By Gibran Naiyyar Peshimam and Ghaida Ghantous
ISLAMABAD/DUBAI (RockedBuzz via Reuters) – Former Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf, a key US ally in the campaign against al Qaeda after the militant group’s attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, died Sunday in Dubai after a long illness. He was 79 years old.
Musharraf, a former four-star general who seized power after a 1999 military coup, died in hospital in Dubai, where he had lived in self-imposed exile since 2016. His body will be flown to Pakistan for burial on Monday, according to Geo News.
“I offer my condolences to the family of General Pervez Musharraf,” Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif tweeted. “May the departed soul rest in peace.”
Musharraf suffered from a rare organ disease called amyloidosis and was hospitalized last year after falling seriously ill, his family said.
He has been credited with attracting foreign investment to Pakistan, which saw the strongest economic growth in nearly 30 years during his rule, and enjoyed the backing of the military and the Pakistanis who supported his crackdown on the militant groups.
But his decade-long rule has also been marked by a heavy-handed approach to dissent, which has included arresting rivals like current Prime Minister Sharif and imposing a nearly six-week state of emergency in which he suspended the constitution. and censored the media.
“He failed to leverage his early popularity to implement sustainable economic and political reforms and became a prisoner of military power and vested interests,” said Shuja Nawaz, author of several books on Pakistan’s military and a member of the US think tank Atlantic Council.
A graduate of a Christian high school, Musharraf wanted Pakistan to embrace liberal Islam, an approach that increased its appeal in the West after the 9/11 attacks on the United States.
Musharraf has joined what Washington has called its “war on terror,” giving US forces land and air access into landlocked Afghanistan to pursue al Qaeda militants.
This decision contradicted Pakistan’s longstanding support for the Taliban, who by then controlled Afghanistan, and made Musharraf a target for domestic militant groups. He has survived at least four assassination attempts.
Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan, an umbrella group of Pakistani militant organizations formed after Musharraf’s crackdown on extremists, celebrated his death.
“This was the infamous army chief who sold out the honor and respect of the country,” the statement read.
In a 2006 memoir, Musharraf said he “saved” Pakistan by joining the campaign against al Qaeda. He also successfully lobbied former US President George W. Bush’s administration to pour money into the nuclear-armed nation’s military, which remains one of the most powerful in South Asia.
Domestically, Musharraf’s iron-fisted rule wreaked havoc. The 2007 state of emergency aimed to put down the protests triggered by the crackdown on the judiciary and the media. That same year, his government was criticized for not providing enough security ahead of the Pakistani Taliban’s assassination of former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, a political rival killed while campaigning for national elections.
The Musharraf-backed party lost the vote, held months later in 2008. Facing impeachment by parliament, he resigned and fled to London.
Musharraf returned to Pakistan in 2013 to run for parliament but was immediately disqualified. Left for Dubai in 2016, he was sentenced to death in absentia three years later under the state of emergency. The verdict was later overturned.
One of Musharraf’s former political aides told Geo News he would be buried in Karachi, his family’s hometown, or in Rawalpindi, home to army headquarters.
(Reporting by Gibran Peshimam in Islamabad, Ariba Shahid in Karachi, Saud Mehsud in Dera Ismail Khan, Charlotte Greenfield in Kabul, Akanksha Khushi in Bangalore; Screenplay by Miral Fahmy, Editing by Christopher Cushing, William Mallard and Frank Jack Daniel)