Profile: Pervez Musharraf



Karachi: Pervez Musharraf, the former commando-turned-politician returned to Pakistan on Sunday to lead his party in the May 11 polls, seeks to stage a political comeback after four years of self-imposed exile abroad.

Delhi-born Musharraf's family migrated to Pakistan after the partition in 1947.

Commissioned in the Pakistan Army in 1964, Musharraf rose to national prominence after being appointed to the four-star general in October 1998 by then-Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif.

After seizing power in a coup in 1999, 69-year-old daredevil commando became one of Pakistan's longest-serving rulers. He served as the tenth President of Pakistan from 2001 until 2008. Musharraf survived three assassination attempts when in office from 1999 to 2008.

Prior to that, he was the 13th Chief of Army Staff from October 1998 till November 2007, and was also the tenth Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee of Pakistan Armed Forces from 1998 until 2001.

Musharraf was the mastermind and strategic field commander behind the highly controversial and internationally condemned Kargil infiltration, which derailed peace negotiations with India.

In the aftermath of the September 11 attacks, Musharraf closely allied with the United States and the allied powers in the 'War on Terror'. His support for President George Bush's "war on terror" earned him unpopularity at home.

Musharraf became the first president to hold general elections nationwide.

His time in power was also marked by struggles with the judiciary, including an attempt to remove the chief justice and protracted disputes over his oft-stated desire to remain head of the army while simultaneously being president of Pakistan.

His rule was marred by controversies in the last two years, including the armed action at Red Mosque.

He has been accused of not doing enough to protect former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto from being assassinated in 2007, despite allegedly being aware of Taliban plans to kill her.

During his last days in office, Musharraf also faced an increasing number of challenges on the domestic front, culminating with the return of one of his main political enemies, Nawaz Sharif, to Pakistan from exile in 2007.

Musharraf dramatically fell from the presidency in 2008 after voluntarily resigning after facing threat of impeachment led by the elected opposition parties.

Musharraf had left Pakistan on April 19, 2009, saying he was going abroad for a series of lectures.

He did not return from that trip and several courts issued arrest warrants for the former President in connection with the killings of Bhutto and Baloch nationalist leader Akbar Bugti.

Since then, Musharraf has been shuttling between London and Dubai and earned hundreds of thousands of dollars on worldwide lecture tours.

He never kept his ambition to return to power in his homeland a secret and formed All Pakistan Muslim League to contest election.

But until recently, many here were skeptical that Musharraf was serious. He has promised to return from exile several times, only to change his mind at the last minute, citing a "bad environment."

However this time, he seems serious and is ready to take a second shot at political influence, if not outright power.

His political rivals say he has negligible grassroots support. Any election rally that he holds is not expected to attract huge crowds.

Furthermore it is by no means clear whether the army - who provided him with key support during his time in power - is keen to see him re-enter the political fray.

And there are at least two criminal investigations against him. His decision to support President Bush in 2001 inevitably meant that he would end up clashing with militants sympathetic to the Taliban and al-Qaeda.

The Pakistani Taliban has threatened to assassinate him when he returns to the country.

Now, against all the odds, he seeks a new beginning.

It remains unclear whether Musharraf will manage to regain influence in Pakistan, where strong contenders for the election include Sharif, the man he ousted in a military coup, and cricketer-turned-politician Imran Khan.

PTI