Pervez Musharraf passes away in Dubai
Pakistan’s former President Pervez Musharraf died on Sunday following a prolonged illness at a hospital in Dubai, after years in self-imposed exile.
Pakistan’s military and the country’s mission in the United Arab Emirates announced the death of the former army chief, 79, who was pushed from power in 2008.
“I can confirm that he passed away this morning,” Shazia Siraj, spokesperson for Pakistan’s consulate in Dubai and embassy in Abu Dhabi, told Reuters.
Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif, President Arif Alvi and the chiefs of Pakistan’s army, navy and air force each expressed condolences on his death.
A special flight will be made to Dubai on Monday to bring Musharraf’s body back to Pakistan for burial, local TV channel Geo News reported.
The former four-star general, who seized power in a bloodless coup in 1999, oversaw rapid economic growth and attempted to usher in socially liberal values in the conservative Muslim country.
Musharraf enjoyed strong support for many years, his greatest threat al Qaida and other militant Islamists who tried to kill him at least three times.
But his heavy-handed use of the military to quell dissent as well as his continued backing of the US in its fight against al Qaida and the Afghan Taliban ultimately led to his downfall.
“He is called a military dictator, but there has never been a stronger democratic system than that under him,” said former close Musharraf aide Fawad Chaudhry, a leader of former Prime Minister Imran Khan’s party.
“He gave Pakistan a free media and he stressed on diversity of opinion in Pakistan,” Chaudhry said in a video message. “History will always remember him,” he said. “Pervez Musharraf, we will miss you.”
Musharraf joined what Washington called its “war on terror” after the September 11, 2001, attacks on the US. Pakistan provided US forces ground and air access to landlocked Afghanistan to chase down al Qaida militants identified as being behind the plot.
The support was contrary to Pakistan’s longstanding policy of support for the Taliban who then, as now, controlled neighbouring Afghanistan. This made Musharraf a target for militants in Pakistan as well as causing him to lose support among conservative elements in Pakistan.
Allowed abroad for medical treatment even as he faced a treason case in Pakistan, Musharraf last flew to Dubai in 2016.
Nawaz Sharif, who was toppled as Premier by Musharraf in a bloodless coup in 1999, tweeted an Arabic verse that loosely translates as: “To Allah we belong, and to Him is our return. #PervezMusharraf.”
The Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) chief, who now lives in London, had been sentenced to life by a court during Musharraf’s regime and was later exiled to Saudi Arabia on the intervention of the Gulf Kingdom. When Nawaz returned to power in 2013, he initiated at reason trial against Musharraf.
Nawaz’s brother, Pakistan Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif, condoled Musharraf’s death but also said: “Praying for the forgiveness of the deceased and patience of the family.”