Pervez Musharraf: The Career of Pakistan's Strongman

By Cnn, David Challenger | St. Joseph News-Press, January 9, 2012 | Go to article overview

Pervez Musharraf: The Career of Pakistan's Strongman


Cnn, David Challenger, St. Joseph News-Press


(CNN) -- Former Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf came to power in a bloodless military coup in 1999 when he was chief of Pakistan's army. He held power until the 2008 elections after which he resigned. Since then he has lived in self-imposed exile in London. In late 2010 he launched the All Pakistan Muslim League party with a view to running for office in 2013. Musharraf now says he plans to return to his home country sometime at the end of January. How did Musharraf establish himself as a player in Pakistani politics? Like most Muslims, Musharraf's family moved to Pakistan when British India was divided into India and Pakistan, and settled in Karachi. Musharraf's father was a career diplomat, which saw him spend his early childhood in Turkey due to his father's assignment in Ankara. But despite early family life in civil service, Musharraf decided on a different career path -- in 1964 he was commissioned second lieutenant in an artillery regiment in the Pakistani Army.

His rise through the military would help cement his political power in Pakistan by gaining the backing of the country's armed forces. He was promoted to major general in 1991, appointed chief of army staff with rank of general in 1998, and then made chairman of the joint chiefs of staff the following year. How did Musharraf gain power in Pakistan? It was during his stint as the country's military chief that there was an opening for Musharraf's political ascendancy, when in 1999 the then-Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif dismissed him after the army's failed invasion in Kargil, in Indian- administered Kashmir. As Musharraf was returning from an overseas visit in October 1999, Sharif refused to allow the commercial airliner with 200 passengers on board to land. Within hours the army had deposed Sharif in a bloodless coup, and the plane was allowed to touch down with only 10 minutes of fuel left. In 2001 Musharraf appointed himself president of Pakistan while remaining the head of the army. Musharraf's rule: Strengthening his grip on power In April 2002 a referendum allowed Musharraf to hold office for a further five years. Four months later, Musharraf implemented 29 amendments to the constitution, granting himself the power to dissolve parliament and remove the prime minister. In a televised address in December 2004, Musharraf announced that he would not step down as top military leader, even though he had previously agreed to give up the position of the head of the army at the end of 2004. He said that he needed to maintain his position in order to watch over anti- terrorist operations.

During his rule, Pakistan attained respectable growth rates and established a generally favorable investment climate. Along with that came a growing middle class, a more aggressive media, and a more assertive judiciary.

"He brought parliamentary reforms. He brought women into the parliament," said Ahmed Bilal Mehboob, director of the Pakistan Institute of Legislative Development and Transparency.

But, analysts say, Musharraf never lost his military mindset. "He in a way, always believed in a unity of command, a very centralized command, which means his command, in fact," said Lt. Gen. Talat Masood, a political analyst. Why did things turn sour for Musharraf? Musharraf's popularity began plummeting in 2007 after he suspended Supreme Court Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry for "misuse of authority." The move triggered protests and accusations that he was trying to influence the court's ruling on whether he could run for another five-year term. Chaudhry was reinstated but the damage was done.

In October of that year, Musharraf was re-elected president by a parliament critics said was stacked with his supporters. Opposition parties filed a challenge. The next month, he declared a state of emergency, suspended Pakistan's constitution, replaced the chief judge again and blacked out independent TV outlets. …

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