Islamabad: Pakistan’s wily former military ruler General Pervez Musharraf, the architect of the Kargil War in 1999, died on Sunday in Dubai after battling an incurable disease.
Musharraf, 79, who lived in self-imposed exile in the UAE to avoid criminal charges against him in Pakistan, died after a prolonged illness at the American Hospital in Dubai.
He was suffering from amyloidosis, a rare disease caused by a build-up of an abnormal protein called amyloid in organs and tissues throughout the body, according to his family.
In a statement issued immediately after Musharraf’s death, the Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR), the media wing of the Pakistan military, said that Chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee General Sahir Shamshad and all the services chiefs express their heartfelt condolences.
”May Allah bless the departed soul and give strength to the bereaved family,” it said.
Musharraf’s family has filed an application in the Pakistani consulate in Dubai to shift the former military leader’s body to Pakistan.
A special jet will fly to Dubai from Nur Khan airbase in Rawalpindi to bring Musharraf’s mortal remains back to Pakistan.
The burial site remains to be decided but sources said it is likely to take place in either Islamabad or Karachi. Pakistan’s top leadership and concerned authorities were in contact with the family for the funeral preparations, The Express Tribune newspaper reported.
His illness came to light in 2018 when his party – the All Pakistan Muslim League (APML) – announced that the former military ruler was suffering from amyloidosis.
In June last, he was hospitalised in Dubai for three weeks. “Going through a difficult stage where recovery is not possible and organs are malfunctioning. Pray for ease in his daily living,” his family said at the time in a statement after the news of his demise had started circulating on social media.
Musharraf was the main architect of the Kargil War that took place months after then Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif signed a historic peace accord with his Indian counterpart Atal Bihari Vajpayee in Lahore.
After his misadventure in Kargil, Musharraf deposed the then Prime Minister Sharif in a bloodless coup in 1999 and ruled Pakistan from 1999 to 2008 in various positions – first as the chief executive of Pakistan and later as the President.
Born in a middle-class family of Urdu-speaking Mohajir parents in Delhi in 1943, Musharraf migrated to Pakistan with his family after the Partition in 1947.
Pakistan’s last military dictator died on Sunday as a forgotten man in politics after spending his final years in self-exile in the UAE to avoid criminal charges against him in his country.
During his stint as the head of the Pakistan government, Musharraf allied with America in the war against terror after the 9/11 attacks on the US and cracked down on Islamist groups and banned dozens of radical outfits, a move that angered radicals. He even escaped assassination attempts in later years.
Nawaz Sharif’s younger brother and current Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif extended condolences and sympathy to Musharraf’s family.
”Praying for the forgiveness of the deceased and patience of the family,” he said in a statement issued by the Prime Minister’s Office.
Nawaz Sharif, who was sentenced to life by a court during Musharraf’s regime and was later exiled to Saudi Arabia following the intervention of the Gulf Kingdom, tweeted in Arabic a verse from Holy Quran with hashtag ‘#Pervez Musharraf.’ The verse – loosely translated as ”To Allah we belong, and to Him is our return” – is usually recited by Muslims when they hear the news of a death.
Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf leader and former information minister Fawad Chaudhry described Musharraf as a ”great person” and said his ideology was to always keep Pakistan first.
The four-star general was ruling Pakistan as a ”chief executive” when the 9/11 attacks on the US took place and he swiftly aligned with Washington during its military intervention in neighbouring Taliban-ruled Afghanistan.
After the December 2007 assassination of Opposition leader Benazir Bhutto, his allies suffered crushing losses in the 2008 elections, leaving him isolated.
In more than seven years in office, he oversaw a stint of economic growth while dodging at least three assassination attempts. Musharraf won a five-year term as president in a 2002 referendum, but reneged on promises to quit as army chief until late 2007.
Musharraf’s plan to return to power in 2013 was dashed when he was disqualified from running in an election won by Sharif, whom he had deposed in 1999.
In March 2014, Musharraf was indicted for suspending the Constitution on November 3, 2007.
In December 2019, a special court handed Musharraf a death sentence in the high treason case against him However, a court later nullified the ruling.
The former military ruler left the country in March 2016 for Dubai to seek medical treatment.
Musharraf joined the Pakistan Army in 1964 and was a graduate of the Army Staff and Command College, Quetta.
Musharraf visited India for the failed Agra summit in 2001 and made two more visits in 2005 as President to watch an India-Pakistan One-day Cricket match and in 2009 to attend a media event after shedding power.
Musharraf, the second of three brothers, spent his early years in Turkey, from 1949 to 1956, as his father Syed Musharrafu-ud-din was posted in Ankara.
He joined the Pakistan Military Academy in 1961 and was commissioned into the Artillery Regiment in 1964.
He fought in the Indo-Pakistan War of 1965 as a young officer, and also participated in the Indo-Pak War of 1971 as a Company Commander in the Commando Battalion.
Musharraf rose to the rank of General and was appointed as the Chief of Army Staff on October 7, 1998, by then prime minister Nawaz Sharif.
He was given additional charge of the Chairman Joint Chiefs Staff Committee on April 9, 1999. Six months later, he toppled the Sharif government and became the head of the state designated as Chief Executive.
Musharraf was living in Dubai since March 2016, when Pakistan’s Supreme Court lifted a travel ban on him to seek medical treatment there.
He married Sehba Musharraf in 1968 and has a son and a daughter.