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General Pervez Musharraf, who led Pakistan as president from 1999 to 2008 and took power in a bloodless coup, has died at the age of 79, according to the Daily Mail.
General Musharraf was a controversial military leader who persuaded Pakistan to help the US fight the Taliban fighters in Afghanistan, even though Pakistan had supported the Taliban in the past. Islamic extremists tried to kill him twice.
The former special forces commando became president in the last of a series of military coups in Pakistan after it was created in 1947 during the bloody Partition of India.
After he took power in a coup in 1999, he ruled the nuclear-armed country through a lot of trouble, such as tensions with India, an atomic proliferation scandal, and an Islamic extremist uprising.
In 2008, when he could have been removed from office, he quit.
At some point during his presidency, he visited the United Kingdom. At the same time, Tony Blair was prime minister and became an unexpected ally of the United States and NATO in the fight against terrorism.
Even though he tried to get back into politics in 2012, Musharraf went into self-imposed exile in Dubai to avoid criminal charges.
In June of last year, his family said that he had been in the hospital for weeks because he had amyloidosis, an incurable disease in which proteins build up in the organs.
A spokeswoman for the Pakistani consulate in Dubai, Shazia Siraj, said that he had died and that diplomats were helping his family.
Gen. Musharraf once wrote, “I have confronted death and defied it several times because destiny and fate have always smiled on me.
“I only pray that I have more than the proverbial nine lives of a cat.”
Pakistan, a country with about 220 million people, got the attention of the US about two years after it took power because it borders Afghanistan.
Osama bin Laden, the leader of al-Qaeda, planned and carried out the September 11 attacks from Afghanistan, where the Taliban protected him. General Musharraf knew what would happen next.
In his autobiography, he wrote, “America was sure to act violently, like a wounded bear.”
“If the perpetrator turned out to be al-Qaeda, then that wounded bear would come charging straight toward us.”
On September 12, Colin Powell, then the US secretary of state, told Musharraf that Pakistan would be “with us or against us.”
Another American official said that if Pakistan chose the second option, the US would bomb it “back into the Stone Age.”
Gen. Musharraf went with the first one. A month later, he joined then-president George W. Bush at the Waldorf Astoria in New York to reaffirm Pakistan’s resolve to fight alongside the United States against “terrorism in all its forms wherever it exists.”
Even though Pakistan’s powerful Inter-Services Intelligence agency had helped the Taliban get into power in Afghanistan in 1994, it became an essential place for NATO supplies to pass through on their way to Afghanistan, which is landlocked.
Before that, the CIA and other groups used the ISI to send money and weapons to Islamic fighters who fought against the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan in the 1980s.
During the US-led invasion of Afghanistan, Taliban fighters crossed the border into Pakistan, where we killed them in 2011.
They got back together, and the Pakistani Taliban grew out of them. This started a rebellion that lasted for years along the mountainous border between Afghanistan and Pakistan.
With Musharraf’s permission, the CIA started sending armed drones from Pakistan. They used an airstrip built by the first president of the United Arab Emirates in Pakistan’s Balochistan province for falconry.
The programme helped push back the militants, but the New America Foundation, a think tank in Washington, says that more than 400 strikes in Pakistan alone killed at least 2,366, including 245 civilians.