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The Sad Tale of General Pervez Musharraf: the Military Ruler in Exile

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MG is a senior service officer and now a senior corporate advisor. A prolific writer with varied interests and hobbies


Musharraf- President of Pakistan

In 1947 when the state of Pakistan was created, Mohammed Ali Jinnah the first Governor-General of Pakistan made a far-reaching speech. He said that the state was not concerned with religion, which was a private affair of the individual concerned. He also went on to add that Hindus, Sikhs, Christians were free to practice their religion and the state would only govern and not interfere in their personal beliefs. But this was a long time back and successive Pakistan rulers have diluted the ideas of Jinnah and ushered in an Islamic regime where the minorities are under siege.

Two Nation Theory

Jinnah was a politician. The fact is he espoused the two-nation theory for a separate homeland for the Muslims. But with the breaking up of a monolith Muslim state as envisaged by Jinnah and the creation of Bangladesh, this concept was destroyed. In addition, the fact remains that the creation of Pakistan did not help more than 150 million Muslims left behind in India to further the dream of Jinnah.

Religious Bigotry

The situation became really bad when general Zia-ul -Haq took over as President of Pakistan after a military coup. He had no political base and he tried to get support from the mullahs and hard-line clerics by ushering in-laws from the Sharia. He also reduced the status of women in Pakistan to a subservient position by promulgating the Hooded Ordinance, which effectively reduced women to second-class status. He also enacted the notorious blasphemy law that targeted the minorities. He was killed in 1989 when the C-130 he was traveling along with some senior generals and the US ambassador to Pakistan was blown up in 1989. There was a spell of ineffectual civil rule with Nawaz Shariff as prime minister. This was short-lived, as, in 1998, General Musharraf took over as President after a military coup. He imprisoned Nawaz Shariff.

The Coup of Musharraf

Musharraf's coup was not legitimate, but a subservient "Supreme Court" invoked the "Doctrine of Necessity" and Musharraf sat firmly in the saddle. He put Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif in prison for life and became a dictator. This dictatorial streak extended throughout his rule and later he dismissed the Chief Justice and also held on to power by dubious means. Nawaz was lucky as Saudi Arabia decided to intervene and the pressure was brought to bear on Musharraf and perforce he had to agree and allow Nawaz to be sent to exile for 10 years to Saudi Arabia.


Positive Actions of Musharraf

I am no supporter of any military coup but certain acts of Musharraf deserve mention, as for the first time after Jinnah a Pakistan President made mention of minorities in the country and their rights.

Historical Address: Jihad against Poverty

a) In a historic address to the nation, he tried to give a different concept and ideal to Jihad. He asked why not a Jihad against poverty, illiteracy, and ignorance. This did not go down well with hard-line Islamic groups. No Pakistani ruler earlier and later ever dared to say what Musharraf said.

Kashmir Solution

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b) He showed flexibility on the Kashmir issue and was the first president who accepted that extreme positions on both sides have to be discarded. In a press conference, he was clear that a solution to the Kashmir issue can only be found by both India and Pakistan if the extreme concepts about the state are discarded.


c) He inducted the minorities in government service and the first Sikh officer joined the Pakistan army. Even a Hindu joined the Pakistan army and another Sikh became a Traffic Inspector in Lahore. This had never happened earlier. Earlier the situation was so bad that the Bishop of Lahore had to commit suicide to highlight the plight of Christians in Pakistan.

Peshawar High Court (PHC) Chief Justice Waqar Ahmad Seth

Peshawar High Court (PHC) Chief Justice Waqar Ahmad Seth


Wrath of the Hard Line Islamist Groups

All the above did not endear him to hard-line Islamic groups who mounted at least 4 assassination attempts on him with time bombs and rockets. Musharraf survived the attempts.

Down Fall

Musharraf, unfortunately, did not last long enough and a popular movement made him leave Pakistan. He was against hard-line Islamic rhetoric, but the people of Pakistan saw his faults more than his good points..

Pakistan is the loser with the going of Musharraf. His successors are men of straw with a tainted past and certainly not a patch on General Musharraf. The general will go down in history as the only ruler in Pakistan who faced the Wahhabi form of Islam squarely. Its a pity he did not survive as President.


Last Word

Musharraf had gone into self-imposed exile. He returned for the general election and was promptly arrested. The fact is he had exceeded the mandate of a President when in power. He had dismissed the Chief Justice and a lawyer's agitation erupted against him. Now he is in jail and facing various charges from murder to treason. He was also accused of a hand in the assassination of Benazir Bhutto.

Musharraf with not a little help from the army escaped trial and fled to Dubai where he now resides. This is sad, but the fact remains for the minorities he had a good concept and was trying to be inclusive. However, his ills caught up with him and a special court sentenced him to death in absentia. Peshawar High Court (PHC) Chief Justice Waqar Ahmad Seth was instrumental in this verdict. The death sentence is set aside but Musharraf dare not come back to Pakistan. He is now in eclipse and the future for him is bleak.


MG Singh (author) from UAE on March 15, 2021:

Thank you, Asif for your comment. I am aware of his nefarious activities and he's paying the price for it, if I'm correct his murder trial has been adjourned. A sad facet of Pakistan politics is that 10 presidents/ Prime Ministers have either been assassinated, hanged, or exiled in the last 7 decades. This is not good for the country

Asif K on March 15, 2021:

I am from Sind. I disagree on a few points as MUshraff just wants to become president and he doesn't nurture any grassroots democracy. He perpetrated Punjabi dominance in Pakistan which had led to the break up of East Pakistan. He got Balooch leader BUGTI and Benazir Bhutto assassinated, so no compassion for him.

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