American media highlights Musharraf’s role in US war on terror and opposition at home

American print and electronic media paid tributes to former Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf, who passed away in Dubai Sunday, as a U.S. ally in the campaign against al-Qaeda, but noted that he faced “growing resistance at home in a land seething with anti-Western passions.”

As the news of his death came on a weekend, there is so far no statement from the State Department, but newspapers and television channels headlined the story, and highlighted his role in combating terrorism.

Musharraf’s role in US war on terror

“From the moment he took power in a bloodless coup in late 1999 to his resignation and self-exile under threat of impeachment in 2008, Mr. Musharraf offered the world the swashbuckling image of a former army commando and ally of the United States who guaranteed a measure of regional stability in the upheaval after 9/11 and the subsequent United States attack on Afghanistan,” The New York Times said in a detailed font page story.

The Washington Post, another leading newspaper, wrote, “The terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, and the U.S.-led invasion of Afghanistan forced Gen. Musharraf to choose between Pakistan’s alliance with the Afghan Taliban and Washington’s demand for cooperation in the war on terrorism. His decision to side with the West was unpopular at home and helped fuel violent Islamist groups that have terrorized Pakistan ever since.”

The same point was emphasized by The New York Times, which said, “Washington’s demands for firm action against Islamist militancy collided with competing pressures from Pakistani Muslims who were resentful of Mr. Pervez Musharraf’s close ties to Washington.”

“Indeed, Mr. Pervez Musharraf’s efforts to maintain a measure of democracy while ruling as an authoritarian, and to promote secularism in a country where religious radicals wielded broad influence, brought him few friends and a growing roster of enemies,” the Times said.

“By the time he suspended the Pakistani Constitution and imposed emergency rule in late 2007, the patience of President George W. Bush, who had once called him a ‘courageous leader and friend of the United States,’ was wearing thin,” Times’ Correspondents Alan Cowell and Stephen Kinzer wrote in a joint dispatch.

“Yet even in exile, Mr. Pervez Musharraf continued to see himself as a potential savior,” the report said.

‘In 2001, as Americans prepared to attack Afghanistan, Mr. Musharraf tried to broker a peaceful settlement. When his efforts failed, he threw in his lot with the United States and backed the American campaign that forced the Taliban from power…

“Mr. Musharraf also set out to find a peaceful solution to the Kashmir dispute. He met several times with Indian leaders and agreed with them on measures to reduce tensions. In 2004, before a thrilled television audience of several hundred million, the two countries played their first cricket match in 15 years.”

The Washington Post pointed out that his coup was condemned abroad but welcomed in Pakistan, noting, “Gen. Musharraf, who was 56 at the time, cut a figure that was difficult to define. A career army officer, he held numerous commands and served in the highly trained Special Services Group. He detested the elitism of civilian politics, which he called ‘sham democracy.’ But he was also a well-educated diplomat’s son, a moderate Muslim and an admirer of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, the army officer who founded modern Turkey.

“Once in charge, Gen. Musharraf laid out a sweeping agenda of reform. He pledged to depoliticize state institutions, make government accountable, tackled social ills, revived the economy and curbed the exploitation of religion by Islamic fundamentalists….

“Gen. Pervez Musharraf made progress in turning around Pakistan’s debt-ridden economy. But many of his goals faced strong social, religious or bureaucratic resistance or were sacrificed for political expedience. He backed off on plans to modernize seminaries, criminalize ‘honor killings’ and modify laws that punished victims of rape.”

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