Military general who morphed into many roles in a roller-coaster career

ISLAMABAD: Former Pakistan president Pervez Musharraf’s death in Dubai on Sunday from the ravages of a rare and debilitating disease marks the end of a roller-coaster and often unlikely journey that saw him transition from four-star general to military dictator to wannabe statesman to a pariah standing trial for treason.
Musharraf, who helmed the country for almost nine years (1999-2008), had been appointed by ex-PM Nawaz Sharif as army chief just the year before he executed a military coup to overthrow the elected government. It was ironical that Musharraf had replaced Gen Jehangir Karamat, who resigned as army chief just two days after calling for the military to be given a key role in the country’s decision-making process. Many had then taken Gen Karamat’s departure as a sign of Sharif’s growing political power over the country’s powerful military establishment.
The 9/11 terror attacks in the US months after Musharraf became president would become the defining moment of his tenure, thanks to the fallout at home. He had little choice but to enter into an alliance with the US for the latter’s war on terror after the then George W Bush administration delivered a blunt message: “You are either with us or against us.”
In October 2002, a pro-Musharraf coalition won the majority of parliamentary seats in the general elections and, two years later, he struck a deal with a coalition of Islamic parties that legitimised his 1999 coup and allowed him to remain in the army and also retain the title of president.
Pressure mounted on Musharraf in 2007 after his decision to suspend the then chief justice of the apex court, Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry, by accusing him of corruption. The move unleashed violent protests by lawyers and civil society activists, impacting Musharraf’s position. On June 20, 2007, the Supreme Court reinstated the chief justice after declaring Musharraf’s suspension order void.
Four months later, the general was embroiled in another controversy — the week-long siege of Lal Masjid (the red mosque) by religious hardliners that ended with Musharraf ordering a military operation in which some 100 people were killed.
The incident was a catalyst for the rise of the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), which has since killed hundreds in multiple terror attacks.
In November 2007, Musharraf imposed a state of emergency and suspended the constitution, reigniting protests. He resigned as army chief later that month, but it did little to resurrect his political fortunes as the assassination of former PM Benazir Bhutto in December led to more widespread protests and violence. He was accused of willfully failing to ensure her security.
In February 2008, Musharraf’s PML-Q party performed poorly in the polls, forcing him to resign as president several months later.
After stepping down, Musharraf lived between London and Dubai for several years, giving lectures and keynote speeches. In 2010, he announced the formation of his own party, the All Pakistan Muslim League, and returned in 2013 to lead his group in the general elections that year. His party won one seat in parliament, while his former rival Sharif became PM for the third time.
Months later, Sharif started criminal proceedings against Musharraf, levelling treason charges against him for imposing emergency in 2007. His name was subsequently put on the no-fly list. In 2016, he was taken off the no-fly list and allowed to leave the country on health grounds.
In October 2018, it emerged that he was suffering from amyloidosis, which had affected his mobility. On December 17, 2019, a special court handed him a death sentence in the high treason case, six years after the trial started. A month later, the Lahore high court declared all actions taken by the erstwhile government against Musharraf unconstitutional, including the filing of a complaint about treason and the formation of a special court. This led to the abolition of the death penalty pronounced by the trial court.
Born in 1943 in New Delhi, Musharraf had moved to Karachi along with his family after Partition. He attended school in Karachi and went on to join the Pakistan Military Academy. He was commissioned in the Pakistan army after completing his graduation from the military academy in Kakul in 1964.
Musharraf played a role in the 1965 War as well as the one in 1970, by which time he was a company commander of the army’s elite special services group. Post-1971, he continued to excel in military assignments and earned back-to-back promotions, ultimately reaching where even he possibly didn’t see himself until 1999.

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