Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf says he is resigning in order to avoid an impeachment battle he says would harm the nation. In a live-broadcast speech to the nation Monday, Mr. Musharraf said he decided to step down after consulting with his legal advisors and political allies. VOA's Nancy-Amelia Collins has this profile of the embattled Pakistani leader.
Pervez Musharraf burst into international prominence in 1999, when he led a military coup and forced Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif into exile.
His profile rose even higher after the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the United States. The leadership of al-Qaida, which masterminded the attacks, was based in Afghanistan and Pakistan had supported the Taliban government in Kabul. But when President George Bush sent troops to Afghanistan to attack al-Qaida, Mr. Musharraf signed on as an ally in the war on terrorism.
In early 2008, he called terrorism the country's biggest problem.
"This is the greatest threat to Pakistan's being, and we have to have political reconciliation to fight this menace together," he said. "Let's unite, political reconciliation, and defeat these terrorists."
When he took power, then-General Musharraf promised he would bring prosperity and democracy to Pakistan.
He did introduce economic reforms that helped spur several years of economic growth. But experts such as Talat Masood, a Pakistani political analyst, say he did not foster democracy.
"His greatest weakness has been that he weakened all institutions of the state, weakened them to a point where the country is moving from one crisis after another; that he posed that he was a democrat, but in his true colors, was a dictator like anyone else," said Masood.
In 2001, he appointed himself president, and the next year he arranged a controversial referendum giving him a five-year term in office. Critics argued that it was illegal for a serving military officer to serve as president, and in 2003 he promised to resign from the military, but did not do so until late 2007, after he was re-elected.
Before the parliament held the 2007 presidential vote, his eligibility to run while in uniform was challenged in the Supreme Court. Before the court ruled, Mr. Musharraf suspended Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry, one of his persistent critics.
But there were widespread protests in support of Chaudhry and Mr. Musharraf later allowed him to return to the court.
Parliament re-elected Mr. Musharraf by a landslide in October 2007, but it appeared that the Supreme Court might rule the vote invalid. On November 3rd, he declared a state of emergency.
He suspended the constitution, jailed lawyers and thousands of political opponents, and imposed controls on the media. He also fired a number of judges, including Chaudhry, and appointed loyalists in their places.
Mr. Musharraf said the emergency was needed because of a growing Islamic insurgency. Critics said the real purpose was to get rid of critical judges. Weeks after the emergency decree, the new judges declared his presidency legitimate, and Mr. Musharraf lifted the emergency.
Pervez Musharraf was born in Delhi, in India, in August 1943. After independence from Britain and the partition of India that created Pakistan in 1947, the family migrated to Pakistan.
He was commissioned an army officer in 1964, and saw action in wars with Indian in 1965 and 1971.
Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif appointed him army chief of staff and chairman of the joint chiefs of staff in 1998.
Mr. Musharraf had a reputation as a secular leader, and he vowed repeatedly to battle Islamic extremism. However, during his rule, militant violence increased dramatically in Pakistan. Many international defense experts and political leaders said leaders and fighters from the al-Qaida group frequently took refuge in mountainous parts of Pakistan bordering Afghanistan.