General (Rtd) Pervez Musharraf served as the 10th President of Pakistan after ousting Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif through a military coup and declaring martial law in the country. His dictatorship lasted about 9 years, from 1999 to 2008, which was a crucial period in the history of Pakistan.
General Musharraf played a pivotal role in the history of the South Asian nation as he steered the country into the War on Terror, which many believe was not Pakistan’s war to fight. General Musharraf’s weak decision to join the US in the war on terror made Pakistan the frontline state in the war on terror, hence plunging the country into the depths of terrorism. No doubt he possessed qualities such as bravery and forthrightness, but he fatally lacked diplomatic and political skills, which is why he leaves behind a negative, or at least controversial, legacy.
General Pervez Musharraf was born in 1943 in Delhi, British India. His family migrated to the newly created Pakistan after the partition of the subcontinent in 1947. He belonged to a middle-class household; however, his family was well-educated and socially prominent. General Musharraf joined the Pakistan Military Academy at the age of 18 and graduated in 1964.
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He went on to join the elite commandos of the Pakistan Army, known as the Special Services Group. He took great pride in being a commando. He participated in the 1965 and 1971 wars between Pakistan and India and led the 1999 Kargil War as Army Chief. He was a prominent and decorated officer of the Pakistan Army, and his colleagues regard him as a daring and forthright person.
Martial law in Pakistan
General Pervez Musharraf was appointed as Chief of the Army Staff in 1998 by then-Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif. However, following a tense relationship with the civil leadership, General Musharraf was abruptly fired while he was on an official trip abroad in October 1999. In a show of loyalty to its commander, the Pakistan Army refused to act upon the orders of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and instead took control of the Karachi Airport for the safe landing of General Musharraf’s aircraft.
After his return to the country, General Musharraf declared martial law and imprisoned the political leadership, later sending them into exile. He ruled the country with an iron fist for the next nine years. After his ouster from power in 2008 due to growing public dissent and political opposition, he faced impeachment and treason charges for suspending the constitution and spent most of his remaining life in self-imposed exile.
General Musharraf’s tenure, though largely remembered for the rise of terrorism in Pakistan, also had a few upsides. He contributed to the development of the media in Pakistan by issuing licences to private TV channels. The economy of Pakistan was also relatively stable during his term in power. Moreover, he also paid attention to the Kashmir issue and undertook diplomatic initiatives such as the Agra Summit to resolve it peacefully, which, although it failed, kept the issue alive.
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General Musharraf has been finally laid to rest on February 07, 2023, in Karachi. While some will remember General Musharraf as a hero for standing up to India for the sake of Kashmir, many will remember him as a despotic villain for dragging Pakistan into the War on Terror and plunging the country into its darkest era of extremism and terrorism.