Pakistan bids farewell to ex-leader Musharraf and his complicated legacy


Kabul — he was once the most powerful man in Pakistan — first as head of its most influential institution, the army; And later, for nearly a decade after the prime minister was overthrown, as his reformist but iron-fisted president in uniform.

But when General Pervez Musharraf’s remains were flown back to Pakistan from Dubai, where he died on Sunday at the age of 79 after a long illness, it was for a somber and isolated final homecoming.

On Tuesday afternoon, the former ruler was laid to rest in a walled military cemetery in the port city of Karachi, where his family emigrated from India in the 1940s. His spokesman said in a statement that the funeral prayers were attended by three former army chiefs, representatives of four political parties and members of Musharraf’s immediate family.

There was no TV news or other media coverage on the site. Later in the day, Pakistan’s military press agency posted photos and a video online showing a long tent with civilians and military figures lined up for prayers, and a cleric giving a speech on a grassy field. Is.

It has been 24 years since Musharraf took power, only to eventually be forced out and spend his final years in foreign exile, facing legal battles and failing health. Yet his passing has brought up uncomfortable memories, unanswered questions and hard lessons for the civilian leaders now struggling to stay in power.

After news of his death, senior officials issued messages of condolence, but some hid their bitter feelings. Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif, whose elder brother Nawaz was ousted as prime minister by Musharraf in 1999 and exiled for years, tweeted his condolences to the family, saying simply, “The late May his soul rest in peace.”

Today, the Sharif government faces a strong political challenge from Imran Khan, who was forced out of the prime minister’s post last year. Khan has since gained public support by making the same claims of corruption and elitism against two of Pakistan’s political dynasties, the Sharif and Bhutto families, that Musharraf once did.

Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, leader of the Pakistan People’s Party, has long alleged that Pervez Musharraf was behind the unsolved assassination of his mother, former prime minister Benazir Bhutto, during a political rally in 2007. In lieu of a condolence message, Zardari posted a photo of his mother on social media, without comment.

Across Pakistani society, news of Musharraf’s death has sparked public comment – a mix of emotional criticism for his authoritarian excesses and admiration for his failed attempts at domestic reform and foreign diplomacy, including with rival India. Including an ill-fated summit in 2001. The then Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee.

Social media commentators and political figures called for the former military president to be denied a state funeral. Farhatullah Babar, a retired senator and human rights lawyer, stressed in a tweet on Monday that Musharraf’s burial would be “simple, dignified” and private, with “no official trappings, no bugles, no cloak in the national flag.” No. … Now it is between him and God.

Today, when Pakistan is still grappling with many of the same problems that Musharraf tried to solve or inadvertently exacerbated – an ailing economy, resurgence of Islamist militant attacks, with India The constant tension, and the paralyzing political power struggle – illustrates the flood of reactions. That his stay in power has left a painful mark on the country.

Columnist Arifa Noor wrote in Dawn newspaper on Tuesday, “Musharraf’s story is, in a way, the story of Pakistan’s politics, where a savior and strongman who promises can do no more than the much-maligned democrats.” ” columnist Arifa Noor wrote in Dawn newspaper on Tuesday. Noor noted that Musharraf’s bloodless coup in 1999 had previously been widely welcomed, but added: “It was a different Pakistan then. The military intervention promised hope, while the politicians And trust in the democratic system was “weak”.

Pakistan’s 75-year history has seen several military coups and numerous indirect interventions or behind-the-scenes manipulation of power by the armed forces. The last military figure to rule before Musharraf was the hard-line Islamist General Muhammad Zia-ul-Haq, who seized power in 1977 and died in a plane crash in 1988.

Musharraf was more liberal and proactive by nature, but as his popularity waned, he turned to draconian measures and faced public protests. The lesson of his failure as a politician was not lost on his successors in uniform, and Pakistan’s current military leaders have vowed to stay out of politics, although they still wield considerable influence and They are tacitly respected by the civilian rulers.

Current army chief General Asim Munir issued a statement of condolence on behalf of all senior army commanders, but Musharraf’s legacy within the institution was marred by ethnic rivalries and tensions over counter-terrorism policies. In 2007, its deadly crackdown on armed Islamists at a mosque in the capital sparked a years-long wave of terrorist violence that has recently risen again, with a January 31 attack on police 95 worshipers were killed in a suicide bombing in a mosque.

Commentator Zahid Hussain stated that Musharraf’s “frank and amiable personality” was initially “antithetical” to Zia. “He came across as a moderate and practical man,” Hussain said. Yet it was a promising start that dismayed Pakistanis into turning into a full-fledged dictator, who suspended the constitution and dismissed independent judges, insisting that his aim was to save democracy. Is.

One of Musharraf’s most controversial actions was to support the US in the war against terrorism in 2001. The decision was unpopular in the Muslim-majority country, but it restored Pakistan’s Cold War ties with Washington. That bond was recently tested by Imran Khan, who alleged that the US had encouraged his ouster through parliament last year. US officials have denied this claim.

“Musharraf’s rule was a mixed bag of positives and negatives, but his tenure has left a deep impact on our history,” Hassan Askari Rizvi, a political analyst in Lahore, said on Tuesday. If Pakistan had not sided with Washington after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, he added, “the United States would still have invaded Afghanistan, and Pakistan would still have met its end.”

In Pakistani politics, though, Rizvi laments that few lessons have been learned since Musharraf left power, and politicians are once again at each other’s throats.

He said it is an unfortunate fact that every ruler, civilian or military, wants to knock out his opponents. Be it Musharraf or Nawaz Sharif or Benazir Bhutto, political parties remain divided, institutions weaken and democracy suffers.

Shaiq Hussain contributed to this report from Islamabad.

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