It was rather unusual for a former Pakistan President and army chief to have stayed abroad for a decade and to have died in a foreign land.
Pervez Musharraf’s life contained numerous upheavals, especially after his military career entered the fast lane, courtesy at first Benazir Bhutto and then Nawaz Sharif, to the everlasting regret of both of them. These included the ignominy of being unwelcome in his own country. His list of omissions was so long that even the powerful Pakistan military was unable to ensure his continued stay, especially after democracy had struck firmer roots around 2013 with the PPP completing five years in saddle, followed by the return of his bête noire Sharif as the PM.
During the 2008 pre-Mumbai attack phase, when India and Pakistan seemed to be mending fences with vigour, much was made of Musharraf’s Muhajir origin. His personal connection with India was tenuous though his well-heeled family had served in Delhi’s officialdom for three generations.
Musharraf arrived in Pakistan when he was just four years old and during his formative years was raised in Karachi and Istanbul, where his father was a diplomat.
At 18, he had enrolled in the Pakistan army and was commissioned in 1964 with his first baptism by fire in the Afghan civil war that took place the same year.
Next year, he was a participant in the Khemkaran sector during the Indo-Pak war. He missed out the Indo-Pak war as his SSG detachment was on the move when the Dhaka surrender happened. Nor did he play any role in the 1971 war, all the while gaining valuable experience with the SSG, culminating with him commanding a brigade in the Siachen Glacier in 1987 when Pakistan was still not reconciled to India’s surprise occupation of the sector’s commanding heights three years earlier.
A book claimed that it was then that the Indian Army evicted the Pakistanis from Qaid Post which was later renamed Bana Post. Musharraf’s brigade was believed to have lost 200 men and the Indian Army between 20 and 50 during one such futile assault on Bilafond La. It may have been then that firmed up in his mind to occupy Indian positions further down in Kargil.
In between actually implementing the plan in 1999, which had been rejected by the higher command years back, Musharraf picked up a two and three star rank during the two tenures of Benazir Bhutto and was part of her delegation during visits to the US, reports author Dilip Hero.
The 79-year-old retired general was the main architect of the Kargil War that took place months after then Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif signed a historic peace accord with his Indian counterpart Atal Bihari Vajpayee in Lahore.
After his failed misadventure in Kargil, Musharraf deposed the then Prime Minister Sharif in a bloodless coup in 1999 and ruled Pakistan from 1999 to 2008 in various positions – first as the chief executive of Pakistan and later as the President.
For Sharif that began years of tribulation while chief executive Musharraf had to face a hostile international atmosphere. His and the country’s fortunes turned around after the 2001 attacks when Islamabad became a valuable ally in the Afghanistan chapter of the US’ ‘War on Terror’. The double game with the US was also replicated domestically with the formation of a coalition between his party and the far right fundamentalist parties even as he sought to repair ties with India.
Surprisingly, a free media began flowering which was to the cause of his downfall in 2008. Even Indian channels were allowed to beam into the country and, for a change, the Pakistani audience was hooked on to tearjerkers from the Ekta Kapoor stable.
The double game with the US was not to last and Musharraf began facing heat from the radicals, surviving at least four assassination attempts, each more deadly than the previous.
By 2007, it was becoming clear that the Pakistanis were looking for a change. The negatives were piling on at an uncomfortable pace. He had become unpopular after the war in border areas with Afghanistan, the denouncing of nuclear scientist Abdul Qadir Khan, the suspension of Pakistan Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry, the Lal Masjid bloodbath and Benazir Bhutto’s assassination besides the rise of economic inequality and suppression of human rights.
A year later he was in self-imposed exile in London after which the general always remained on the back-foot till his death while the Pakistani courts heard charges against him for treason to murder.
On the Indo-Pak front, from train services to more Indo-Pak interaction became the order of the day during his tenure. The big guns on the border fell silent and during some periods, the Pakistan Army did not seem to be vigorously promoting militancy in Jammu and Kashmir. The thread of his peace talks was picked up by a India-friendly PPP government that replaced him in 2008. The Mumbai attacks the same year put paid to an ambitious agenda that included Musharraf’s nearly-sealed deal for a status quo in Kashmir before his ouster.
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