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Pervez Musharraf: A Profile

FRIDAY 4th October 2002
Security is tight around Pervez Musharraf. For cutting his links with the Taleban, he has new friends in the west, but new enemies nearer home. The tension between his country and India never fully abates, and native extremists have made their displeasure felt in no uncertain terms with their treatment of American journalist Daniel Pearl.

Personal danger

For the Pakistani president, an awareness of personal danger is nothing new. Born in India to Muslim parents, young Pervez was three years old at the time of the Partition in 1947. When his family moved to a Karachi ghetto, they fled on the last safe train out of New Delhi.

The middle son of a diplomat, short, stocky Pervez was not the brightest of his family, but enjoyed personal glory in school athletics. Fellow soldiers later noted that "there wasn't a game he couldn't play", and he even triumphed in body building competitions.

Although Musharraf is Pakistan's first leader to be a Muslim refugee, more typically, he enjoyed a rite of military passage. During his country's 1965 war against India, he was noted for sticking to his post under shellfire. By the 1971 war, Musharraf was a respected "risk taker and inspiring leader" to his commandos in battle.

Military leader

He led the armed forces for both Benazir Bhutto and later Nawaz Sharif, but it was Sharif who caused Musharraf's "reluctant" seizure of power in 1999.

Following Musharraf's withdrawal of Pakistani troops from Kargil in Kashmir, he was on a flight home from Sri Lanka. He claims that Sharif ordered his dismissal and the plane's diversion into the hands of Musharraf's enemies.

From the cockpit, Musharraf assembled his military forces. He was filmed at Karachi airport, dressed in combat fatigues, with cigarette and pistol.

Three days later, dressed in a suit, he made his first address as the country's new leader. But for the lifetime soldier, political manoeuvres do not come as easily as military ones.

Western pressure

Under western pressure, Musharraf has followed a moderate line. Fundamental groups are banned, the press is free and open elections are to be held in the next fortnight. But Musharraf has re-written the constitution to maintain power, he claims "belief in the essence of democracy", but counters that "democracy doesn't have set rules for every country".

For this most regimented of men, change will not come easily. And with enemies on every side, he will have to summon all his battlefield qualities. Asked if he currently has the most difficult job in the world, he responds, "I think, at the moment, yes."