Former Pakistani President Musharraf, key US ally against Al-Qaeda, dies at 79

Islamabad/Dubai—Former Pakistani president Pervez Musharraf, a key US ally in the campaign against al-Qaeda, died in Dubai on Sunday after a prolonged illness following the September 11, 2001 attacks by the terrorist group al-Qaeda. Died. He was 79 years old.

Musharraf, a former four-star general who came to power after the 1999 military coup, died in a Dubai hospital. He has been living in self-imposed exile since his 2016. His body is scheduled to be airlifted to Pakistan for burial on Monday, he reported Geo News. .

“My condolences to the family of General Pervez Musharraf,” Prime Minister Shebaz Sharif said on Twitter. “May the dead soul rest in peace.”

Musharraf suffers from a rare organ disease called amyloidosis and was hospitalized last year after he became seriously ill, his family said.

He is known for attracting foreign investment to Pakistan, which experienced the strongest economic growth in nearly three decades during his reign, and enjoyed the support of the military and Pakistanis who backed his crackdown on extremist groups. Did.

But his decade-long rule has been met with a heavy-handed approach to dissent, including arresting rivals such as the current Prime Minister Sharif, suspending the constitution and imposing a state of emergency for nearly six weeks to censor the government. spoiled. media.

A Christian high school graduate, Musharraf was desperate for Pakistan to embrace liberal Islam. This approach increased his appeal in the West after his 9/11 attacks on the United States.

Musharraf joined what Washington called the “war on terror”, giving US forces ground and air access to landlocked Afghanistan to hunt down al-Qaeda terrorists.

The decision contradicted Pakistan’s longstanding support for the Taliban terrorist group that ruled Afghanistan at the time and made Musharraf a target for militant groups in the country. He survived at least four assassination attempts.

Musharraf said in his 2006 memoir that he had “saved” Pakistan by participating in the campaign against Al Qaeda. He also lobbied the administration of former President George W. Bush to successfully fund the armed forces of the nuclear-armed state, which remains one of the most powerful nations in South Asia.

Pervez Musharraf
Pervez Musharraf, former president of Pakistan and leader of the All Pakistan Muslim League (APML) political party, at his residence in Islamabad on April 15, 2013, as he unveils the party’s declaration for the upcoming general elections. Told. (Mian Khursheed/Reuters)

Domestically, Musharraf’s iron-fisted rule has caused turmoil. The 2007 state of emergency was intended to quell protests caused by crackdowns on the judiciary and media. That same year, prior to the assassination of former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto by the Pakistani Taliban, his government was criticized for not providing adequate security.

The Musharraf-backed party lost a vote held in 2008 months later. Faced with impeachment by Parliament, he resigned and fled to London.

Musharraf returned to Pakistan to run for parliament in 2013, but was quickly disqualified. He left for Dubai in 2016 and was sentenced to death in absentia three years later because of the state of emergency.

One of Musharraf’s former political aides told Geo News that he would be buried in Karachi, his family’s hometown, or in Rawalpindi, the military headquarters.