General Pervez Musharraf death: Former Pakistan president who seized power in coup dies aged 79

General Pervez Musharraf death: Former Pakistan president who seized power in coup dies aged 79

General Pervez Musharraf, the former Pakistan president who seized power in a 1999 coup, has died after a long illness at the age of 79.

Musharraf, who had spent years in self-imposed exile abroad, died in a hospital in Dubai, local media reports said on Sunday.

The media wing of Pakistan’s armed forces said current military chief General Sahir Shamshad expressed his “heartfelt condolences” for the former president’s death, reported GEO News.

"CJCSC (chairman of the joint chiefs of staff committee) and [the] services chiefs express heartfelt condolences on the sad demise of General Pervez Musharraf, former president, CJCSC and chief of army staff. May Allah bless the departed soul and give strength to the bereaved family," the statement said.

Fawad Chaudhry, a senior politician from Imran Khan’s opposition Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party, offered his condolences in a video message on Twitter and said that Pakistan will miss the former leader.

Born in the present-day Indian capital New Delhi in 1943, Musharraf was four years old when his parents joined the mass exodus of Muslims to the newly created state of Pakistan after Partition.

His father served in the foreign ministry, while his mother was a teacher and the family subscribed to a moderate, tolerant brand of Islam.

Musharraf joined the army at the age of 18, and went on to lead an elite commando unit before rising to become its chief.

After deposing the democratically elected government of Nawaz Sharif, Musharraf oversaw rapid economic growth and attempted to usher in socially liberal values during more than a decade in power.

He faced criticism for his authoritarian methods and heavy-handed use of the military to crush dissent, but ultimately it was his continued backing of the US in its fight against al-Qaeda and the Afghan Taliban that contributed to his downfall.

His tenure is also known for its attempts to normalise relations with rival and neighbour India.

Three years after leading the country's military against India in the Kargil War of 2002, Musharraf shocked the world when, after finishing a speech, he suddenly moved towards then Indian prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee to shake hands and offered to start peace talks.

In 2006, he ordered military action in Balochistan that killed a tribal leader and laid the foundation of an armed insurgency in the province.

In 2007, over a hundred students calling for the imposition of Sharia law were killed after Musharraf ordered troops into a mosque in Islamabad.

The incident led to the birth of Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan, which has since killed tens of thousands in suicide bombings.

The same year he attempted to strongarm the judiciary, which marked the beginning of the Lawyers' Movement — also known as the Movement for the Restoration of Judiciary.

Musharraf then postponed elections and declared a state of emergency.

In 2008, Musharraf's party lost the country's first democratic elections in 11 years and he faced the prospect of impeachment by parliament.

He resigned as president in 2008 and fled to London, only returning to Pakistan in 2013 to run for a seat in parliament.

However, the former military leader was immediately disqualified.

He was allowed to leave for Dubai in 2016.

A court sentenced him to death in 2019 in absentia for the 2007 imposition of emergency rule in Pakistan, but the verdict was later overturned.

Additional reporting by agencies