Pakistan’s Musharraf, military ruler who allied with US and promoted moderate Islam Reuters


© Reuters. PHOTO: Pakistan’s former president, Pervez Musharraf, addresses his supporters after arriving from Dubai at Jinnah International Airport in Karachi March 24, 2013. Musharraf returned home on Sunday after nearly four years of self-imposed exile in


ISLAMABAD (Reuters) – Pervez Musharraf, the four-star general who has ruled Pakistan for nearly a decade after taking power in a bloodless coup in 1999, has overseen rapid economic growth and sought to introduce socially liberal values ​​to the conservative Muslim country.

Musharraf, 79, died in hospital after a long illness after years in self-imposed exile, Pakistani media reported on Sunday. For many years he enjoyed strong support, and his biggest threat was Al Qaeda and other militant Islamists who tried to kill him at least three times.

But his heavy-handed use of the military to quell dissent, as well as continued support for the United States in its fight against Al Qaeda and the Afghan Taliban, ultimately led to his downfall.

Born in New Delhi in 1943, Musharraf was four years old when his parents joined the mass exodus of Muslims to the fledgling state of Pakistan. His father served in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, while his mother was a teacher, and the family supported a moderate, tolerant type of Islam.

He joined the army at the age of 18 and went on to lead an elite commando unit before becoming its commander. He took power by ousting then-Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, who tried to oust him for giving the go-ahead for an operation to invade Indian-controlled Kashmir, bringing Pakistan and India to the brink of war.

In his early years in government, Musharraf won international praise for his reformist efforts, pushing through legislation to protect women’s rights and allowing private news channels to operate for the first time.

His penchant for cigars and imported whiskey and his calls for Muslims to embrace a lifestyle of “enlightened moderation” increased his appeal in the West after the September 11, 2001, attacks in the United States.

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

This helped legitimize his rule abroad, but also helped plunge Pakistan into a bloody war against local extremist militant groups.

In a 2006 memoir, he took credit for saving Pakistan from America’s wrath, saying the country had been warned it had 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 Pakistan’s military. Yet the military’s loyalties have never been unequivocal: its powerful intelligence services cut deals with the Taliban and al Qaeda and backed an insurgency fighting American troops in Afghanistan.

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

At a regional summit in 2002, less than three years after launching a military operation against India, Musharraf shocked the world when, after finishing his speech, he suddenly walked towards Indian Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee to shake hands and offer to talk peace.

Analysts say the Kashmir issue – which remains the strongest point of contention between India and Pakistan – was close to being resolved during the Musharraf era. But the peace process broke down soon after his reign.

Under Musharraf, foreign investment has boomed and Pakistan has seen annual economic growth of as much as 7.5% – still the highest level in nearly three decades, according to the World Bank.

The later years of his presidency were, however, overshadowed by his increasingly authoritarian rule. In 2006, Musharraf ordered a military operation that killed a tribal chief from Balochistan province, laying the foundations for an armed insurgency that rages to this day.

The following year, more than a hundred students calling for the imposition of Sharia law were killed after Musharraf avoided negotiations and ordered soldiers to attack a mosque in Islamabad. This led to the birth of a new militant group, the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan, which has since killed tens of thousands in suicide bombings and brazen attacks.

Later in 2007, a suicide attack that killed opposition leader Benazir Bhutto sparked waves of violence. His efforts to strengthen the judiciary also led to protests, and a beleaguered Musharraf postponed elections and declared martial law.

In 2008, the first democratic elections were held in the country after 11 years. Musharraf’s party lost and faced with impeachment by parliament, he resigned as president and fled to London.

He returned to Pakistan in 2013 to contest for a seat in parliament, but was immediately disqualified. He was allowed to go to Dubai in 2016.

In 2019, a court sentenced him to death in absentia for imposing a state of emergency in 2007, but the verdict was later overturned.

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