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Pakistan's former military ruler Gen. Pervez Musharraf passes away

February 5, 2023 at 11:07 am

Former Pakistan President Gen. Pervez Musharraf. [Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images]

Pakistan’s former military ruler Gen. Pervez Musharraf passed away after a protracted illness in a hospital in the United Arab Emirates on Sunday, family and local media reported. He was 79, Anadolu reports.

Musharraf, who ruled the South Asian nation from 1999 to 2008, was under treatment at American Hospital in Dubai and died early Sunday morning, his family confirmed.

He was suffering from amyloidosis – a rare disease that causes organ damage – and was unlikely to recover.

He left his widow, a son, and a daughter to mourn. His body will be brought to Pakistan for burial, local broadcaster Geo News reported, citing family sources.

He had long been bedridden and wheelchair-bound, with inexorable weight loss.

Chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee, Gen. Sahir Shamshad Mirza, and Army Chief Gen. Asim Munir, in a statement, condoled the death of their predecessor.

On Oct. 12, 1999, four months after the Kargil war ended, Musharraf in a coup ousted and arrested then-Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif amid high drama.

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A year earlier, Sharif had personally promoted him to the rank of the army chief, superseding two senior generals.

He ruled Pakistan till 2008. The eventful period led Pakistan to join the US-led war on terror in Afghanistan in 2001.

An avid art and culture lover, Musharraf introduced his “enlightened moderation” philosophy, following the US invasion of Afghanistan that triggered a wave of extremism and militancy in Pakistan.

Being an ally of Washington, Musharraf is also criticized for an increased US influence in Pakistan, particularly hundreds of drone strikes on the northwestern tribal belt near the Afghanistan border, which killed many civilians.

Although he was a military dictator, he, nonetheless introduced some key reforms, including reserved seats for women and minorities, and the introduction of a powerful local bodies system.

These reforms were retained by successive democratic governments.

He also allowed private TV channels to operate in the country.

-Man of war and peace

From leading the Kargil war in 1999 to drafting a peace plan for Kashmir with India in 2006, Musharraf has carved a niche in history, as both a man of war and peace.

Known for contradictions, he introduced the concept of basic democracy, allowed a rush of news channels dotting Pakistan’s landscape, and familiarized transparency in government decisions, but at the same time subverted democracy, held the constitution in abeyance, and dismissed an elected government.

The South Asian nuclear country, according to many, has been paying the price for his decision to join the US war against terrorism after the September 2001 attacks in the US. But others reckon he had very little choice, considering the overall international atmosphere in favor of the US-led war in Afghanistan.

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Those, who have dealt with him, point out that he was both inspirational and exasperating, selfish and selfless, and at the same time humble and egotistical.

Friends describe Musharraf as a professional soldier, but also a person who believed in a show of power.

He was one of a few living generals who took part in the 1965 and 1971 wars against longtime rival India.

He was decorated with one of the top military medals for bravery in the 1965 war as a member of the Pakistan army’s commando unit – the Special Services Group.

Musharraf was born on Aug. 11, 1943, in the Indian capital New Delhi. Musharraf’s family moved to Pakistan’s southern city of Karachi after the birth of Pakistan in 1947. His father, Syed Musharrafuddin, was an accounts officer.

After ousting Sharif from power, he declared himself as “chief executive” until 2002, till he forced then-President Rafiq Tarar to resign and declared himself president.

He continued to hold this post till he resigned in 2008 after the then government and opposition threatened to impeach him.

His downfall began when he ousted the then Chief Justice Supreme Court, Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry, triggering a popular lawyers’ movement.

In Dec. 2019, he became the second head of state in Pakistan after Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, who was handed a death sentence by the court.

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He was held guilty of high treason for imposing a state of emergency on Nov. 3, 2007, and by keeping the constitution in abeyance.

A retired brigadier of the Pakistan Army, Said Nazir, told Anadolu that Musharraf was the “main architect” of the Kargil war between Pakistan and India in 1999. The war took place months after then-Prime Minister Sharif had signed a peace accord with his Indian counterpart Atal Bihari Vajpayee in Lahore.

Musharraf was in Sri Lanka on an official tour when Prime Minister Sharif decided to replace him with Gen. Ziauddin, the then-chief of Pakistan’s spy agency – ISI. The plane carrying Musharraf was not allowed to land at the Karachi airport in Pakistan by Sharif, which forced the army to react.

-Turkish touch

Musharraf could speak the Turkish language fluently, as he did early schooling in the Turkish capital Ankara and later attended a war course at Turkiye’s Military Staff College.

He spent his early years in Türkiye from 1949 to 1956 when his father was posted at Pakistan’s Embassy in Ankara.

“Our seven-year stay there (Turkiye) would prove to have a huge influence on my worldview,” Musharraf wrote in his autobiography In the Line of Fire: A Memoir, adding: “Turkiye and Pakistan and have many things in common – first and foremost, Islam.”

In 2005, when a massive earthquake hit northern parts of Pakistan resulting in the death of thousands of civilians, Turkish people were the first to extend help. Turkish humanitarian aid organizations were already in the region which witnessed the major casualties.

Musharraf is reported to have expressed his “surprise” over such an instant response by Turkish people to the disaster due to the earthquake. “Even before I mobilized my government, Turks were already on the ground helping people,” the former military ruler is reported to have confessed to the Turkish government.

Pakistan’s civilian and military leadership, including President Arif Alvi and Premier Shehbaz Sharif, also condoled Musharraf’s death.

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