FILE PHOTO: Pakistan's President Pervez Musharraf speaks at the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI), in central London January 25, 2008.  Musharraf was delivering a lecture to RUSI during a visit to the UK.      REUTERS / Alessia Pierdomenico / File Photo

Pervez Musharraf The general who led Pakistan through turbulent post 9/11 period

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Pervez Musharraf, the former Pakistani president and general who led the country through a tumultuous period of its history, has died, his family announced. He was 79.

Mr Musharraf had for years been battling complications arising from Amyloidosis, a rare group of conditions caused by a build-up of an abnormal protein called amyloid in tissues throughout the body.

These protein deposits can make it difficult for organs to function and, as they cannot be removed, there is no cure.

Born to an Urdu-speaking family in Delhi that migrated to Pakistan after the partition of India in 1947, Mr Musharraf grew up in the overcrowded port city of Karachi and Turkey’s Istanbul.

In 1961, at the age of 18, Mr Musharraf joined Pakistan’s army and trained at the prestigious military academy at Abbottabad.

There, while learning to become an officer, he met several other candidates who would go on to serve alongside him in high-ranking positions in Pakistan’s powerful military.

In 1964, he was commissioned into the artillery regiment as a second lieutenant and was posted to the border with rival India.

He had only to wait a year before war broke out with Pakistan’s neighbour.

As an artillery officer, Mr Musharraf saw heavy fighting, developed a reputation for sticking to his post under fire and was awarded a medal for gallantry.

Shortly after the war, which ended with both sides declaring victory, he joined the Special Service Group – Pakistan’s elite special forces unit.

When war again broke out between India and Pakistan in 1971, he was the commander of an SSG battalion.

Mr Musharraf continued to rise through the ranks of Pakistan’s military in the decades that followed.

By the early 1990s, he had secured a two-star command and, in his frequent trips abroad for international study, acquired a taste for western fashion and culture that earned him the nickname “Cowboy”.

Mr Musharraf became a prominent national figure in Pakistan when, in 1998, he was made a four-star general by then-prime minister Nawaz Sharif, becoming the head of the country's armed forces.

It was not long before the relationship between Pakistan’s military and civilian leaders broke down, and Mr Sharif tried unsuccessfully to remove Mr Musharraf as the army's leader only months after his appointment.

In retaliation, the army seized power in 1999, and Mr Musharraf eventually became Pakistan’s tenth president in 2001.

As president, Mr Musharraf walked back many of the ousted prime minister’s policies.

He opened up the news media and granted new licences for television channels and promoted the arts, helping to support the country’s film, music and theatre industries.

In the aftermath of the September 11 attacks, Mr Musharraf spoke out against extremism and allied Pakistan with the United States in the War on Terror — provoking anger at home.

The Pakistani president cultivated a close friendship with US President George W Bush, who famously forgot Mr Musharraf's name while running for the White House in 1999 but later hailed him as "a strong defender of freedom and the people of Pakistan".

During his time as president, Mr Musharraf survived several assassination attempts and found himself caught in a struggle between the West and extremist groups.

He was also dogged by nuclear proliferation scandals throughout his tenure and clashed with the judiciary over his decision to remain head of the army while he was president.

With his popularity hurt severely and facing mass movements calling for his impeachment over actions taken during his presidency — including the disastrous decision to storm the Lal Masjid compound to end a siege there which resulted in more than 150 deaths and hundreds of injuries — he resigned in 2008 and left the country.

Mr Sharif returned to office and accused Mr Musharraf of treason in 2013. He was formally charged a year later.

Mr Musharraf returned to Pakistan in 2013 to take part in elections but this second foray into Pakistani politics ended in arrest and humiliation for the general, who was barred from standing for office.

In 2019, he was sentenced to death for high treason but, less than a month after the ruling, the entire process was declared unconstitutional by Lahore's high court.

Mr Musharraf lived in London and Dubai since 2016, when he was allowed to leave Pakistan for medical treatment.

Updated: February 07, 2023, 8:50 AM