Pervez Musharraf

(1943– ) Pakistani leader

Born in Delhi on August 11, 1943, to an educated middle-class family, Pervez Musharraf immigrated with his family to Pakistan during the Indian partition later that decade. Musharraf’s education included enrollment at the Pakistan Military Academy, the Staff College in Quetta, and the National Defence College. He rose very quickly through the Pakistani military ranks despite the fact that he and his family were not members of the Punjab upper class, which dominated the Pakistani officer corps. His military career began in 1964 with various commands that included artillery and infantry units and then leadership over commando units. Musharraf graduated from the Royal College of Defence Studies in the United Kingdom before being named the director-general of the mili- tary by Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, and he participated in the Indo-Pakistani Wars of 1965 and 1971.

In 1998 Musharraf became the army chief two days after the resignation of General Jehangir Karamat, the first army chief of staff to ever step down. Some analysts suggested that the appointment of the non-Punjab Musharraf by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif was designed to prevent him from becoming too powerful. But Musharraf, along with other military officers, soon became frustrated with the prime minister’s diplomatic efforts to resolve the crisis with India. A crisis that resulted would end Pakistan’s democratic experiment.

General Musharraf took over the government of Pakistan in a bloodless coup on October 12, 1999, and became the 12th president of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan on June 20, 2001. The coup began when Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif attempted to fire Musharraf and replace him with the director of the Pakistani Intelligence Services, or the ISI, Khwaja Ziauddin. Out of the country when the crisis began, Musharraf immediately returned to Pakistan, and, with the support of senior military officials, Musharraf landed and assumed control of the government, ultimately exiling Sharif. He then suspended the national assembly.

In April 2002 Musharraf held a national referendum in order to legitimize his rule, which was extended for five years. The majority of Pakistani political parties, however, boycotted the election, and voter participation was believed to have been about 3 percent. In October 2002 general elections were held, and the pro-Musharraf PML-Q party won a number of seats. On December 14, 2003, a bomb exploded just minutes after Musharraf’s motorcade crossed a bridge in Rawalpindi. Eleven days later another attempt to assassinate him resulted in the death of 16 people nearby. Musharraf temporarily broke the deadlock in December of 2004 in order to pass the Seventeenth Amendment, which legalized his 1999 coup. In January 2004 another referendum extended his presidency until October 2007. Several significant issues marked Musharraf’s presidency. After the September 11, 2001, attacks on the United States Musharraf allied with the United States in the War on Terrorism. Radicals within Pakistan continued to target him for assassination. In November Musharraf declared emergency rule and dismissed the Supreme Court. He arrested opposition leaders and restricted media. In late November his new, personally appointed Supreme Court dropped all challenges to his legitimacy as president, and Musharraf renounced his military role. On December 15, 2007, Musharraf ended the state of emergency, ahead of the scheduled January 8 elections. The December 27 assassination of Benazir Bhutto, however, intesified the opposition to Musharraf, and his party was soundly defeated in delayed parliamentary elections in February.

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