Musharraf quits after nine years at the helm in Pakistan | world | Hindustan Times
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Musharraf quits after nine years at the helm in Pakistan

Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf's decision to resign on Monday brings to an end a tumultuous nine-year reign that thrived with US backing...

world Updated: Aug 18, 2008 14:41 IST

Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf's decision to resign on Monday brings to an end a tumultuous nine-year reign that thrived with US backing, but succumbed under impeachment threat following the first free and fair elections he conducted after grabbing power in a bloodless coup in 1999.

Musharraf had to cut short his innings in the face of a humiliating impeachment move, but his tenure was in a state of decline ever since he imposed emergency to pre-empt a judicial ruling on his October 2007 re-election, revoked the measure and quit as army chief under intense international and domestic pressure, entering uncharted waters as a civilian president.

Sixty-five year old Musharraf, who was once all-powerful in Pakistan, found his nemesis in former premier and PML-N chief Nawaz Sharif, whom he had overthrown in a bloodless coup on October 12, 1999 and sent into exile a year later.

Sharif, who returned to the country from exile, ahead of the February 18 general elections, joined forces with rival Benazir Bhutto's Pakistan People's Party after her assassination and together with it tossed out the pro-Musharraf PML-Q, setting stage for the President's ouster.

The PPP initially dithered on impeaching Musharraf, but under intense pressure from its ally, announced a move on August seven to impeach him, bringing charges of misconduct, violation of constitution and financial irregularity.

Born on August 11, 1943 in Delhi, Musharraf came into limelight in 1998 when the then Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif appointed him army chief on October seven.

Musharraf, the longest serving army chief in the country after General Zia-ul-Haq , would never have reached the post but for Sharif, who superseded him over several other officers.

Things, however, went wrong between the then Prime Minister Sharif and General Musharraf after the 1999 Kargil conflict between India and Pakistan, as both of them engaged in a blame game over the military misadventure.

While Sharif claimed that Musharraf was solely responsible for the Kargil attack, the army chief alleged that PML (N) leader had succumbed to US pressure.

Musharraf overthrew Sharif after the PML-N leader sacked him as army chief. His first action after the Supreme Court validated his bloodless coup, was to exile Sharif from Pakistan, banning him from returning to the country for 10 years.

With PPP chief Benazir Bhutto--the other leading political player in Pakistan--already in exile, Musharraf declared himself the country's chief executive and formally appointed himself President on June 20, 2001, days before travelling to Agra for the much-hyped summit with then Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee which failed to yield any breakthrough.

In an attempt to legitimise his presidency, Musharraf staged a widely criticised referendum on April 30, 2002 to extend his term to five years and the pro-Musharraf PML-Q, a breakaway faction of Sharif's party, won a majority of seats in general elections later that year.

On January 1, 2004 Musharraf won a confidence vote from the Electoral College comprising the five legislatures. This body then re-elected him in uniform on October 6, 2007 for a second term as President.

Musharraf garnered support from Pakistan's long-time ally, America, by assisting the US-led forces in Afghanistan in the war against terrorism that ensued the September 11, 2001 attack on the World Trade Centre.

He also decided against extending patronage to the Taliban in neighbouring Afghanistan. This was the period of Musharraf's rise at home as well as abroad.

But the battle-scarred armyman who reportedly often carries a Glock pistol, earned the wrath of extremist elements inside his country and was the target of at least three assassination attempts.

The dismissal of Pakistan Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry on March 9, 2007 on charges of abuse of office, sparked nationwide protests by lawyers and opposition parties, is marking the beginning of decline of Musharraf's regime.
His decision to send troops to storm the radical Lal Masjid in Islamabad on July 10 -- an operation that killed over a 100 people -- further intensified terror strikes, including suicide bombings in the country.

However, his move to impose emergency on November 3, 2007 suspending the constitution, detaining hundreds of political opponents and sacking the Supreme Court judges who were to decide whether he was eligible to stand for presidential election in uniform, hastened his downfall.

As political parties, fresh from their win in the general elections, bayed for his blood, Musharraf also found no public support from his earlier backer US or his handpicked successor, Army Chief General Ashfaq Kayani.

India is concerned that the ouster of Musharraf, who is perceived as relatively moderate, could lead to a "big vacuum" in Pakistan that will give freedom to radical extremist elements to do "what they like".