Musharraf, a former special forces commando, became president through the last of a string of military coups that roiled Pakistan since its founding amid the bloody 1947 partition of India. He ruled the nuclear-armed state after his 1999 coup through tensions with India, an atomic proliferation scandal and an Islamic extremist insurgency. He stepped down in 2008 while facing possible impeachment.
Later in life, Musharraf lived in self-imposed exile in Dubai to avoid criminal charges, despite attempting a political comeback in 2012. But it wasn’t to be as his poor health plagued his last years.
Musharraf’s family announced in June 2022 that he had been hospitalized for weeks while suffering from amyloidosis, an incurable condition that sees proteins build up in the body’s organs.
Shazia Siraj, a spokeswoman for the Pakistani Consulate in Dubai, confirmed his death and said diplomats were providing support to his family.
Pakistan, a nation nearly twice the size of California along the Arabian Sea, is now home to 220 million people. But it would be its border with Afghanistan that would soon draw the U.S. attention and dominate Musharraf’s life a little under two years after he seized power.
The U.S.-led invasion of Afghanistan saw Taliban fighters flee over the border back into Pakistan, including Osama bin Laden, whom the U.S. would kill in 2011 at a compound in Abbottabad. They regrouped and the offshoot Pakistani Taliban emerged, beginning a years long insurgency in the mountainous border region between Afghanistan and Pakistan.
Militants tried to assassinate Musharraf twice in 2003 by targeting his convoy, first with a bomb planted on a bridge and then with car bombs. That second attack saw Musharraf’s vehicle lifted into the air by the blast. It raced to safety on just its rims, Musharraf pulling a Glock pistol in case he needed to fight his way out.
Born Aug. 11, 1943, in New Delhi, India, Musharraf was the middle son of a diplomat. His family joined millions of other Muslims in fleeing westward when predominantly Hindu India and Islamic Pakistan split during independence from Britain in 1947.
Musharraf entered the Pakistani army at age 18 and made his career there as Islamabad fought three wars against India. He’d launch his own attempt at seizing territory in the disputed Himalayan region of Kashmir in 1999 just before seizing power from Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif.