Pakistan's Musharraf to Seek New Term in Oct. 6 Vote President Gen. Pervez Musharraf will seek a new five-year term in elections scheduled for Oct. 6, brushing aside opposition objections and concerns about his waning popularity. Musharraf, who seized power in a 1999 coup, has signaled his intension to resign his post as army chief if re-elected.
NPR logo Pakistan's Musharraf to Seek New Term in Oct. 6 Vote

Pakistan's Musharraf to Seek New Term in Oct. 6 Vote

An undated handout photo shows Pakistan's President Gen. Pervez Musharraf as he addresses a news conference in Islamabad. Press Information Dept., Pakistan hide caption

toggle caption
Press Information Dept., Pakistan

An undated handout photo shows Pakistan's President Gen. Pervez Musharraf as he addresses a news conference in Islamabad.

Press Information Dept., Pakistan


Musharraf Faces Threats, Discontent

Pakistan's President Gen. Pervez Musharraf will seek a new five-year term in elections scheduled for Oct. 6, brushing aside opposition objections and concerns about his waning popularity.

Musharraf, who seized power in a 1999 coup, has signaled his intension to resign his post as army chief if re-elected. Opposition parties, meanwhile, have threatened to boycott the vote to deny it legitimacy. There is no sign they will field a candidate of their own.

Government officials confirmed that Musharraf intended to run. Information Minister Mohammed Ali Durrani said the announcement of the election date was "a good day in the history of Pakistan."

Musharraf's current term expires Nov. 15.

Even as the date of the elections was announced Thursday, the country's Supreme Court continued hearing numerous complaints - including over recent changes to the election rules that favor Musharraf. A ruling on the general's eligibility could come within days.

Opponents, including exiled former Premier Nawaz Sharif, whose government fell to Musharraf's coup eight years ago, and a six-member alliance of Islamist parties said their lawmakers would quit if the Election Commission accepts Musharraf's nomination papers.

They vowed to mount street protests as well as more legal challenges to stop Musharraf.

"The letter and the spirit of the constitution do not permit President Musharraf to be a candidate," said Sadiq ul-Farooq, a leader of Sharif's Pakistan Muslim League-N party.

Deputy Information Minister Tariq Azim dismissed their concerns. "The opposition should come up with its own candidate to participate in the contest, if they have any," he said.

The party of another ex-prime minister, Benazir Bhutto, whose talks with Musharraf over a possible power-sharing deal have stalled, has threatened to join the opposition boycott unless the president relinquishes his army post first.

Musharraf, who became a key ally of the U.S. after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, is also struggling to contain an upsurge in violence by Taliban and al-Qaida militants.

In the latest attack, a bomb exploded outside a hotel in the northern city of Swat on Thursday, killing one police officer and wounding four hotel guards, police said.

From NPR reports and The Associated Press

Musharraf Resignation Ends Nine-Year Reign

Pakistan President Gen. Pervez Musharraf speaks on Aug. 12, the final day of the Pakistan-Afghanistan Peace Jirga in Kabul. Presidential Palace/AFP/Getty Images hide caption

toggle caption
Presidential Palace/AFP/Getty Images

Who Will Replace Pervez Musharraf?

Pakistan's constitution requires the country's parliament and provincial assemblies to elect a replacement for President Pervez Musharraf within 30 days. In the meantime, the chairman of the upper house of parliament, Mohammedmian Soomro, has taken over as acting president.


There is speculation that the leaders of the two main parties in the ruling coalition, Asif Ali Zardari and Nawaz Sharif, may both be considering a bid for the presidency. Neither man has announced his intentions.


Both have said recently that they favored stripping away some of the powers that Musharraf garnered for the office during his nine-year rule, but a less-powerful presidency may also be less desirable to the political leaders.

Musharraf meets with U.S. President George Bush and Afghan President Hamid Karzai at the White House in September 2006. Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images hide caption

toggle caption
Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images

Hours after Pervez Musharraf announced his resignation as Pakistan's president, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice praised him as "one of the world's most committed partners in the war against terrorism." But the former general leaves office in disgrace with most of his own people, narrowly avoiding impeachment after nine years of often heavy-handed rule.

Musharraf now faces an uncertain future. Even when he had the protection of the presidency, the 65-year-old leader was the target of multiple assassination attempts by Islamic extremists. Now that he's out of power, he may be forced into exile for his own safety.

The resignation avoids a politically volatile impeachment on charges that Musharraf illegally suspended Pakistan's constitution and imposed emergency rule last November, firing dozens of judges who disagreed with him.

Some Pakistani officials feared an impeachment trial would produce embarrassing revelations about corruption in the government — and about connections between Pakistan's intelligence agencies and Islamist fighters in the country's tribal areas bordering Afghanistan.

Most of Musharraf's power derived from his control of Pakistan's army. As army chief of staff, he seized power in a 1999 coup, and he held on to his position as the country's top general until November 2007. He finally resigned his military post in the face of domestic and international pressure that painted him as a military strongman with no legitimacy as a civilian ruler.

Musharraf ultimately proved unable to control the resurgence of the Taliban and al-Qaida in northwest Pakistan. But he succeeded in convincing the Bush administration that he was the "indispensable man" – the only one who could do it.

'Indispensable' Ally

Few leaders outside the United States have seen their destinies as intimately tied to the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks as Musharraf.

Two years before the attacks, Musharraf had seized power in a bloodless coup. He was largely viewed in the West as just another ambitious general who had muscled his way to the top in Pakistan, a nation that had seen more military rulers than civilian ones in its short history.

But Sept. 11 changed all of that. Suddenly, Musharraf was on the frontlines of America's war on terrorism, with President Bush frequently invoking his name as a key ally in the fight against the Taliban and al-Qaida.

This new role, however, put one of Musharraf's leadership challenges into sharp relief: namely, how to square growing demands from the country's Muslim fundamentalists with Pakistan's tradition of nominally secular government.

This balancing act has not been an easy one for a man whose skills were honed in the military rather than political arena.

A Military Man's Rise to Power

After graduating from the Pakistan Military Academy, the country's equivalent of West Point, Musharraf was commissioned in the elite Artillery Regiment in 1964 and saw action the next year against India in the second of three full-scale wars between the rival nations.

By 1971, when India and Pakistan would come to blows again, Musharraf was a company commander in the Special Service Group "Commandos."

In the coming years, he commanded both infantry and artillery divisions and filled various staff positions. As army chief of staff, Musharraf played the lead role in orchestrating a conflict with India in the rugged mountains of Kargil, Kashmir, in 1999. The handling of the conflict, which brought the two nations to the brink of a fourth all-out war, led to disagreement between the military and the government of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif.

The tension between the government and powerful military prompted Sharif to dismiss Musharraf as army chief of staff in October 1999, while Musharraf was out of the country. On Musharraf's return to Pakistan, Sharif refused to allow his plane to land, forcing it into a holding pattern above Karachi airport. But a coup led by generals loyal to Musharraf toppled Sharif's government and allowed the plane to land.

Sharif and his predecessor as prime minister, Benazir Bhutto, were widely viewed as corrupt, and many Pakistanis initially believed Musharraf's power grab marked an opportunity to put the country on the path to stability.

Musharraf also seemed eager to shed the outward appearances of military rule, preferring to appear in public in a western-style suit rather than his medal-clad general's uniform.

Despite Musharraf's early efforts to downplay the authoritarian nature of his rule, it took the nation's Supreme Court, in a May 2000 ruling, to force a return to parliamentary elections. Even so, President Gen. Musharraf maintained a firm hand on the reins of government.

From Pariah to Ally

During the 1980s, Pakistan had been a key U.S. partner in efforts to drive Soviet forces out of Afghanistan. Islamabad was enlisted to funnel American-funded weapons and technical support to mujahedeen fighters, some of whom went on to form the Taliban and al-Qaida, in the fighters' battle to end Moscow's decade-long occupation.

As the Cold War drew to a close, however, Pakistan was increasingly seen as an economic basket case with little promise of political stability. The Musharraf-led coup reinforced the notion. Meanwhile, the economic clout of Pakistan's bitter rival, India, was increasingly on the radar screen of Washington policymakers.

But Islamabad's fortunes were revived by the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, and almost overnight, Musharraf went from pariah to ally. Pakistan's cooperation was imperative for any U.S. intervention in Afghanistan, and Musharraf was quick to oblige.

An attack on the Indian parliament building in December 2001, which India blamed on Pakistani militants, brought relations with New Delhi to a new low. The attack was quickly condemned by Musharraf.

The whereabouts of Osama bin Laden also presented continuing headaches for Musharraf's government. Despite intelligence reports that the al-Qaida leader is being sheltered by locals in western Pakistan — a hotbed of Muslim extremism — Pakistan's army has been unable to find him.

Musharraf's alliance with the United States angered religious fundamentalists in Pakistan, some of whom wanted a Taliban-style Islamic government in Islamabad and viewed their president as a puppet of Washington.