Islamabad: Pervez Musharraf, the former four-star Pakistani army general who governed the South Asian nation for nearly a decade after coming to power in 1999 military coup, has died. He was 79.
Musharraf was Pakistan’s fourth military leader. He ruled through the turbulent period after September 11, 2001. His body will be flown to Pakistan for burial on Monday, Geo News reported.
Musharraf was suffering from a rare organ disease called amyloidosis, and was admitted to hospital last year after he became critically ill, his family said.
Senior military chiefs "express heartfelt condolences on sad demise of General Pervez Musharraf", a brief statement released by the military's media wing said. "May Allah bless the departed soul and give strength to bereaved family."
UAE leaders condole
Shazia Siraj, a spokeswoman for the Pakistani Consulate in Dubai, confirmed his death and said diplomats were providing support to his family.
President expresses grief
Pakistan's President Arif Ali prayed "for eternal rest of the departed soul and courage to the bereaved family to bear this loss", his office said in a statement cited by AFP news agency.
“I offer my condolences to the family of General Pervez Musharraf,” tweeted Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif. “May the departed soul rest in peace.”
Musharraf was Pakistan’s fourth military leader. He ruled through the turbulent period after September 11, 2001 and attempted to appease American demands during the war on terrorism. Yet in interviews after stepping down, he confirmed that Pakistan supported proxy forces, including the Taliban in Afghanistan.
Some in Pakistan praised the former army chief and president for ushering in a level of economic stability, helped by American debt waivers and aid in return for military support. Many, however, saw him as a puppet of the US. Musharraf also drew criticism for constitutional and human rights violations and was blamed for failing to tackle widespread violence in the later years of his rule.
FAWAD CHAUDHRY, Former Musharraf aide, currently a senior leader of Imran Khan's party
"He is called a military dictator, but there has never been a stronger democratic system than that under him... Pervez Musharraf led Pakistan at a very difficult time, and Pakistanis believe the era of his reign was one of the best in Pakistan's history."
SHASHI THAROOR, Indian Politician
"Once an implacable foe of India, he became a real force for peace 2002-2007. I met him annually in those days at the UN & found him smart, engaging & clear in his strategic thinking. RIP"
MOSHARRAF ZAIDI, CEO of Tabadlad
"The most important legacy Gen. Musharraf leaves behind predates his time as president. It was his planning and execution of the Kargil War (against India) - against the judgment of military officers that preceded him and initially unbeknownst to the elected leaders at the time. The 1999 Kargil War permanently altered ... Pakistan."
Born on August 11, 1943, in Delhi, Musharraf emigrated to Pakistan with his family to the port city of Karachi after the British partition of the subcontinent in 1947. From 1949 to 1956, he lived in Turkey, where his father was a diplomat.
After joining Pakistan’s army at age 18, he was commissioned in the artillery regiment in 1964 and later became a commando. He became a general in 1991.
In 1998, then-Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif surprised the top brass by elevating Musharraf to chief of army staff after forcing General Jehangir Karamat to step down over a disagreement about security policy. Sharif believed Musharraf “- who wasn’t from Punjab province, the traditional recruiting ground for officers “- would be a pliant army chief.
In October 1999, Sharif sacked Musharraf as he was returning from a visit to Sri Lanka. The military leadership defied Sharif’s orders and led a coup that toppled his government.
Musharraf claimed Sharif didn’t allow his plane to land in Pakistan. The general refused to let the pilot fly to nearby India, and the aircraft touched down in Karachi with barely seven minutes of fuel left. Musharraf declared himself the country’s leader, and Sharif was later sentenced to 10 years imprisonment, which was commuted when he was exiled.
He was credited with attracting foreign investment, which saw the strongest economic growth in nearly 30 years during
his rule, and he enjoyed the support of the military and Pakistanis who backed his crackdown against militant groups.
But his decade-long rule was also marred by a heavy-handed approach to dissent, which included arresting rivals such as
current prime minister Sharif and the imposing of an almost six-week long state of emergency in which he suspended the constitution and censored the media.
“He failed to build on his early popularity to effect sustainable economic and political reforms and became a captive of military power and vested interests,” said Shuja Nawaz, author of several books on Pakistan’s military and a fellow at US think-tank Atlantic Council.
A graduate from a Christian high school, Musharraf was keen for Pakistan to embrace liberal Islam, an approach that increased his appeal in the West following the 9/11 attacks on the US.
Economically, the military-led government sought to reduce overseas debt. In the last Asian default before Sri Lanka’s delinquency in 2022, it froze repayments, forcing a downgrade of Pakistan’s credit rating to D.
Musharraf also used his newfound US support to get loans and grants from Western countries and international lenders.
Under intense pressure from Washington, Musharraf’s regime arrested and killed numerous Al Qaida operatives following the 2001 US invasion of Afghanistan, and it cracked down on some other militant groups that operated on Pakistani soil. That made Musharraf a target of extremists, and he survived multiple assassination attempts. At the same time, during his tenure the US accused Pakistan’s military of harboring and supporting insurgents that launched cross-border attacks in Afghanistan and India “- complaints that continued after Musharraf left office.
He repeatedly reneged on his pledges to restore legitimate democracy. Musharraf was sworn in as the 11th president of Pakistan in November 2002, following a controversial referendum in April that year in which he got 98 per cent of the vote. Sharif and former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto of the Pakistan Peoples Party were barred from contesting the poll.
In the later years of his rule, Pakistan’s economy and security deteriorated and Musharraf faced increasing calls to step down and allow democratic elections to take place. He succumbed to Western pressure to allow Bhutto and Sharif to return to Pakistan in 2007 and contest the upcoming ballot.
The campaign was marred by widespread violence, including Bhutto’s murky assassination in December that year in the military garrison city of Rawalpindi, where her father, former premier Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, was executed in 1979 after being overthrown by General Zia.
Facing impeachment, Musharraf finally stepped down in August 2008 after Bhutto’s party came to power. He made a one-hour televised speech defending his nine-year rule and then left Pakistan that November.
After US forces killed Osama bin Laden in a 2011 raid on his hideout in a Pakistani city, Musharraf faced allegations that he’d been complicit years earlier in allowing the Al Qaida leader safe haven in the country.
The former general tried multiple times to re-enter politics. When he last returned to Pakistan in 2013 he was eventually placed under house arrest. The government allowed him to leave in 2016 to seek medical treatment abroad. Facing numerous legal issues, Musharraf was barred from contesting Pakistan’s elections in July 2018.
Frail and recovering from an unspecified illness, Musharraf said in the October 2018 interview that it was unlikely he’d return to Pakistan any time soon to face what he called “politically motivated” criminal charges.
Those included treason charges for suspending the constitution and a murder charge in the assassination of Bhutto. Musharraf failed to show up for her murder trial in 2017.
In December 2019 the former army chief was sentenced to death in absentia by a special court in Pakistan over the constitutional charges. The ruling was challenged by the military, which it said had caused “pain and anguish” among the rank and file. Musharraf appealed the verdict and it was annulled by the Lahore High Court the following month for being unconstitutional and politically motivated.
Musharraf married his wife Sehba in 1968. They had a daughter, Ayla, and a son, Bilal.