AP NEWS
Related topics

Pakistan General Called Determined

October 15, 1999

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan (AP) _ The general who seized power in Pakistan is known as a brilliant field tactician who was passed over for a high-profile promotion because he was uncomfortable with pomp and ceremony.

Gen. Pervaiz Musharraf is also known as a man who likes to finish the job, according to one of his former commanders.

His determination to change Pakistan could prompt Musharraf to resist international pressure to restore democracy after he ousted Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif in a bloodless coup Tuesday and declared himself chief executive.

Under the constitution, elections should be held within 90 days after a government falls. But the army chief suspended the constitution when he proclaimed a state of emergency early Friday. An early election appears unlikely.

Farrakh Khan, a retired officer who was once Musharraf’s commander, recalled that when a previous government was forced out in 1993, Musharraf was among the senior officers who believed a two-year period was needed to change a system that consistently allowed corrupt politicians to return to power.

``Musharraf wants to break new ground and try to release Pakistan from this recurring cycle of civilian and military rule,″ Khan told The Associated Press. ``But there are constraints that might force him to act more speedily.″ said Khan, who retired in 1995.

Khan said he once refused to recommend his subordinate for the coveted post of military secretary to the late President Zia ul-Haq because he felt Musharraf ``wasn’t at home with pomp and show that comes with the job.″

That decision may have saved Musharraf’s life. Zia’s military secretary died with him in a 1988 plane crash.

Musharraf joined the army in 1964. In a military establishment dominated by ethnic Punjabis from northern Pakistan, Musharraf stood out as an Urdu-speaking mohajir, whose family migrated from India after the subcontinent was partitioned in 1947. He was born in 1943 in New Delhi, where his father was a foreign service employee.

Musharraf rose through the army ranks and spent a year in the 1980s at England’s elite Royal College for Defense Studies. There, he built up lasting friendships with officers from other nations who, like him, returned to key posts in their own countries.

Musharraf fought in the 17-day war with India in 1965 and was a commando in the elite Special Services Group in the 1971 war, when he was decorated for valor.

Analysts in India see Musharraf as the man behind a recent military operation in the disputed Himalayan region of Kashmir that brought the two nuclear countries close to war last summer.

Musharraf is a keen student of military history and particularly admires German World War II generals like Erich von Manstein and Erwin Rommel for the Blitzkrieg tactics they innovated.

In his personal life, Musharraf is something of a bon vivant. He likes good food, traditional Pakistani music, Urdu poetry, and dressing well. A friend described him as ``a modern, secularist man″ who also likes to dance to Western music when he’s at ease at a party.

He plays golf and a daily round of squash to keep fit, friends say.

Saying Musharraf always gets what he wants, Khan recalled when Musharraf wanted to invite a favorite woman singer, Iqbal Bano, for a concert at the officers’ mess, where women were forbidden without permission from the top commander. Musharraf persuaded his senior officer to call the general, who was on a pilgrimage to Mecca in Saudi Arabia, and the singer was allowed to perform.

Musharraf and his wife Saiba have a son and daughter, both in their late 20s and married. Their son, Bilal, is a graduate of a military academy in Pakistan and now lives and works in the United States as an actuary. Their daughter, Ayla, studied architecture and lives in Karachi.

AP RADIO
Update hourly