Former Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf dies in Dubai after long illness

Pakistan's President Pervez Musharraf gestures at a news conference in Islamabad on Thursday 23 March, 2000,
Pakistan's President Pervez Musharraf gestures at a news conference in Islamabad on Thursday 23 March, 2000, Copyright B.K. BANGASH/AP2000
By Euronews with AP
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General Pervez Musharraf, who seized power in a bloodless coup and later led a reluctant Pakistan into aiding the US war in Afghanistan against the Taliban, has died, officials said Sunday. He was 79.

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General Pervez Musharraf, who seized power in a bloodless coup and later led a reluctant Pakistan into aiding the US war in Afghanistan against the Taliban, has died, officials said on Sunday. He was 79.

Musharraf, a former special forces commando, became president through the last of a string of military coups that roiled Pakistan since its founding amid the bloody 1947 partition of India. He ruled the nuclear-armed state after his 1999 coup through tensions with India, an atomic proliferation scandal and an Islamic extremist insurgency. He stepped down in 2008 while facing possible impeachment.

Self-imposed exile

Later in life, Musharraf lived in self-imposed exile in Dubai to avoid criminal charges, despite attempting a political comeback in 2012. But it wasn’t to be as his poor health plagued his last years. He maintained a soldier’s fatalism after avoiding a violent death that always seemed to be stalking him as Islamic militants twice targeted him for assassination.

Fate have always smiled on me
General Pervez Musharraf
Former Pakistani President

“I have confronted death and defied it several times in the past because destiny and fate have always smiled on me,” Musharraf once wrote. “I only pray that I have more than the proverbial nine lives of a cat.”

Musharraf’s family announced in June 2022 that he had been hospitalised for weeks in Dubai while suffering from amyloidosis, an incurable condition that sees proteins build up in the body’s organs.

Shazia Siraj, a spokeswoman for the Pakistani Consulate in Dubai, confirmed his death and said diplomats were providing support to his family. The Pakistani military also offered its condolences.

“May Allah bless the departed soul and give strength to the bereaved family,” a military statement said.

Pakistani Prime Minister Shahbaz Sharif similarly offered his condolences in a short statement.

Pakistan, a nation nearly twice the size of California along the Arabian Sea, is now home to 220 million people. But it would be its border with Afghanistan that would soon draw the US′s attention and dominate Musharraf’s life a little under two years after he seized power.

Al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden launched 11 September, 2001, attacks from Afghanistan, sheltered by the country’s Taliban rulers. Musharraf knew what would come next.

“America was sure to react violently, like a wounded bear,” he wrote in his autobiography. 

“If the perpetrator turned out to be al-Qaida, then that wounded bear would come charging straight toward us.”

Fight against terrorism

By September 2001, then-US Secretary of State Colin Powell told Musharraf that Pakistan would either be “with us or against us.” Musharraf said another American official threatened to bomb Pakistan ”back into the Stone Age” if it chose the latter.

Musharraf chose the former. A month later, he stood by then-President George W. Bush at the Waldorf Astoria in New York to declare Pakistan’s unwavering support to fight with the United States against “terrorism in all its forms wherever it exists”.

Pakistan became a crucial transit point for NATO supplies headed to landlocked Afghanistan. That was the case even though Pakistan’s powerful Inter-Services Intelligence agency had backed the Taliban after it swept into power in Afghanistan in 1994. 

Prior to that, the CIA and others funnelled money and arms through the agency to Islamic fighters battling the 1980s Soviet occupation of Afghanistan.

The US-led invasion of Afghanistan saw Taliban fighters flee over the border back into Pakistan, including bin Laden, whom the US would kill in 2011 at a compound in Abbottabad. 

For more watch Euronews' report in the video above.

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