AP : Musharraf's Democracy Promise Fell Short

Monday, November 05, 2007

Musharraf's Democracy Promise Fell Short

By MATTHEW PENNINGTON | November 5, 2007

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan (AP) — Pervez Musharraf seized power in a coup eight years ago, promising to bring true democracy — a move welcomed by many Pakistanis, who were increasingly frustrated by a corrupt civilian government.

His takeover angered the international community. But his decision to end Pakistan's support for the hard-line Taliban regime in Afghanistan after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the United States won him new friends in the West — and enemies at home.

Now, Musharraf is finding his leadership threatened by an Islamic militant movement that has spread from border regions to the capital, the reemergence of political rival and former prime minister, Benazir Bhutto, and an increasingly defiant Supreme Court.

Last week, he declared a state of emergency, cut communications and deploy paramilitary troops and police in the capital.

Musharraf, 64, has survived several attempts on his life, including two huge bombings in December 2003. Both were blamed on al-Qaida and local Islamic militants.

Hard-liners were angered by his move to ally this Islamic nation with the United States in its war on terror. They also opposed his efforts toward peace with the country's historic rival, India.

Musharraf was born on Aug. 11, 1943, in New Delhi, India, the middle son of a diplomat. His family migrated by train during independence from Britain in 1947, when predominantly Hindu India and Islamic Pakistan formally divided.

Joining the army in 1964, he quickly rose through the ranks and was promoted to army chief under Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif in 1998.

Their relationship soured the following year after Musharraf organized a Pakistani push into the Indian-held part of Kashmir, bringing the two nuclear-armed countries to the brink of war.

When Sharif tried to oust him, allegedly obstructing Musharraf's plane from landing in Pakistan after a trip abroad, the army chief seized power in a bloodless coup.

In his personal life, Musharraf is something of a bon vivant. A friend described him as "a modern, secularist man" who likes to dance to Western music at parties.

While Musharraf is regarded as liberal and an advocate of religious moderation, he has been less dynamic in restoring democracy to Pakistan.

Musharraf held elections in 2002, but only after amending the constitution to give himself sweeping powers to sack the prime minister and Parliament.

He allowed independent media outlets to expand and thrive, but under emergency rule his regime is now stripping those liberties away for fear that news reports will further fan opposition.