Musharraf’s Ambiguous Legacy

Pakistan is again in the grip of chaos, with its border areas in Islamist hands and its powerful intelligence apparatus - the creator and patron of the Taliban - out of the control of the elected civilian government. By the time President Pervez Musharraf resigned, he had already lost the ability to do anything about it.

Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf’s resignation brings to an end one of the more interesting curiosities of subcontinental politics: for more than four years, Pakistan had a president who was born in India, while India had a Prime Minister (Manmohan Singh) who was born in Pakistan. Since the two countries’ separation is now more than six decades old, that anomaly is unlikely to be repeated. But it is not the only reason Indians are greeting Musharraf’s exit with mixed feelings.

Musharraf was someone who was easy to hate across the border. He had, after all, risen to the top of the military on the back of the Pakistani army’s Islamist elements, who came into their own (in what had previously been a rather Anglophile, British- and American-trained officer corps) during the decade-long reign of a fundamentalist military ruler, General Muhammad Zia-ul-Haq.

Indeed, though Musharraf displayed an urbane image, enjoyed his Scotch, and admired Turkey, he was not one of the Pakistani secularists so admired by Indian liberals. Instead, he cultivated a reputation as an anti-Indian hardliner. The fact that his family had fled India upon Partition gave him an additional chip on his shoulder: it was widely said that he saw relations with India as a series of opportunities to wreak vengeance for what his family had suffered in the refugee upheavals of 1947.

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