The Last Post

Published: 07:20 PM, 6 Feb, 2023
The Last Post
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In military tradition, when a soldier is buried with honour, the bugle call ‘Last Post’ is sounded at his funeral, which signifies that the soldier has gone to his final resting place. General Pervaiz Musharraf (Retd.) former President of Pakistan and Chief of Army Staff, breathed his last while self-exile in Dubai, following a prolonged illness. His eight years in Pakistan’s political arena as Chief Executive of the Country (1999-2001) and later as President (2001-2008) were very vigorous and controversial.

The late General was a valiant, brave and extremely patriotic soldier, a veteran of the 1965 and 1971 wars, with outstanding war records. He was commissioned into the Artillery Regiment and subsequently volunteered for the Special Services Group (commandos). He graduated from Staff College Quetta and attended the Royal College of Defense Studies, London. The rigorous SSG training suited his temperament to the extent that he became a very accomplished SSG officer and owned it more than his parental Artillery Regiment. Subsequently, he proved to be a great military leader and statesman.

As COAS, in May 1999, he planned and executed a daring operation in Kargil, Kashmir, in the treacherous mountainous terrain of the Himalayan Range, which threatened the supply lines of Indian troops deployed at Siachen by cutting off the Srinagar-Leh Road via an envelopment manoeuvre of the Indian posts. This courageous achievement which was a dagger-thrust hazard for the enemy forced the Indians to start back-door diplomacy to resolve the Kashmir problem which had been unresolved since 1947 due to Indian bigotry and flagrant disregard of the UN Resolution on the subject. Unfortunately, however, this great effort was rendered futile due to the non-cooperation of the then PM, Mr Nawaz Sharif, who succumbed to US pressure for the withdrawal of Pakistani troops. The late general’s personal courage and leadership traits can be judged from a ‘Times of India" report claiming that he spent a night with his troops, eleven kms inside the Indian Territory in Kargil sector along with Brigadier Masood Aslam, commander 80 Brigade.

Despite the general’s lack of legitimacy during his rule, he proved himself a seasoned statesman. The October 1999 coup d’état led by him against PM Nawaz Sharif’s regime was not a preplanned operation. It was a reaction to the latter’s unwarranted attempt to illegally change the COAS while the general was out of the country. Nawaz Sharif ordered the airliner carrying the general to land in India. Consequently, the top military brass reacted and foiled the PM’s efforts. General Pervaiz Musharraf came to the power against the backdrop of the corrupt political government of PM Nawaz Sharif. The nation was reeling under heavy IMF loans and corruption, mismanagement, and poor governance.  Inefficiency and incompetence had destroyed national institutions and the country was suffering from high inflation. The General uplifted the image of Pakistan internationally, bolstered Pakistan’s ailing economy to the extent that Pakistan got rid of IMF loans and during his tenure, governance improved. The creation of NADRA, the national database, and NAB, the accountability bureau, and the IT sector are some hallmarks of his efforts. He started potent peace talks on Kashmir with India from a position of strength. The talks were nearing a conclusion before being abruptly stymied by India’s BJP government at the last hour. His tenure was also marked by the construction of strategically important highways and the introduction of multiple private TV channels aimed at bolstering freedom of expression, and the recovery of trillions through NAB.

Despite the positive accomplishments highlighted above, the general has been severely criticized for various unconstitutional and irrational actions which had far-reaching adverse effects on Pakistan, and for which the country is still suffering. Although he was considered to be a “moderate” and came to power unwittingly, and he did not declare Martial Law as per precedence and promised an eventual return to civilian rule, he did suspend the constitution and eventually dissolved Parliament. In November 2007, the General declared an emergency in the country to remove the Chief Justice of Pakistan, Mr Iftikhar Mohammad Chowdhry along with 61 other judges. This sparked strong agitation by lawyers all across the country, eventually leading to his downfall. The Bugti and Lal Masjid encounters are also criticized by some people, in which, in order to enforce the writ of the state, Bugti was killed in Baluchistan and Lal Masjid was raided by the army. His most criticized action was to pardon PML(N) and PPP leaders Nawaz Sharif and Benazir Bhutto, in the shape of the NRO (National Reconciliation Order), probably at the behest of the US. This paved way for both to return to Pakistan with all charges being annulled. As a result of this, both corrupt parties are still taking turns running the country. Unfortunately, in December 2007, Benazir Bhutto was killed in Rawalpindi and the general was falsely indicted in this killing by virtue of his being head of the state at that time. Later after the end of the General’s tenure, he was falsely indicted in many cases; murder of Bugti and Benazir Bhutto, the Lal Masjid operation and violation of article 6; which implies high treason for imposing emergency and suspending the Constitution of the Country. In this case, the General was awarded Death Sentence. However, this could not be implemented as he fell seriously sick in Dubai.

The most outstanding attributes of the general’s personality were his industrious and enterprising nature. He was an excellent orator and even dominated the leaders of superpowers in speeches. Despite many accusations by his opponents, none has ever raised a finger about his honesty. His patriotism can be judged from the fact that after his retirement he actively remained involved in taking part in lectures, discussions and seminars to uplift the image of Pakistan all over the world. With his death comes and end of an era for Pakistan and his last post shall be sounded in Karachi.   His strong and magnetic personality will always be esteemed by the people of Pakistan. May God bless his soul and reward him for his good work.

Categories : Opinion
Lt Col (Retd) Khalid Masood Khan

The writer is a retd Lt col from Army and a defence analyst