Former Pakistan president Pervez Musharraf’s passing leaves divided legacy

  • 5 Feb 2023

Gen. Pervez Musharraf, who seized power in a bloodless coup and later led Pakistan into aiding the US war against the Taliban in Afghanistan, has died aged 79.

( Reuters Archive )

Pakistan's former military ruler General Pervez Musharraf has passed away at a hospital in Dubai after a protracted illness, following years of self-imposed exile.

Pakistan's military and the country's mission in the United Arab Emirates announced the death of the former army chief, who was president from 2001 to 2008, on Sunday.

Senior military figures "express heartfelt condolences on the sad demise of General Pervez Musharraf", a brief statement released by the military's media wing said.

Musharraf’s family announced in June 2022 he had been suffering from amyloidosis, an incurable condition that sees proteins build up in the body’s organs.

Musharraf seized power in a bloodless coup in 1999.(Reuters Archive)

Musharraf seized power in a bloodless coup in 1999 and later led a reluctant Pakistan into aiding the US war against the Taliban in Afghanistan.

Musharraf, a former special forces commando, became president through the last of a string of military coups that roiled Pakistan since its founding following the bloody 1947 partition of India. 

He stepped down in 2008 as he faced possible impeachment by the ruling coalition following allegations of “gross misconduct”.

He became president through a controversial referendum in 2001.(AP Archive)

Early life

Musharraf was born on August 11, 1943, in the Indian capital New Delhi. His family joined millions of other Muslims in fleeing westward when predominantly Hindu India and Muslim Pakistan split during independence from Britain in 1947. His father, Syed Musharrafuddin, was an accounts officer.

He entered the Pakistani army at age 18, and made his career there as Islamabad fought three wars against India. He was appointed army chief following the resignation of his predecessor, General Jahangir Karamat in 1998. He launched his own attempt at capturing territory in the disputed Kashmir in 1999, just before overthrowing the government of three-time premier Nawaz Sharif in the 1999 coup.

Musharraf led a reluctant Pakistan into aiding the US war against the Taliban in Afghanistan.(AP Archive)

After ousting Sharif from power, he declared himself the country’s “chief executive” before removing President Rafiq Tarar from office and assuming the post himself. He became president through a referendum in 2001. In 2002, general elections brought his Pakistan Muslim League-Quaid-i-Azam (PML-Q) and its allies to power. 

In 2007, Musharraf stepped down from his post as army chief, but said he would remain president for another five-year term. 

In February 2008, Musharraf’s ruling party lost general elections.(AP Archive)

In February 2008, Musharraf’s ruling party lost general elections. 

A few months later, facing impeachment by lawmakers and the newly elected government, he announced his resignation as president and left the country, living in London and Dubai.

Musharraf attempted a political comeback in the 2013 general election, but he was disqualified immediately. 

In 2019, a Pakistani court convicted him of high treason in absentia and sentenced him to death for subverting the country's constitution. The sentence was overturned in 2020.

READ MORE: What you need to know about Pakistani proceedings against Pervez Musharraf

“Türkiye and Pakistan and have many things in common – first and foremost, Islam,” he wrote in his autobiography.(AA Archive)

Turkish ties

Musharraf could speak fluent Turkish, as he attended early schooling in the Turkish capital Ankara, and later Türkiye'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 (Türkiye) would prove to have a huge influence on my worldview,” Musharraf wrote in his autobiography In the Line of Fire: A Memoir, adding: “Türkiye 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 through Turkish humanitarian aid organizations that were already in the hardest-hit regions.

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 reportedly said at the time.