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Legacy of regrets

Musharraf’s greatest legacy is that of overseeing numerous acts of terror perpetrated on Indian soil.

Legacy of regrets
Pervez Musharraf

ISLAMABAD: The news of the death of General (retd) Pervez Musharraf rekindled many memories for Indians. The former president of Pakistan had a chequered career — transitioning from a four-star general to a military dictator, who architected the Kargil conflict with India, to a statesman waiting in the wings, and finally, an outcast, who fled his nation as he was charged with treason. Perhaps, Musharraf’s greatest legacy is that of overseeing numerous acts of terror perpetrated on Indian soil.

Musharraf, who had ruled over Pakistan for close to nine years (1999-2008), was appointed as army chief by former PM Nawaz Sharif, just one year before he executed a bloodless military coup to overthrow the democratically elected government. His tendency to make about-turns was revealed when three months after India signed the Lahore Declaration during former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s visit to Pakistan in 1999, Musharraf ordered the Kargil infiltration, overriding PM Sharif’s authority. The Lahore Declaration, along with the Simla Agreement provides the foundation for India and Pakistan to address all their issues bilaterally.

Musharraf’s tenure was marked by dastardly acts of terrorism carried out by non-state actors on Indian citizens. The Indian Airlines flight IC 814 hijacking in Kathmandu in 1999 pointed to the involvement of the ISI, which culminated in the release of three terrorists who would launch deadly assaults against India in the years to come — the assault on the Indian Parliament in 2001, which was carried out under Musharraf’s auspices; the 26/11 terror attacks in Mumbai in 2008; the Pathankot siege in 2016; and the Pulwama attack in 2019.

It was only after 9/11, which prompted the US administration to warn Musharraf that Pakistan would be bombed back to the Stone Age if it failed to cooperate in the War on Terror, that the general opted to change tack and pursue a policy of peace. Not that this approach helped him much, as the Agra Summit held in 2001, just about a year and a half after the IC 814 hijacking incident, ended in a debacle, with India and Pakistan being unable to reach an agreement on Kashmir. Even so, between a period of relative calm from 2003-2007, Musharraf attempted to be at his diplomatic best, reviving a comprehensive dialogue that catalysed breakthroughs in connectivity and commerce.

Nevertheless, Musharraf also found comeuppance catching up with him. He had survived more than a few assassination attempts and commandeered ill-conceived military operations in Pakistan, the most infamous of them being the one in response to the week-long siege of the Lal Masjid (red mosque) in 2007, orchestrated by religious hardliners. The military assault ordered by Musharraf led to as many as 100 fatalities. It also catalysed the creation of the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan, which has been held responsible for multiple terror attacks, the latest being the Peshawar mosque attack in which 93 people had lost their lives.

Musharraf was named in the assassination of former PM Benazir Bhutto, and a military offensive ordered by him led to the killing of Akbar Budti, a Baloch leader. In August 2008, he was compelled to step down as president after the governing coalition took steps to impeach him. He was indicted for suspending the Constitution and sentenced to death for high treason, a ruling which was later overturned. Now, 15 years after he relinquished power, Pakistan finds itself in the midst of a polycrisis, held hostage by the damage inflicted by him, and his uniformed predecessors. It’s a legacy that’s short on plaudits and ripe with regrets for the ages.

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