Profile: Pervez Musharraf
Background on the Pakistani leader who rose to the top of the political establishment and then fell into exile.
The return of former President Pervez Musharraf to Pakistan is the latest development in a decade that has seen him fall from the top of his country’s political and security establishment into a quiet life in exile.
Musharraf was born in Delhi in 1943 to parents who fled to Pakistan four years later, shortly before partition. He rose through the ranks of the Pakistani army, eventually being named chief of staff in 1998 under then-prime minister Nawaz Sharif.
He seized power in a coup just one year later, ushering in a period of military rule which would last until 2002. He rebranded himself president after elections that year, and remained in office until 2008, when he was forced out by opposition parties.
The defining event of his years in power was, of course, the September 11 attacks on the United States, after which Musharraf declared himself a staunch ally of US President George W. Bush’s “war on terror.”
He allowed the US and NATO to transfer war materiel into Afghanistan via Pakistan. And he clashed openly with armed groups in 2007, when he ordered Pakistani security forces to storm the Red Mosque and Islamic school in Islamabad.
Musharraf accused the mosque’s clerics and students of waging an increasingly aggressive campaign to enforce strict shari’a law in the capital. More than 100 people were killed in the ensuing siege.
Fighting in the country’s northern tribal regions escalated following the controversial mosque seizure, and suicide bombings became more common in Pakistan’s cities.
Still, by the end of his tenure, Musharraf had lost some of his popularity in the West, where he was often criticised for failing to prevent fighters from trickling back and forth across the Afghan-Pakistani border.
Clashes with judiciary
He had lost far more of his domestic popularity by the time he was forced out of office.
Musharraf first called for general elections in 2002, in accordance with a supreme court ruling, and his party won by a wide margin.
The next few years were marked by insecurity, worsening relations with neighbouring India, and a stagnant economy; despite strong macroeconomic gains of around 7 percent, few benefits trickled down to the masses.
President Musharraf clashed frequently with the judiciary, most notably in 2007, when he suspended the chief justice, Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry, and declared a state of emergency.
The court had been due to rule on a case which could have disqualified Musharraf from the upcoming election, because he had refused to resign his post as army chief.
He eventually won another term, but stepped down the following year amidst intense public pressure and a looming impeachment hearing.
After leaving politics, he embarked on a lucrative worldwide speaking tour, then settled in London, and eventually Dubai. He spent the better part of two years vowing to return to Pakistan – but, with little grassroots support, his future is uncertain.