February 5, 2023

The death of Pervez Musharraf

Pervez Musharraf
This is not a eulogy. I grew up in the era of Musharraf. I was a teenager, living in a privileged bubble watching as the country flush with American dollars boomed; metaphorically and literally. Pakistan had recently discovered the concept of marking up land values, and the terrorists had discovered that you can brainwash young men and women to blow themselves up. And such was my existence. The closest I’ve come to this boom was when my family migrated from a trusty old Suzuki Khyber, to the status symbol of the newly minted middle class, the Corolla GLi; and when the parade lane suicide bombing took away the lives of friends and people I had known; and that one time when I luckily missed being caught in the middle of a suicide bombing by 15 minutes (the attack on the then Surgeon General of Pakistan, Lt Gen Mushtaq Ahmed Baig).

I remember Musharraf’s fists of power in the air as he was informed of the carnage that unfolded in Karachi. And I remember when he said Pakistan has now embarked on an era of enlightened moderation. Privilege has this uncanny habit of making you blind to the pain, misery and suffering that surrounds you. Because it doesn’t affect you and bother you. It affects and bothers others. And who cares about others when you’re privileged?

It was only later that I recognized what a poisonous and treasonous snake the man who had said “Pakistan first!” actually was. Because if he had actually put Pakistan first, he wouldn’t have tried to play with its destiny like a man flipping a house for quick money does. Selling people for dollars to satiate the American appetite of goriness; filling the country and its institutions with holier than thou army officers who had no business or knowledge running those institutions; repurposing the law of the land and landing jiujitsu chops on it to make himself the tall and high lord of the country. I believe he thought he was doing the right thing. I believe he thought he knew what Pakistan needed, and I believe he thought he knew how to do it. Back then there were only 140 million of us, and the sad reality is that one man, no matter how perfect (let alone a treasonous snake), cannot, will not and has not ever been able to fix the mess. If it takes a village to raise a child, you can bet it was going to take a lot more people than one Pervez Musharraf to raise Pakistan.

But perhaps the most iconic and stunning blunder of his era—and the example that perfectly encapsulates that he believed himself to be the Napoleon Bonaparte of our times—was before he booted Nawaz Sharif from office. It was the wild, incomprehensible idea to turn the Line of Control into an active war zone. There was no need for that. Absolutely none. But Musharraf’s stupidity was such that he decided to take Kargil by himself; without informing his Prime Minister, without informing his own corps commanders, or the services chiefs of the branches of our military. We saw this film play out before, in 1965. When another tiny IQ man fancying himself as the liberator of Kashmir didn’t inform the Air Force of his folly to invade Kashmir. Anyway, the Indian response to Musharraf’s wet dream was swift, dramatic, and intense. It got so bad, that the same chief who had decided he would take Kargil and kill India’s aspirations of ever accessing Kashmir again, had to publicly deny that the soldiers who’s dead bodies were freezing in the mountains of Kargil were his. The shamelessness of it all should’ve made Musharraf rethink his rhetoric, but a narcissist never questions his antics. He only finds blame. It was the Indian Army that buried the men Musharraf had sent in to take Kashmir from them.

Musharraf was a larger than life personality. But he was a dictator who thought he knew better, just like the narcissists before him, and the narcissists after him. Just like all his predecessors and his successors, he too sought to place blame on anyone but himself. But history is not kind to those who are immoral and unprincipled. Because ultimately, the populist rhetoric wears off and the only thing left is you, your morality, your humanity, and your principles. And when the whole basis of your legacy is based on subversion, abrogation and treason, you cannot hope to be remembered fondly.

Farewell Musharraf.