Wish Upon a Musharraf:
“I would like to move away from the sham democracy we have had in Pakistan,” Gen. Pervez Musharraf told Time magazine
in December 1999, less than two months after seizing power in a bloodless coup that deposed Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif. Musharraf was the head of the Pakistani military. “I want a true democracy at the grass-roots level,” he continued, “where people can govern themselves and run their own health programs and road construction. I intend to devolve power from the center to the provinces and from the provinces to the districts.”
The "Second Coup":
In late 2007, with Pakistan no further advanced toward “true democracy,” and in many regards having regressed considerably in that quest, Musharraf staged what many Pakistanis termed his “second coup.” He suspended the Constitution, fired the chief justice of the Pakistani Supreme Court and 12 of the nation’s 17 judges (he’d fired six in 2000), arrested political opponents, silenced opposition media, and declared martial law under the guise of a state of emergency.
The Real Reason Musharraf Panicked:
His two stated reasons: the war against an Islamic insurgency in northwestern Pakistan — a small but persistent war — and his claim to “preserve the democratic transition that I initiated eight years back.” More likely, Musharraf, always prone to dictatorial excesses, was shoring up his diminishing powers in the face of popular discontent for his rule and the very real possibility that the chief justice of the Supreme Court was about to declare Musharraf’s re-election illegal.
Early Life and Military Career:
Pervez Musharraf was born in Delhi, India, on August 11, 1943 to an educated Muslim family. When the Subcontinent was partitioned into India and Pakistan in 1947, the family migrated to Karachi, Pakistan's largest city. The family lived in Turkey from 1949 to 1956 (Musharraf's father was a diplomat). Pervez attended exclusive schools before entering the Pakistan Military Academy in 1961. He was a second lieutenant in an artillery regiment when war broke out with India in 1965, and a company commander during the 1971 war with India. He married his wife Sehba in 1968. They have a son (Bilal) and a daughter (Ayla).
Catching a Dictator's Eye:
Musharraf kept making his way up the ranks under the protection of General Muhammad Zia al-Huq, the dictator who led his own bloodless coup in 1977 to take power and rule Pakistan militarily for the next 11 years. Al-Huq, who died in a mysterious plane crash in August 1988, would prove to be one of Musharraf’s role models. Musharraf was promoted to general in October 1998 and named the army’s chief of staff. His benefactor: Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, against whom Musharraf would lead his first coup a year later. Musharraf had assured Sharif that the army would “remain apolitical.” That was open to interpretation.
Musharraf and the Taliban:
When he admitted in July 1999 that Pakistani troops had joined Islamic militants to battle Indian troops in the bitterly contested province of Kashmir, Musharraf was also admitting to the Pakistani military’s controversial role as power broker in the region. Those Islamic militants were trained by the Pakistani military and Pakistan’s intelligence services expressly to fight an insurgency in Kashmir, but also to advance Pakistani interests in Afghanistan, where Pakistan had sponsored the rise of the Taliban. The militants were the backbone of the Taliban.
The 1999 Coup:
Sharif’s rule, however, was messy, uncertain and generously paranoid. Crime and corruption were rampant. A week before Musharraf’s 1999 coup, he told the Hindu, an Indian newspaper, “The law and order situation is bad. It should improve. It will improve.” Pakistanis wished it did. On October 12, 1999, while Musharraf was visiting Sri Lanka, Sharif fired him. Musharraf knew about Sharif’s plan and had prepared a counter-move. He ordered the army to seize Sharif and impose martial law. By 2:50 the next morning, Musharraf told the nation in a televised address that there was no timetable for elections.
In June 2001, he appointed himself president and head of state. A general parliamentary election was held in 2002, but it was by no means an open and free election as opposition parties were banned. The pro-Musharraf Pakistan Muslim League (Quaid-i-Azam) was the biggest winner.
Musharraf and the Bush Administration's "War on Terror":
Despite his ties to the Taliban and Osama bin Laden—about whom he declared himself neutral following al-Qaeda’s bombings of American targets in the late 1990s—Musharraf agreed to join the Bush administration’s “war on terror” following the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks. But he didn’t do it for nothing. Between 2001 and 2007, the United States channeled more than $10 billion in aid to Musharraf’s regime, most of it military.
Pakistan Under Musharraf: Crossroads and Crossed Swords:
In January 2007, the outgoing Director of National Intelligence, John Negroponte, told a U.S. Senate committee: “Pakistan is a frontline partner in the war on terror. Nevertheless, it remains a major source of Islamic extremism and the home for some top terrorist leaders.”
What reforms Musharraf promised have been few, if occasionally considerable. He condemned the practice of “honor killings,” in which women are murdered by their own families for behaving “shamefully”—divorcing, say, or marrying a man the family doesn’t approve of.
He also led the reform of rape laws that had previously required that a woman prove, through several male witnesses, that she had been the victim of rape. Taxes were lowered. But the tribal areas of northwest Pakistan verge on civil war. Suicide bombings around the country have taken 300 lives in 2007. Reforms have stalled. Musharraf himself was the target of three assassination attempts.
Facing impeachment in August 2008, Musharraf chose to resign.