was taken back to his residence after three weeks of being admitted to the hospital. It also refuted news related to him being in critical condition or on a ventilator.

The circulating news regarding his death is not correct, it said.

The party said that “Musharraf is being treated for amyloidosis at his home and his condition is stable.”

Amyloidosis is a condition which is caused by a build-up of an abnormal protein in organs and tissues that prevents them from working properly.

On February 5, 2023, Musharraf passed away in Dubai.

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