Ex- president Musharraf back in line of fire

KARACHI: Pervez Musharraf, Pakistan’s former dictator who has flown home to Taliban death threats, remains hugely controversial nearly five years after he resigned, accused of treason and murder by his opponents.

Supporters say he is convinced that he alone can save Pakistan in May general elections. He was fed up with sitting out his life on the sidelines in Dubai and London, they say. “I want to put Pakistan on the road to prosperity and free it from terrorism,” the 69-year-old said in an interview with Der Spiegel.

“The last five years were a total failure” in Pakistan, Musharraf said, adding that “all the economic and social indicators showed that Pakistan was a developing country” before he fled into self-imposed exile.

In his memoir “In the Line of Fire”, he quoted Napoleon and Richard Nixon as models for leadership — men both known, among other things, for their tenacity.

Musharraf was born in Old Delhi on August 11, 1943, and his family moved to the newly created Pakistan shortly after independence four years later. He said he had his first brush with death falling out of a mango tree as a boy.

He joined the Pakistan Military Academy at age 18 and became a commando about five years later, in 1966.

He rose through the ranks and in 1998, then-prime minister and current frontrunner for the May election, Nawaz Sharif, appointed him chief of staff.

Musharraf won a five-year term as president in a 2002 referendum, but reneged on promises to quit as army chief until late 2007.

Musharraf aligned with the United States after the September 11 attacks of 2001, earning international praise for trying to tackle Al-Qaeda and for presiding over a period of record economic growth.

He faced no serious challenges until he tried to sack the country’s chief justice in March 2007, sparking nationwide protests and months of turmoil that led to the imposition of a state of emergency in November 2007.

After the December 2007 assassination of opposition leader Benazir Bhutto, who had herself spent years in exile, the national mood soured even more and the crushing losses suffered by his allies in 2008 elections left him isolated.

On August 18, he finally resigned in the face of impeachment proceedings by the governing coalition.

Today he is wanted by the courts over Bhutto’s death, the 2006 death of Akbar Bugti, a Baluch rebel leader in the southwest, and for the 2007 sacking and illegal arrest of judges. Bhutto’s son, Bilawal, has accused him of her murder.

A 2010 UN report said Bhutto’s death could have been prevented and accused Musharraf’s government of failing to provide her with adequate protection.

His administration blamed the assassination on the Taliban.

“I will go by land, air or sea even to the peril of my life, this is the oath I took for the country,” Musharraf said.