Former Pakistan military ruler Pervez Musharraf dies in Dubai after years in exile

Former Pakistani president and army chief General Pervez Musharraf Pervez Musharraf salutes during the playing of Pakistan's national anthem at the Joint Staff Headquarters in Rawalpindi November 27, 2007. (REUTERS)
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Updated 05 February 2023

Former Pakistan military ruler Pervez Musharraf dies in Dubai after years in exile

  • Ex-military dictator was under treatment at a Dubai hospital for amyloidosis, a rare disease
  • Musharraf seized power in a bloodless 1999 coup and ruled Pakistan until 2008

ISLAMABAD: Former Pakistani president and army chief, General (retired) Pervez Musharraf, passed away in Dubai, close family associates confirmed, after years of self-imposed exile in the United Arab Emirates.

Musharraf, 79, was under treatment at a Dubai hospital for amyloidosis, a rare disease, a former close aide of the military ruler and chairman of his All Pakistan Muslim League (APML) party, Dr. Amjad Chaudhry, said.

Chaudhry said the former president had been "seriously sick since 2018." 

"When I last talked to his family about a week back, he was serious and hospitalized,” he added.

“I am in contact with the family for the repatriation of the mortal remains of the former president,” another close aide of the former general, Major General (retired) Rashid Qureshi, told Arab News.

The Pakistani army, navy, and air chiefs and the chairman of the joint chiefs of staff committee (CJCSC) condoled Musharraf's death in a statement to the press.

“CJCSC & Services Chiefs express heartfelt condolences on the sad demise of General Pervez Musharraf,” the statement said. “May Allah bless the departed soul and give strength to the bereaved family.”

A general view of the exterior of the American Hospital Dubai, where former Pakistan President General Pervez Musharraf is believed to have died, in Dubai, United Arab Emirates (UAE), on February 5, 2023. (REUTERS)

Musharraf, the son of a career diplomat, was born in New Delhi in 1943 and migrated to the newly independent Pakistan with his family in 1947. Musharraf joined the army in 1964 and graduated from the Army Command and Staff College in Quetta. He also attended the Royal College of Defence Studies in London and has fought in Pakistan’s 1965 and 1971 wneighboringneighbouring India.

After holding a number of appointments in the army's artillery, infantry, and commando units, Musharraf was appointed army chief by then prime minister Nawaz Sharif in 1998 - a move he would later come to regret when the military ruler ousted Sharif in a bloodless military coup in 1999. Musharraf then served as Pakistan's president from 2001 to 2008.

Following the US invasion of Afghanistan after the September 11 attacks in 2001, Washington sought Pakistan's support in the 'War on Terror,' and Musharraf became a close ally of the then US administration of George Bush. He also won mass appeal in the West through his calls for Muslims to adopt a lifestyle of “enlightened moderation.” He also embraced liberal economic policies during his rule that impressed business leaders, brought in foreign investment and led to annual economic growth of as much as 7.5 percent.

Musharraf ruled as army chief until 2007 when he quit, trading the military post for a second five-year term as president.

He stepped down as president also in 2008 over fears of being impeached by Pakistan’s then ruling coalition. He subsequently left the country but returned in 2013 with the hope of regaining power as a civilian at the ballot box. However, he encountered a slew of criminal charges, and within a year, was barred for life from running for public office.

In 2016, after a travel ban was lifted, Musharraf left for Dubai to seek medical treatment and has since remained there. In 2019, a special court indicted him on treason charges in absentia, which he denied, and eventually sentenced him to death, though the ruling was later overturned by a higher court.

During his years in power, Musharraf saw many moments of tumult.

In 2006, a popular tribal leader from the southwestern province Balochistan was killed in military action ordered by Musharraf, unleashing an armed insurgency that goes on to date. In 2007, he ordered troops to storm a mosque in Islamabad whose clerics and students were calling for the imposition of Shariah law. The siege led to the birth of an indigenous Taliban movement, the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan, which has since led an insurgency against the government in Islamabad and killed tens of thousands in brazen assaults on security, government and civilian targets.

In 2007, Musharraf demanded the resignation of then chief justice of the Supreme Court, unleashing a mass protest movement that massively dented his popularity and started calls for him to step down.

Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif, who is the brother of three-time former PM Nawaz whom Musharraf ousted in 1999, condoled over the military ruler's death and "sent prayers for forgiveness of the deceased and patience for the family,” the Prime Minister's Office (PMO) said in a statement.

Among others who condoled were Chairman Senate Muhammad Sadiq Sanjrani, Pakistan Peoples Party Leader Faisal Karim Kundi, and a senior leader of the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI), Chaudhary Fawad Hussain, who was for years in Musharraf's party.

“I have a long association with him and he always considered me his family member,” he said in a video statement. “Many called him a military dictator but Pakistan has never seen better democracy than his tenure.”

“He led Pakistan in very difficult circumstances and made it a pluralist society. He was a very big person, his friends proved to be small.”

Greece remands Pakistanis over alleged anti-Semitic plot — lawyer

Updated 31 March 2023

Greece remands Pakistanis over alleged anti-Semitic plot — lawyer

  • The two men admitted exchanging messages concerning a possible attack on a Jewish restaurant in Athens
  • They got instructions from a third man in Iran, though the Iranian embassy denied any connection to the plot

ATHENS: Greece on Friday remanded into custody two Pakistani suspects accused of plotting an anti-Semitic attack after they testified before a magistrate, their lawyer said.

The two men, aged 29 and 27, admitted exchanging messages concerning a possible attack on a Jewish restaurant in Athens, lawyer Iraklis Stavaris told AFP.

They are charged with participation in a terrorist organisation, a crime that carries a possible life sentence.

Stavaris on Friday said his clients had admitted exchanging Viber messages with a third man, whom police have identified as a Pakistani allegedly living in Iran.

On the third man’s instructions, Stavaris said, they scouted out and took photographs of a kosher restaurant in Athens that is also a Jewish prayer centre.

Police arrested the two Pakistanis in February for illegal entry into Greece.

Citizen’s Protection Minister Takis Theodorikakos told Skai TV this week that the alleged plot targeted “locations of Jewish and Israeli interest in Athens”. Asked if the case was watertight, he replied: “absolutely”.

“Monetary gain was the apparent motive,” he told the channel.

Police said separately that the pair had “already chosen the target of the attack” and were planning how to execute it.

Following an investigation by Greek intelligence agency EYP, anti-terror police carried out raids in Athens, Sparta on the Peloponnese peninsula and on the island of Zakynthos, the minister said.

Another 10 Pakistani men questioned in connection with the case were released Thursday after no incriminating evidence was found, a police source told AFP.

No weapons have been found, according to official statements so far.

Greece was included on a list of countries with travel warnings issued by Israel’s National Security Council ahead of the Jewish holiday of Passover in early April.

Israel this week accused Tehran of being behind the plot and said its Mossad intelligence agency had assisted the investigation.

“After the investigation of the suspects in Greece, the Mossad helped untangle the intelligence of the network, its operational methods and ties to Iran,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office said on Tuesday.

“As part of the investigation, it emerged that the infrastructure in Greece was part of a broad Iranian network, operated from Iran toward many countries,” it added.

Iran’s embassy in Greece on Wednesday denied any connection to the alleged plot.

Greece’s Jewish community numbers around 5,000. The government has good relations with Israel, including a number of security and military agreements.

Greece has not been targeted by extremist attacks in recent years.

Greece’s intelligence agency EYP is seeking to regain credibility after a wiretap scandal that erupted last year.

Earlier in March, EYP hailed as a “success” the discovery of an alleged Russian spy after she had already fled the country.

The woman, who was using a fabricated Greek alias, had been in Greece since 2018.

Ramadan ration stampede claims 11 lives in Karachi, highlights Pakistan’s struggle with inflation

Updated 31 March 2023

Ramadan ration stampede claims 11 lives in Karachi, highlights Pakistan’s struggle with inflation

  • Officials say they have sealed the factory where the incident took place and arrested its management
  • Seven other people also lost their lives in recent days at free ration distribution sites in KP and Punjab

KARACHI: At least 11 people were killed and several others injured on Friday, said officials, when a stampede broke out during a free ration distribution in Karachi, Pakistan’s southern port city, amid the country’s mounting inflation crisis.
The incident took place in a factory located in the SITE industrial area where hundreds had gathered to receive wheat flour and other food items during the holy month of Ramadan.
“At least eleven people, nine of them women, were brought dead to Abbasi Shaheed and Civil hospitals,” Dr. Sumaiyya Syed, Karachi police surgeon, told Arab News.
She added that five injured people were currently being treated at the city’s two medical facilities.
Mukhtar Ali Abro, deputy commissioner of district west, said the owner of the factory had invited people to benefit from the free ration distribution, an annual activity performed by affluent individuals in Pakistan during Ramadan.
“We have sealed the factory and arrested its manager along with six other staff members,” he told Arab News. “The owner of the facility, who left this morning to perform Umrah, has also been nominated in the case.”
Abro said the factory owner had not sought permission to distribute ration among such a large number of people, which led to a high death toll.

People mourn next to the body of their family member, who was died in the stampede, at a morgue, in Karachi, Pakistan, on March 31, 2023. (AP)

Meanwhile, the top leader of the province’s ruling Pakistan Peoples Party, Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari, instructed Chief Minister Sindh Murad Ali Shah to probe the incident, said an official statement.
“The loss of precious lives in the factory incident is tragic,” Bhutto-Zardari was quoted as saying.
He also urged the authorities to ensure such incidents do not happen in the future.
In a statement, the chief minister regretted the deaths and said that people should inform the administration about ration distribution and other welfare activities to avert such incidents.
About seven people lost their lives in the last couple of weeks as families struggling with soaring costs of basic necessities thronged at free ration distribution sites in Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa provinces.
Pakistan is currently facing a massive economic crisis that has led to spiraling inflation in the country, resulting in an increase in the cost of basic food items.

UAE-based biotechnology firm expresses ‘keen interest’ in Pakistan’s pharmaceutical sector

Updated 31 March 2023

UAE-based biotechnology firm expresses ‘keen interest’ in Pakistan’s pharmaceutical sector

  • Chairman of Abu Dhabi-based Hayat Bio-Tech calls on Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif in the federal capital
  • Sharif reiterates his country’s desire to expand its relations with the United Arab Emirates in diverse fields

ISLAMABAD: A delegation from the United Arab Emirates, led by the chairman of an Abu Dhabi-based biotechnology firm, called on Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif in his office and expressed “keen interest” to invest in Pakistan’s pharmaceutical sector, said an official statement on Friday.
The UAE and Pakistan have close fraternal relations and enjoy bilateral cooperation in a range of fields.
The Gulf country is Pakistan’s third-largest trade partner after China and the United States and is also home to more than 1.6 million Pakistani nationals.
“His Highness Sheikh Ahmed Dalmook al Maktoum, the chairman of Hayat Bio-Tech and a member of the ruling family of the UAE, along with a delegation, called on Prime Minister Muhammad Shehbaz Sharif in Islamabad today,” said the statement.
Sharif welcomed the delegation and said that Pakistan attributed great significance to its relations with the UAE in diverse fields, including trade and investment.
“The prime minister welcomed the keen interest of Hayat Bio-Tech to invest in Pakistan’s pharmaceutical sector, especially in vaccine manufacturing,” said the statement, adding that the PM also invited the visiting delegation to invest in renewable energy while assuring them that foreign investors would get all possible facilitation.
Sheikh al Maktoum said his country was aware of Pakistan’s huge investment potential and was looking forward to further expanding its footprint in the energy and health sectors.
The visiting dignitary added the UAE wanted to further increase its investment portfolio in Pakistan while briefing the prime minister about his country’s ongoing 1,200-megawatt solar and wind energy project which it is undertaking in collaboration with the provincial administration of Sindh.
Aside from investing in Pakistan, the UAE has also assisted the country financially by depositing money in the State Bank.
Earlier this week, the top UAE diplomat in Pakistan, Hamad Obaid Ibrahim Salim Al-Zaabi, also held a meeting with the country’s finance minister, Muhammad Ishaq Dar, as the International Monetary Fund (IMF) pushed the South Asian nation to get external financing commitments from friendly nations before releasing its bailout funds.

Pakistan currency dealers offer $24 billion loan to government as alternative to IMF bailout

Updated 31 March 2023

Pakistan currency dealers offer $24 billion loan to government as alternative to IMF bailout

  • Local dealers say financing will be arranged through currency swap agreements with local and overseas Pakistanis
  • Economists say the proposed plan is not sustainable and may put the country back on FATF’s radar screen

KARACHI: As an alternative to the International Monetary Fund’s (IMF) bailout program, Pakistani currency dealers have offered to arrange about $24 billion to shore up the country’s foreign exchange reserves for the next two years “in the larger interest of the country,” an official said on Friday.
Cash-strapped Pakistan is currently in talks with the IMF for the completion of the ninth review of the $7 billion bailout program signed in 2019. However, no progress has been made until now to reach a staff-level agreement, even as the government has implemented several harsh conditions to fulfill the lender’s requirements.
Pakistan desperately awaits the disbursement of $1.2 billion from the IMF under the loan program since it would boost the country’s low foreign exchange reserves which currently stand at $4.2 billion, barely enough to cover one month of imports.
The country’s currency dealers have offered to arrange the much-needed dollars in this context through a swap agreement with overseas and local Pakistanis to steer the economy out of the current crisis.
“We offered the government six months back to arrange $24-25 billion through outright purchases from Pakistanis at least for two years,” Malik Bostan, president of the Exchange Companies Association of Pakistan (ECAP), told Arab News on Friday.
Bostan said he repeated the offer during a recent meeting with the members of the Senate Standing Committee on Finance in Islamabad.
“The companies have offered to arrange funds of $1 billion per month for the government so that the country can get rid of the IMF program,” he said, adding that the exchange companies were already contributing $400 million per month to the interbank market.
Asked to further elaborate the plan, the ECAP president said currency dealers would approach overseas and local Pakistanis and offer currency swap agreement for the well-being of the country.
“Under the agreement, we will take loans for a certain agreed period and offer them the current exchange rate,” he explained. “They will benefit from the exchange rate fluctuations, and appreciation at the end of the contract term.”
Bostan said the idea to raise dollars for Pakistan was not new as a similar approach was adopted back in 1998 through which $10 billion were raised with the permission of then prime minister, Nawaz Sharif, and central bank governor, Muhammad Yaqub.
“We had toured Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and the United States, and approached Pakistanis, and they had responded well,” he continued. “The country is still reaping the benefit of 1998 fundraising.”
The ECAP official said the exchange companies needed the government’s approval to implement the proposed financing arrangement which required direct dollar purchases from abroad and people at home.
While Bostan said the government’s nod will allow the country to get the much-needed funds, Pakistani economists termed the idea “unsustainable” and risky which could put the country back on the Financial Action Task Force’s (FATF) radar.
“The financing solution proposed by the exchange companies may provide short-term relief, but it is not a long-term solution and there is a risk of putting the country back on the FATF watch list,” Dr. Sajid Amin, deputy executive director at the Sustainable Development Policy Institute (SDPI), told Arab News. “The government must stick to the IMF program and complete the reforms that the country needs for its long-term survival.”
Amin said the current IMF program seemed “tough” but it was because the authorities had failed to implement structural reforms which were mutually agreed with the fund.
“We have been playing politics with the IMF program which has delayed the implementation of prior actions,” he continued.
Amin added the conditions seemed tough because of the implementation timeframe which was short.
Pakistan has approached the IMF 23 times in its history to get bailout programs but has only completed one of them.

Political crisis deepens as CJ refuses to form full court in election postponement case

Updated 31 March 2023

Political crisis deepens as CJ refuses to form full court in election postponement case

  • Chief justice says the Supreme Court will take a break if political parties begin to negotiate and settle the matter
  • Legal experts say CJ’s leadership capability has come under question after the recusal of two judges hearing the case

ISLAMABAD: The ongoing tussle between the government and judiciary intensified in Pakistan on Friday after a three-member bench resumed hearing a petition filed by former Prime Minister Imran Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party against the election postponement in Punjab province, while refusing to form a full court to adjudicate the matter.
The country’s election commission announced the postponement of the Punjab polls this month, citing security, administrative, and financial reasons, after the province’s legislative assembly was dissolved by Khan’s party in January to force the incumbent administration to hold early general elections in the country. The PTI filed the petition against the commission’s decision since Pakistan’s constitution requires that elections must be held within 90 days of the dissolution of an assembly.
The Supreme Court’s proceedings were delayed on Friday after two senior judges, Justice Jamal Mandokhail and Justice Amin-ud-Din Khan, parted ways from the five-member bench that originally took up the PTI petition. The development followed the approval of a bill by the upper house of parliament on Thursday to curtail the chief justice’s power to use “suo motu” authority, which allows the court to open cases on its own to address issues that it deems to be of public interest.
The government, which recently presented a National Assembly resolution demanding an end to the top court’s “interference” in political matters, requested a full court hearing, although the chief justice said it would waste time since the bench had already heard the case for three consecutive days.
“It will take time for the new judges to understand the case,” Chief Justice Umar Ata Bandial remarked.
He said that the court was willing to “take a break” if the government and the opposition PTI party started negotiating over the election date. However, he also warned that the court would play its constitutional role if the political parties failed to make headway.
Giving reasons for a delay in the elections beyond 90 days, Attorney-General of Pakistan Mansoor Awan told the court that the country was running a deficit of Rs1,500 billion, which was expected to rise further until June.
The Supreme Court summoned defense and finance secretaries on Monday to get input on the security personnel and funds needed to hold the elections. The chief justice also hoped that next week’s sun would rise “with good news.”
Meanwhile, legal experts said the recent legislation to curtail the chief justice’s power would ultimately land in the courts for judicial review while commenting on the ongoing tussle between the government and judiciary.
“The fact that a law will also address some concerns raised by certain political parties is not a good enough reason to be suspicious about its constitutionality,” advocate Waqqas Mir said while speaking to Arab News.
“I feel the proposed law will force the Supreme Court to have an urgent conversation within its members about whether they want the important issues [relating to suo motu and constitution of benches] to be addressed by politicians or by themselves,” he added.
Mir said the recusals of the judges were not happening because they wanted the elections to be delayed but “the clearly stated reason for recusals is reasoned disagreements by judges about the exercise of discretion to form benches and exercise of powers under Article 184(3) of the constitution.”
“Disagreements over ideas, interpretations, and principled positions are not necessarily a bad thing,” he said. “As long as personal collegiality remains between judges, the institution should come out stronger.”
However, advocate Imran Shafique said the recusal of the judges in the elections delay case was a manifestation of a “full-blown crisis and unrest” in the Supreme Court, which would weaken the institution in the longer run.
“Unfortunately, the leadership capability of the chief justice has been questioned as he has failed to take all the judges along in dispensation of justice,” he told Arab News.
Asked about the legislation related to the chief justice’s powers, Shafique said it would help abolish the “dictatorship role” of the top judge at the Supreme Court.
“After the implementation of the legislation, the institution will be making decisions instead of an individual, which is a good thing to happen,” he added.