Theweekendleader

Musharraf: Dictator who pretended to be a liberal

BY AARTI TIKOO SINGH   |  New Delhi

17-December-2019

A retired four-star general of the Pakistan Army, Pervez Musharraf ruled the country through a tumultuous period for nine years after he assumed power in a military coup against then Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif in 1999. His legacy remains a mixed bag of both economic transformation and constitutional erosion in Pakistan.

Born in Delhi during the British rule, Musharraf was raised in Karachi and Istanbul. Appointed by Sharif as the head of the Pakistani Armed Forces, General Musharraf led the infiltration in India's Kargil region of the then Jammu and Kashmir state and now a part of the Ladakh Union Territory.

The 1999 Kargil War, which Pakistan lost, turned out to be a major embarrassment for Sharif when he was asked by the US to retreat. Sharif unsuccessfully attempted to remove Musharraf, who overthrew the democratically elected government and imposed military rule in the country.

Two years after he came to power, the global Islamist terror group Al Qaida headed by Osama bin Laden launched the September 11 attacks against the US. The attacks propelled Musharraf into greater significance when he decided to join America's war against terror in Afghanistan. After a decade-long manhunt, bin Laden was found and killed by American Navy SEALS in a private residential compound in Abbattobad, Pakistan, leading many to believe that he had been sheltered and protected by Pakistan under Musharraf all along.

However, the war helped Musharraf to strengthen his position in Pakistan. He remained Pakistan's army chief and appointed himself initially chief executive. In 2001, he became the President of Pakistan and held talks with India at the Agra summit to resolve Kashmir and other issues between the two countries.

However, the summit failed over the four-point solution for Kashmir offered by Musharraf -- demilitarizaion of Kashmir, porous Line of Control, self-governance, joint rule of India and Pakistan.A

A year later, he first held a controversial referendum which granted him a five years term as the President and then held a general election in which the Army backed PML-Q party won the vote.

He appointed PML-Q's Shaukat Aziz as his Prime Minister and extracted massive funds from the US in exchange of his cooperation in the war on terror in Afghanistan. He survived several assassination attempts through the war which led to a civil war like situation in Pakistan too.

During his rule as President, the country's economy grew rapidly. Musharraf presented himself as a modern and liberal ruler, inspired by his role model Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, the revolutionary field marshal and founder of the Republic of Turkey.

In 2007, General Musharraf suspended the country's Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry, triggering massive protests by Pakistani lawyers. The same year, a major confrontation between Islamic fundamentalists and the Musharraf government led to massive violence in Lal Masjid.

Both the incidents weakened President Musharraf's position immensely. Simultaneously, the opposition Pakistan People's Party (PPP) led an impeachment movement against him, forcing him to resign in 2008.

The dictator-turned-politician moved to London in 2008 but politics in Pakistan kept chasing him. Pakistan's courts issued warrants against him for his alleged involvement in PPP leader and former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto.

He has been declared absconder in the Bhutto assassination case. Though he returned to Pakistan for the 2013 general elections, he was quickly disqualified from participating in elections. In 2014, he was booked for high treason for imposing emergency rule and suspending the Pakistani constitution in 2007.

On Tuesday, a three-member bench of an Islamabad-based special court sentenced the former President to death in the ilong-drawn high treason case.IANS