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Tightrope Walker

General Pervez Musharraf, a man with liberal and progressive views, played his part in making Pakistan a modern Islamic state.

By Yasmeen Mozaffar | March 2023

Having its own ways of being selective, the human history has had its own measures to determine the role of those people who are able to leave their indelible mark on the world. Despite his nondemocratic credentials, General Pervez Musharraf was one such person in history who chose the path less travelled and made the difference to the fate of his beloved country, Pakistan. His passing away has left many questions unanswered and several matters open to question about his troubled legacy and the way he wanted his country to be perceived by the global community.

Born to Urdu-speaking parents in Old Delhi in India in 1943, Pervez Musharraf in a very early age witnessed the throes of migration from India to Pakistan. He was just a 4-year-old kid when his parents decided to move to the newly-established country for Muslims. His father was a civil servant in India, but he opted to join the newly formed Pakistan government to shoulder his responsibilities in the building of the nascent country. From his early childhood, Pervez Musharraf started realising the fact that there was nothing more important to him than his new homeland, Pakistan. Summed up as ‘Pakistan First,’ this was his relentless commitment which was always reflected in his every move and action.

His childhood was spent in Pakistan and Turkey, now known as Türkiye, where his father was posted at the Pakistan Embassy. His stay and schooling in Turkey left an impression on him about the progressive policies of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, the founding father of the Republic of Turkey. After finishing his education, Musharraf joined the Pakistan Army as a young cadet in 1961 and was commissioned as an officer in 1964 in the artillery.

In the very beginning of his military career, he was one of the few officers who were awarded for their show of bravery and courage in 1965 war against India. He quickly rose through the ranks and was appointed Chief of Army Staff in 1998. During his Army days, he was decorated with Nishan-e-Imtiaz, Hilal-i-Imtiaz and Tamgha-i-Basalat. In1999, he directed a military incursion into Kargil region of India-held Kashmir. Unfortunately, the then prime minister Nawaz Sharif didn’t feel comfortable in engaging militarily with India. Showing his displeasure over the issue, Nawaz Sharif attempted to dismiss Musharraf from his top position on October 12, 1999 when he was returning from Sri Lanka after an official visit, but his plane was refused to land at Karachi Airport. That was a matter of abasement for the Army that a plane carrying its chief might have to land in the enemy’s territory. Musharraf insisted to land, by that time the Army standing by its chief took over the state-owned television station and the PM House and Gen. Pervez Musharraf took over as Chief Executive of Pakistan after ousting Nawaz Sharif. On the face of it, he was a military dictator, but he did for democracy what the so-called democratically elected representatives were unable to do in the political history of Pakistan. He was known to be a strategic thinker who always believed in the commitment he made to himself in his early age. He singlehandedly facilitated the devolution of power to the grassroots level and also turned around the economic performance of the country and set it on a growth path. He believed in the freedom of speech and paved the way for free media. He formed the Higher Education Commission and because of holding liberal-progressive views, he played his part in making Pakistan a dynamic Islamic state. He went an extra mile to sort out a slew of inherited differences along with long-standing land disputes between Pakistan and India through bilateral negotiations at the state level.

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