Former Pakistani president Pervez Musharraf yesterday died after a long illness at a hospital in Dubai, after years in self-imposed exile.
Pakistan’s military and the country’s mission in the United Arab Emirates announced the death of the former army chief, 79, who was pushed from power in 2008.
“I can confirm that he passed away this morning,” said Shazia Siraj, spokesperson for Pakistan’s consulate in Dubai and embassy in Abu Dhabi.
Pakistani Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif, President Arif Alvi and the chiefs of the nation’s army, navy and air force each expressed their condolences.
A special flight is to be made to Dubai on Monday to bring Musharraf’s body back to Pakistan for burial, Geo News reported.
The former four-star general, who seized power in a bloodless coup in 1999, oversaw rapid economic growth and attempted to usher in socially liberal values in the conservative Muslim country.
Musharraf had strong support for many years, his greatest threat being al-Qaeda and other militants who tried to kill him at least three times.
However, his heavy-handed use of the military to quell dissent, as well as his continued backing of the US in its fight against al-Qaeda and the Afghan Taliban ultimately led to his downfall.
“He is called a military dictator, but there has never been a stronger democratic system than that under him,” said former Musharraf aide Fawad Chaudhry, a leader of former Pakistani prime minister Imran Khan’s party.
“He gave Pakistan a free media and he stressed on diversity of opinion in Pakistan,” Chaudhry said in a video message.
Musharraf joined what Washington called its “war on terror” after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the US. Pakistan provided US forces access to landlocked Afghanistan to chase down the al-Qaeda militants identified as being behind the plot.
This was contrary to Pakistan’s longstanding policy of support for the Taliban. This made Musharraf a target for militants in Pakistan, and caused him to lose support among conservative elements in Pakistan.
Allowed abroad for medical treatment even as he faced a treason case in Pakistan, Musharraf last flew to Dubai in 2016.
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