On Monday, an increasingly isolated Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf succumbed to domestic and international pressure and resigned, almost 10 years are seizing power in a coup. The past year and a half was especially turbulent for the once popular army chief.
Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf addresses the country and steps down
There was a final salute for Army Chief Pervez Musharraf in November 2007. Wearing his trademark medal-studded khaki uniform, the 64-year-old inspected the troops one final time before handing over to his successor General Ashfaq Kiyani.
He made an emotional farewell speech: “This army is my life, my passion. I love this army, and this relationship will continue, although I will not be in uniform.”
Musharraf became Army Chief in 1998; having diligently climbed the ranks of the Pakistani army. In 1999, he staged a successful coup against Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif. He always defined his time in office as a transition period towards democracy but his rule was authoritarian.
In March 2007, Musharraf had provoked the ire of thousands of lawyers by suspending the Chief Justice. More and more protesters took the streets, calling for his resignation. In November 2007, he imposed emergency rule on the country citing terrorism and extremism.
“Pakistan is on the verge of destabilisation if not arrested in time. Inaction at this moment is suicide for Pakistan and I cannot allow this country to commit suicide therefore I had to take this action in order to preserve the democratic transition which I initiated eight years back.”
International pressure forced Musharraf to lift emergency rule the following month. He was also forced to go through with parliamentary elections in February of this year. But despite substantial losses for his supporters in parliament, the president clung on to his power, denying rumours he might resign.
Gradual loss of crucial US support
He was also kept in place to a certain extent by the US government, which had considered him an important ally in the so-called “war on terror” since the 911 attacks.
Earlier he had described progress thus: “We have strategised how to deal with terrorism and then strategised also on how to deal with extremism, which is very different from terrorism. […] The strategy is clear; we are moving forward toward delivering and we will succeed.”
But a change of mood in Washington and Musharraf’s increasingly dwindling popularity at home placed more and more pressure on Musharraf. On August 7, Pakistan Muslim League leader Nawaz Sharif and People’s Party Chairman Asif Ali Zardari announced the coalition would seek his impeachment saying it had become “imperative”.
Succumbing to pressure
Musharraf succumbed to the pressure on Monday; finally resigning, although he had always portrayed himself as a godsend for the country, a guarantor of unity, security and economic growth.
Najam Sethi, the editor of the weekly “Friday Times” described the situation thus: “Musharraf is riding a tiger. The history of this country is that the army knows how to come in but not how to come out. He just hasn’t worked out a system whereby he can transfer power; there should be a transitional period and [he should] slowly, in a sense, ride off into the sunset like a hero.”
Now there is no going back -- the hero has fallen from his tiger. It is time for a democratic president to take the reins.