Pervez Musharraf, (born August 11, 1943, New Delhi, India), Pakistani military officer who took power in a coup in 1999. He served as president of Pakistan from 2001 to 2008.
Musharraf moved with his family from New Delhi to Karachi in 1947, when Pakistan was separated from India. The son of a career diplomat, he lived in Turkey during 1949–56. He joined the army in 1964, graduated from the Army Command and Staff College in Quetta, and attended the Royal College of Defence Studies in London. He held a number of appointments in the artillery, the infantry, and commando units and also taught at the Staff College in Quetta and in the War Wing of the National Defence College. He fought in Pakistan’s 1965 and 1971 wars with India. Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif appointed him head of the armed forces in October 1998. Musharraf is believed to have played a key role in the invasion of the Indian-administered portion of the disputed Kashmir region in the summer of 1999. Under international pressure, Sharif later ordered the troops to pull back to Pakistani-controlled territory, a move that angered the military.
On October 12, 1999, while Musharraf was out of the country, Sharif dismissed him and tried to prevent the plane carrying Musharraf home from landing at the Karachi airport. The armed forces, however, took control of the airport and other government installations and deposed Sharif, paving the way for Musharraf to become head of a military government. Although he was generally considered to hold moderate views and promised an eventual return to civilian rule, Musharraf suspended the constitution and dissolved parliament. He formed the National Security Council, made up of civilian and military appointees, to run Pakistan in the interim. In early 2001 he assumed the presidency and later attempted to negotiate an agreement with India over the Kashmir region. Following the September 11 attacks in 2001 in the United States and the subsequent U.S. invasion of Afghanistan later that year, the U.S. government cultivated close ties with Musharraf in an attempt to root out Islamic extremists in the Afghan-Pakistan border region.
Over the next several years, Musharraf survived a number of assassination attempts. He reinstated the constitution in 2002, though it was heavily amended with the Legal Framework Order (LFO)—a provision of which extended his term as president for another five years. Parliamentary elections were held in October 2002, and in late 2003 the legislature ratified most provisions of the LFO.
In 2007 Musharraf sought reelection to the presidency, but he faced opposition from Pakistan’s Supreme Court, primarily over the issue of his continuing to serve simultaneously as both president and head of the military. The court thwarted his attempt to suspend the chief justice, and in October it delayed the results of Musharraf’s reelection (by the parliament). In November Musharraf responded by declaring a state of emergency. Citing growing terrorist threats, he suspended the constitution for a second time, dismissed the chief justice and replaced other justices on the Supreme Court, arrested opposition political leaders, and imposed restrictions on the independent press and media. Later that month the reconstituted Supreme Court dismissed the last legal challenges to his reelection, and he resigned his military post to become a civilian president. Musharraf ended the state of emergency in mid-December, though, before restoring the constitution, he instituted several amendments to it that protected the measures enacted during emergency rule.
The poor performance of Musharraf’s party in the February 2008 parliamentary elections was widely seen as a rejection of the president and his rule. The elections yielded an opposition coalition headed by Sharif and Asif Ali Zardari, the widower of former prime ministerBenazir Bhutto, who had been assassinated in December 2007. Citing grave constitutional violations, the governing coalition moved in early August 2008 to begin impeachment proceedings against Musharraf, and, faced with the impending charges, Musharraf announced his resignation on August 18.
In October 2010, after a period of self-imposed exile, Musharraf announced the formation of a new political party, the All Pakistan Muslim League, and vowed to return to Pakistan in time for the 2013 national elections. He did so in March 2013, but his bid to stand in elections faced a variety of legal and political obstacles, including several open criminal investigations regarding his actions as president. On April 18 a Pakistani court disqualified him from entering the race because of an ongoing investigation regarding his suspension of the constitution in 2007. He was arrested the following day to face charges stemming from the investigation. In August 2013, with Musharraf still under house arrest, murder charges were filed against him in connection with Bhutto’s assassination in 2007.
Pakistan's president, Pervez Musharraf, today bowed to intense pressure and resigned ahead of impeachment proceedings due to start this week.
Musharraf appeared live on national television just after 1pm local time (8am BST) in an address that lasted for over an hour. Towards the finish, as the former army commander put an end to almost nine years in power, his voice trembled and he appeared to have tears in his eyes.
"If I was doing this just for myself, I might have chosen a different course," he said, wearing a western suit and tie but speaking in Urdu. "But I put Pakistan first, as always.
"Whether I win or lose the impeachment, the dignity of the nation would be damaged, the office of the president harmed."
It is likely that Musharraf stepped down as a part of a western-mediated deal between the president and the coalition government, according to which all charges against him will be dropped in return for his resignation.
Britain's foreign secretary, David Miliband, said the move marked the end of a "critical period" in Pakistan's history and called for quick elections to find a successor.
"The Musharraf years yielded significant dividends… It is important to highlight President Musharraf's commitment to tackle terrorism, to promote dialogue with India, especially over Kashmir, and to root out corruption," he said.
"I look forward to the early election of a new president in Pakistan to take forward the important shared work that binds our two countries together."
The US secretary of state, Condoleezza Rice, praised Musharraf as a "friend to the United States and one of the world's most committed partners in the war against terrorism and extremism".
She said the US would work with the new leaders and impress on them the need to stem "the growth of extremism".
Although it was believed Musharraf resigned as part of a deal to avoid prosecution, it was a humiliation nevertheless for the ex-army chief to have to submit to the very politicians he hated. But he admitted he had been left with no choice.
"Even if I beat this impeachment, relations between the presidency and the government can never be fixed," he said. "Pillars of the state – parliament and the judiciary – would be harmed and, God forbid, the army might have been dragged in." He said he wanted the people to be his judge.
The foreign minister, Shah Mahmood Qureshi, said leaders of the ruling coalition were discussing whether to prosecute Musharraf in court on the impeachment charges.
Qureshi would not say whether Musharraf might be granted a safe exit; there has been speculation he might go into exile in Saudi Arabia or Turkey.
"That is a decision that has to be taken by the democratic leadership," said Qureshi, a member of the Pakistan People's party (PPP), in a television interview with Dawn News.
The Pakistan Muslim League-N, the second-biggest party in the coalition government with the PPP, said Musharraf should be tried for treason, which carries a maximum sentence of death. Its leader, Nawaz Sharif, whom Musharraf deposed as prime minister in a coup in October 1999, was the prime mover behind the impeachment.
"The crimes of Musharraf against the nation, against the judiciary, against democracy and against rule of law in the country cannot be forgiven by any party or individual," said the party's spokesman, Ahsan Iqbal.
Musharraf, who was a near-absolute ruler until he stepped down as army chief in November last year and held elections this February, did not leave without first launching into an impassioned and lengthy defence of his record. He said the allegations against him were "lies".
Musharraf laid the blame for Pakistan's economic crisis squarely on the current government, saying that just eight months ago the economy was booming and Pakistan was regarded as one of the next great emerging market success stories.
"When I took over, nine years ago, this country was on the verge of being declared a terrorist state, on the verge of becoming a failed state," he said. "The challenges of the last nine years have been greater than any in Pakistan's history, yet I have met those challenges."
Celebrations broke out across the country after Musharraf's announcement, with people dancing and handing out sweets. "Thank God he's resigned. The country will do much better now. It's a victory for the people," said Mohammad Ilyas, 30, in Karachi.
Lawyers, who have spearheaded an anti-Musharraf campaign since he tried to sack the chief justice last year, stormed out of courts in the south-eastern city of Multan on hearing of his resignation, shouting: "Down with the American stooge." "It's just like I'm celebrating my wedding," said one lawyer, Malik Naveed.
It is not yet clear who the next president will be. According to the constitution, the chairman of the senate, Mohammadmian Soomro, will become acting president until a new president is elected within 30 days for a five-year term.
Most members of the coalition government did not want to go through the trauma of impeachment proceedings, hoping the threat of prosecution would be enough to persuade the president to go. Musharraf held out for almost two weeks after the announcement that the government had decided to impeach him.
Reza Rabbani, a leading PPP member, said: "This is the first time in Pakistan's political history where you have the people winning against establishment institutions."