Pervez Musharraf (b. 1943)
–(b. August 11, 1943)
Pervez Musharraf , commanding general of the Pakistani military, as well as the current president of Pakistan, is a military dictator who seized power in a military coup on October 12, 1999. In his time as Pakistan’s top general and as its political leader, he has led Pakistan into conflict with India (the Kargil Conflict), supported the Taliban in neighboringAfghanistan, become an ally of the United States against the Taliban after September 11, 2001, fought against rebels in Baluchistan, and against frontier tribes, al-Qaida and the Taliban in the resurgent Waziristan War and the Siege of the Red Mosque. Musharraf has presided over the political fragmentation of his country as he tries to suppress democracy and continue his hold on power especially with his ongoing political conflict with Pakistan’s Supreme Court and his imposition of a State of Emergency, (martial law) in early November of 2007.
Musharraf was born in Nahr wali Haveli, Delhi, British India on August 11, 1943. British India was divided between the newly independent nations of Pakistan and India, and, as Muslims, the Musharraf family migrated from Hindu-dominated India to the Muslim nation of Pakistan, along with millions of other Indian Muslims. His father was a Pakistani diplomat, reaching the position of Minister of Foreign Affairs.
Musharraf graduated in 1956 from Saint Patrick’s School in Karachi, Pakistan, and later attended Forman Christian College in Lahore. Though he is Muslim, it was then common for children of the educated elite to attend such private schools.
Musharraf entered the military in 1964, and served in the 1965 Indo-Pakistani War. He later fought in the 1971 Indo-Pakistani War (a.k.a. the Bangladesh War of Independence). Musharraf does not belong to the largely ethnic Punjabi officer class which dominates the Pakistani army. The Musharraf family are members of the Urdu ethnic group. His rise through the military is notable due to his minority status. In addition to his education as a youth, Musharraf also acquired military training in the United Kingdom. (See also: Indo-Pakistani Wars)
In 1998, General Pervez Musharraf was appointed to the position of Army Chief of Staff by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif. The 1998-1999 Kargil Crisis and conflict, which was overseen by General Musharraf, ended as an embarrassing loss for Pakistan, and brought him into open conflict with the Prime Minister. In October, 1999, Prime Minister Sharif attempted to fire Musharraf, who then led a bloodless coup against Sharif. Immediately following the Musharraf coup, tensions with India increased, though eventually the Musharraf regime worked successfully to ease tensions with India.
Prior to the terrorist attacks on the United States on September 11, 2001, Pakistan supported the Taliban movement in neighboring Afghanistan, but Musharraf decided to work with the United States against the Taliban and al-Qaida as the U.S. and its allies invaded Afghanistan in October, 2001. Musharraf’s stance against Islamic extremists like the Taliban and al-Qaida helped lead to violence within Pakistan as those groups aided frontier tribes oppose the authority of Pakistan’s central government. Traditionally, the tribal groups along Pakistan’s Northwest Frontier have enjoyed a great deal of autonomy, and when Musharraf sent the Pakistani military to the frontier in an attempt to prevent Taliban and al-Qaida infiltration along the border (per American requests), the tribes saw this as a violation of their rights. The Taliban and al-Qaida were more than willing to aid the tribes against the government, and this border conflict became the latest War in Waziristan, as part of the frontier is known. Islamic militants have attempted to assassinate President Musharraf several times, and in the summer of 2007, violence hit the Pakistani capital with the Siege of the Red Mosque. Islamic militants led by Abdul Rashid Ghazi defied government authority, which prompted a violent army siege of an important mosque in Islamabad, resulting in hundreds of deaths.
Musharraf named himself President of Pakistan in June, 2001, and has maintained that post as well as his old position of Army Chief of Staff. The legality of his dual role has brought him into conflict with the Pakistani Supreme Court. Despite the fact that Musharraf allowed a former Prime Minister, Benazir Bhutto to return from exile, he imposed martial law in early November of 2007. This act brought condemnation from many foreign governments, including the United States. Pakistan is at the brink of serious political violence as Musharraf attempted to further consolidate power at the expense of his country’s remaining democratic institutions.
On August 18, 2008, Musharraf resigned from the Pakistani presidency after a long period of protests and political crisis. He went into exile in London, where he wrote memoirs, gave speeches, and planned his political return to Pakistani civic life. He formed the All Pakistan Muslim League, a new political party, in 2010. In March, 2013, Musharraf ended his self-imposed exile by returning to Pakistan and declaring himself a candidate for parliament. The national election is set for May, 2013.
In April, 2013, Musharraf’s political comeback hit several significant roadblocks. The courts ruled that his candidacy could not continue, and he was also arrested on a charge of treason, dating back to when he overthrew the elected government back in the 1990s.