Pervez Musharraf

Pervez Musharraf Biography.com

President (non-U.S.), General(1943–)
Pervez Musharraf went from military leader to president of Pakistan after a bloodless coup in 1998.

Synopsis

Born August 11, 1943, Pervez Musharraf fought in the 1965 war between Pakistan and India. In the 1971 war with India, he served as company commander in the Special Service Group Commando Battalion. Musharraf became general and chief of army staff in 1998,

Early Life

Political leader, military officer. Born August 11, 1943, in Mohallah Kacha Saad Ullah, Old Delhi. The son of a diplomat, Pervez Musharraf was raised in Karachi, Pakistan, and Istanbul, Turkey. He was a member of the Pakistan Military Academy's elite Artillery Regiment in the 1960s and fought in the 1965 war against India. Musharraf served as company commander of the Special Service Group Commando Battalion in the 1971 war with India. He worked his way up through the military and political ranks to become general and chief of army staff in 1998. Musharraf took over as Pakistan's president in a bloodless coup in 1999 and led the country until his resignation in 2008.

Pervez Musharraf was born into a family of civil servants. His father, Syed Musharraf Uddin, was a member of the Pakistani Foreign Service and retired as secretary of foreign affairs. His mother, Zarin, worked for the United Nations. Shortly after the India-Pakistan division in 1947, Syed moved his wife and three children (Pervez, older son Javed and youngest son Naved) from Old Delhi, India, to Pakistan.

The family spent seven years, from 1949 to 1956, in Istanbul, Turkey, where Syed was a diplomat. Pervez Musharraf became fluent in Turkish and gained an appreciation for Turkey's founder, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk. Later the family moved back to Pakistan. Musharraf attended St. Patrick's School in Karachi and graduated in 1958. He later attended Forman Christian College in Lahore and was said to be a good math student.

Military Service

In 1961, Musharraf entered the Pakistan Military Academy, from which he would graduate 11th in his class. He was commissioned in April 1964 to an artillery regiment and later joined the Special Service Group. Musharraf continued his military education at the Command and Staff College and the National Defense College in Pakistan. He also attended the Royal College of Defense Studies in the United Kingdom. In 1965, he was charged with taking unauthorized leave and was about to be court-martialed when war broke out with India. The charges were dropped and Musharraf reported for duty.

Musharraf saw action in the Indo-Pakistani War of 1965 as a second lieutenant in the Field Artillery Regiment. He was part of a major offensive against the Indian army in the Khemkaran sector, in which Pakistan advanced 15 miles into India. Despite the initial success and possessing superior advantage in armor, the Pakistani 1st Armored Division suffered a major defeat and had to pull back. Later, Musharraf was sent to the Sialkot front in India. During the war, Musharraf showed bravery in the line of fire as Indian artillery guns shelled his unit. He received an award for gallantry and was promoted to captain.

Pervez Musharraf moved up the ranks as Pakistan continued to battle with India over territory. Throughout his military career, Musharraf would serve in several appointments. By the 1980s, Musharraf was commanding an artillery brigade. In the 1990s, he was promoted to major general and assigned an infantry division, and later commanded an elite strike force. Later he served as deputy military secretary and director general of military operations. As his rank and notoriety rose, Musharraf was also making inroads in the political arena. In 1998, he was personally promoted over other senior officers by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to be the army chief of staff and chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee.

Rise Through the Ranks

From May to July 1999, Pakistan and India took up arms once again in what became known as the Kargil Conflict in the Kashmir area along the northern borders of India and Pakistan. The operation was planned and executed while Musharraf was army chief of staff under Prime Minister Sharif. Kashmir militants, with assistance from Pakistani soldiers, took positions in Indian territory. They were soon discovered by the Indian army. Some reports indicate the Indian intelligence knew of their intentions weeks before the conflict. With the use of heavy artillery and night raids, the Indians slowly pushed back the militants and the Pakistani forces. The reversal was a complete blow to the Pakistani government, which had believed its forces had an advantage in the element of surprise. With Pakistani forces struggling in the field, national pride at stake, and many government officials beginning the blame game, the Pakistani army covertly planned a nuclear strike at India. But news of the plan reached U.S. President Bill Clinton, who gave Prime Minister Sharif a warning to stand down. Pakistan withdrew its forces, leaving the militants to be destroyed by the Indian army.

Prime Minister Sharif claimed Pervez Musharraf was solely responsible for the Kargil debacle, while Musharraf claimed Sharif was to blame. In any case, the incident was a total embarrassment for Pakistan, not to mention a loss of prestige, morale, blood and treasure. On October 12, 1999, Sharif attempted to dismiss Musharraf from his position as commander-in-chief of the army, but senior army generals, loyal to Musharraf and believing the prime minister was distancing himself from any responsibility for the military defeat, refused to accept Musharraf's dismissal. Musharraf was out of the country, but when word reached him of Sharif's orders, he immediately boarded a commercial airliner for Pakistan. Sharif ordered the Karachi airport closed to prevent Musharraf's plane from landing. The generals seized control of Sharif's administration and placed Sharif under house arrest. He was later exiled to Saudi Arabia. Musharraf arrived at the capital and took control of the government. The sitting president of Pakistan, Rafiq Tarar, remained in office until June 2001, at which time Musharraf formally appointed himself president.

Relationship with the U.S.

On September 11, 2001, the United States was attacked by Middle Eastern terrorists trained in Afghanistan. The Taliban, a militant group that had recently taken control of Afghanistan, was harboring the alleged mastermind of the attacks, Osama bin Laden. Pakistan had been one of only a few countries to recognize the Taliban as the official leaders of Afghanistan. The United States sought Pervez Musharraf's support, promising more than $1 billion in aid to Pakistan and applying heavy pressure to break diplomatic ties with Afghanistan and join the "war on terror." With a weak economy, a still-tense relationship with India and internal strife in his government, Musharraf agreed to give the United States access to three airbases to launch its attacks on the Taliban. Musharraf also helped oust the Taliban from his country. However, the move created tension with neighboring Afghanistan and alienated the Islamic fundamentalists within his own country. Musharraf has been the target of several assassination attempts since then.

Political Contests

Shortly after Musharraf's seizing of the government in 1999, several Pakistanis filed court petitions challenging his assumption of power. Musharraf had always claimed his intention was to institute democracy in Pakistan. But in the face of the threat from the court, he issued an order that required all judges to take new oaths of office and agree not to make any rulings against the military. Many judges resigned instead, calling the move unconstitutional. The Pakistani Supreme Court asked Musharraf to hold national elections by October 12, 2002. To ensure his continued control, Musharraf held a referendum on April 30, 2002, to extend his term of office another five years after the October elections. Musharraf's government claimed an 80 percent turnout in favor of the referendum, but election officials reported some irregularities—for which Musharraf apologized—and the decision to hold October elections stood.

In October 2002, national elections were held, and the pro-Musharraf Pakistan Muslim League won a plurality in the Parliament. But opposition parties and coalitions formed against Musharraf, and the Parliament was virtually paralyzed for over a year. In November 2003, Musharraf agreed to hand certain powers over to the newly elected Parliament. The National Assembly elected Mir Zafarullah Khan Jamali as prime minister. In December, Musharraf made a deal with a coalition of six Islamic parties to leave the army by the end of December 2004. In exchange, the Parliament passed the 17th Amendment, which retroactively legalized Musharraf's 1999 coup. But militant extremists continued to criticize his moderate policies at home. They often openly defied his directives until he brought in the army to quell the rebellions. In late 2004, he went back on his agreement to leave the army, stating that the country was in too much turmoil for him to relinquish power, and pro-Musharraf legislators passed a bill allowing Musharraf to hold retain his positions as both chief of army staff and head of state. Though this law stood, it was not without controversy, and it motivated political forces in the assembly to continue applying pressure to Musharraf.

Resignation

Musharraf was reelected in October 2007, but the election was contested by a number of judges because he still served as both army chief and head of state. Musharraf had several of the judges arrested, suspended the constitution, and declared a state of emergency, shutting down all private media channels. On November 24, 2007, the Pakistan Election Commission confirmed the reelection of Pervez Musharraf as president. Musharraf resigned from the military on November 28, 2007, thus releasing some of the pressure and continuing what seems to be a "passive-aggressive" pattern of political maneuvering to stay in control with as much power as he can garner.

On March 22, 2008, the Pakistan People's Party named former Parliament Speaker Syed Yusaf Raza Gillani its candidate for prime minister to lead a coalition government against Musharraf. Pressure continued to mount, and on August 7, 2008, the coalition sought Musharraf's impeachment for "eroding the trust in the nation." At first Musharraf resisted, saying he would defeat those who tried to push him out of office. On August 18, 2008, however, Pervez Musharraf resigned from the post of president in response to the coalition government's threat of impeachment. It is believed that, had the impeachment taken place, he would have faced charges of corruption and possibly of murder.

The departure of the former general set off wild celebrations in Pakistan. After his resignation, Musharraf went on a pilgrimage to Mecca and has made a few public-speaking appearances in the United States. He has said that he would like once again to participate in Pakistani politics but has no plans for the immediate future.

Legacy

The verdict on Pervez Musharraf's time as leader of Pakistan is a mixed one. He did much to improve Pakistan's financial condition, making it the world's third-fastest-growing economy in a 2006 ranking and a preferred country for investment. His policies and alliances helped Pakistan substantially reduce its foreign debt and reduce poverty, and they set the country on a path of prosperity, growth and economic reform.

Musharraf's liberal policies led to more freedom for the broadcast and digital media. During this time, Pakistan experienced huge growth in the number of radio and television stations. Many Pakistanis living abroad get their news from home sources reported on international networks or on the Internet. Under his strong-armed leadership, business and finance grew in Pakistan, with increased banking interests and small manufacturing growth. Such policies also put him at odds with more fundamentalist elements in the country.

However, Pervez Musharraf often found himself sandwiched between internal pressures from a culturally and politically diverse and evolving population and the United States, which saw Pakistan as a major factor in the effort to defend itself against terrorism. As a result, Musharraf had to make up the rules as he went along, which often resulted in what looked like erratic behavior. His high opinion of himself and his abilities comes from successes in his military career and the unshakable belief that he is the best person for the job. He leaves power with several unfinished projects: a fragile democracy in Pakistan; an agreement on the fate of Kashmir; dealing with increased Islamic fundamentalism and militancy within the country; and much-needed political and economic reform.

Musharraf married Begum Sehba in 1968. They have two children, Ayla and Bilal, and four grandchildren: two granddaughters from Ayla, and a grandson and a granddaughter from Bilal. Ayla works as an architect in Karachi. Bilal is a graduate of Stanford University and works in the United States, in Silicon Valley.

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