Pervez Musharraf was born on August 11, 1943, in India. Musharraf moved with his family from New Delhi to Karachi in 1947, when Pakistan was separated from India. 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 fought in Pakistan’s 1965 and 1971 wars with India. Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif appointed him head of the armed forces in October 1998.
The 12 October 1999 coup
On 12 October 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.
For Pakistanis who had lived a large part of their lives under the shadow of military rule, it was a feeling of phantom when, on 12 October 1999, the generals once again take over by ousting an elected civilian government.
The coup was yet another chapter in the ostensibly never-ending Pakistani soap opera, marked by alternating ineffectual rule by a nominated government and authoritarian rule by a self-appointed chief from the military.
The October 12, 1999 coup marked the comeback on the political stage of the Army, which has controlled power, directly or indirectly, for much of Pakistan’s history.
The Army government led by Musharraf was the fourth such regime in Pakistan’s history. Two of the previous three had lasted for more than a decade and General Musharraf’s stratocracy also didn’t have any aspiration to relinquish command.
National Security Council
Although Musharraf was generally considered to hold moderate views and promised an eventual return to civilian rule in the country. He suspended the constitution and dissolved parliament.
He formed the National Security Council, formed civilian and military appointees, to run country’s matters. In early 2001 he assumed the presidency and later attempted to settle a concurrence with India over the Kashmir issue.
September 11 attacks in 2001
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. leadership success to cultivated close ties with Pakistan in an effort to root out Islamic extremists in the Afghan-Pakistan borders.
His support for the US-led ‘war on terror’, his tactical cooperation with certain militant groups and his refusal to embed a culture of democracy and accountability widened the fault lines that had long plagued the country.
Legal Framework Order (LFO)
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.
Reelection to the presidency
In 2007, Musharraf sought reelection to the presidency; however, 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 foiled his bid to suspend the chief justice, and in October it delayed the results of Musharraf’s reelection (by the parliament).
State of emergency
In November, Musharraf responded by announcing a state of emergency. Citing growing terrorist threats, he suspended the constitution once again, 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.
Resigned from the military post
Later that month the reconstituted Supreme Court rejected the last legal challenges to his reelection, and he announced his resignation from the military post to become a civilian president of the country.
Musharraf announced to end the state of emergency in mid-December, though, prior to restoring the constitution, he instituted numerous amendments to it that protected the steps enacted during emergency rule.
Announcement of resignation on August 18
The poor performance of Musharraf’s party in the February 2008 parliamentary elections was extensively 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 PM Benazir Bhutto, who had been assassinated in December 2007 in Rawalpindi.
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.
Court disqualified Musharraf
On 18 April 2013, the court disqualified him from entering the race of election because of an ongoing investigation regarding his suspension of the constitution in 2007 and other charges.
He was apprehended the following day to face charges stemming from the investigation. In August 2013, with Musharraf still under detention, murder charges were lodged against him in connection with Bhutto’s assassination in 2007.
In 2016, Musharraf was allowed to leave the country to seek medical treatment in Dubai, where he remained from then on. In late 2018 it was disclosed that his health was rapidly worsening due to amyloidosis. Musharraf was convicted a year later in absentia on charges of high treason and sentenced to
death, though his state of health made any return to Pakistan unlikely. In January 2020 the special court that issued the sentence was ruled unconstitutional, and his conviction was overturned.
Long epochs of military rule had undersized democratic institutions and prevented the development of a democratic culture in the country.
The ineptitude of the political leadership, their disregard for democratic institutions and their lust for absolute power also contributed to the weakening of the very basis of liberal democracy in the country.
But more than anything, the powerful military continued to cast its shadow over the political scene, as the country struggled for stability.
The situation in which the October 12 coup occurred might have been dissimilar from earlier military takeovers, although the aims were largely equal.
On the surface, however, it was a military takeover with a different style. General Musharraf appeared like a ‘benevolent dictator’, permitting both a free press and political freedom, though limited.