Musharraf = A dictator falls

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The man whom World once shunned as a dictator, who later emerged as a lead player in US's war on terror, and then a peace negotiator with India, all the roles are over. Now its time for the President of Pakistan, Pervez Musharraf to stepdown from Centre-stage to go to the realms of memory.

The President of Pakistan, Pervez Musharraf resigned from the Presidency on Monday, Aug 18 after nine years of domination. He came to power in a bloodless coup on October 12, 1999. From the chief of Pakistan army he became the chief of the nation and in the end appointed himself as the President of Pakistan two years later on June 20, 2001. Musharraf is the first president forced out by a civilian government, signaling the reticence of the army to lend support to their one-time commander in chief. As Pakistan's fourth military ruler, he clung to power in a nation that has been governed by the armed forces for more than half its 61 years. The event which defined Musharraf's presidency was when he anchored the crucial alliance with United States. Under him Pakistan signed up for the US led campaign against Terrorism after the September 11, 2001 World Trade Centre Attacks.

Almost overnight, the man who many in the west had shunned as a 'dictator' became a pivotal player in the war on terror. Islamists' back home, however, denounced him as a 'traitor'.

In April 2002, Musharraf conducted a widely criticised referendum where he won himself five years in office. By August that year, he had sweeping new powers including the right to dismiss and elect a Parliament.

In October 2002, the general elections resulted in a hung parliament, but Musharraf bailed himself out by making a deal with a coalition of Islamic parties. He promised to leave the army by December 31 2004, but later broke his promise.

On March 9, 2007, he fired chief justice Iftikhar Choudhary accusing him of misuse of authority. A week later, the police attacked the office of a private news channel minutes after it showed a video of police roughing up Choudhary's supporters.

On May 12, 2007, large-scale clashes left 35 people dead and then the Pakistan army raided the Lal Masjid on July 10. Musharraf had been avoiding action against the madarsa for nearly seven months, but finally, extremism was met with an iron fist.

But his problems did not end there what with a failed peace deal in Waziristan, imposition of Emergency, return of rivals from exile and unhappy Islamists at home.

In October 2007, Musharraf got himself re-elected as the President of Pakistan and went on to impose Emergency in November 2007. Opposition parties claimed the law barred Musharraf from standing while he still headed the military. Musharraf handed over control of the army to Ashfaq Parvez Kayani in November. It was the beginning of his end and Benazir Bhutto's assassination in December 2007 only delayed the inevitable.

The February 2008 elections saw Bhutto's PPP and the PML-N trounce Musharraf's allies. The election result flung the biggest challenge for Musharraf as it brought the same man he deposed - Nawaz Sharif - closer to power.

The new ruling coalition then decided to impeach President Musharraf for alleged misconduct, violation of the Constitution and financial irregularities. In yet another sign of eroding support for him ahead of the impeachment motion in Parliament, three of Pakistan's four provinces - Punjab Assembly, North West Frontier Province Assembly and Sindh Assembly - adopted a resolution asking him to face a vote of confidence or resign.

Musharraf's government was the largest recipient of US aid in Asia after Afghanistan, amounting to more than $10 billion in six years. He is also credited for with steering Pakistan's economy out of trouble in 1999 when the government had less than $1 billion in foreign exchange reserves. He brought in former Citigroup Inc executive Shaukat Aziz to run the finance ministry and the nation's economy expanded at an average annual 7.5 percent in the four years ending June 30, 2007.

The benchmark Karachi Stock Exchange gained 10-fold since 2001 and investment from overseas corporations including China Mobile, Standard Chartered Plc and Emirates Telecommunications Co, reached a record $8.4 billion in 2007.

As president, Musharraf also started the India-Pakistan peace process by initiating a cease-fire across the border in October 2003 and pushing several so-called confidence-building measures including bus services and cultural exchanges.

Pervez Musharraf, the former army chief was born on Aug 11, 1943, in Delhi, emigrating to Pakistan after the partition of the subcontinent in 1947 at the age of five. He lived in Turkey from 1949 to 1956 where his father was a diplomat. He attended St Patrick's school in Karachi and then joined the army, graduating from the Pakistan Military Academy.

Musharraf was commissioned in the artillery regiment of the army in 1964 and later joined the Special Services Group as a commando, according to his profile released by the army. After serving in two wars with India -- in 1965 and 1971 -- he became a general in 1991 and chief of the army in October 1998.

After nine years of royal rule over Pakistan, its time for the dictator to accept defeat and give way for democracy. And then Musharraf quits.

The dictator bowed out!!!

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