An Officer and a Gentleman
Generals will come and generals will go but Pervez Musharraf will always be remembered for his modesty and his dislike of hypocrisy.
General Pervez Musharraf is no more. He was a very brave man, an outstanding soldier and a person who ruled Pakistan for nine years with outstanding success. Despite all his accomplishments, the late general was never defeated in battle but was vanquished by a debilitating disease - Amyloidosis - that was incurable. It is a painful task to write this after his death as Pakistan has lost a very sincere leader who could do so much more for the country if given reasonable time and opportunity.
I found the late general to be a very outgoing and friendly person in his position as a Chief Executive of Pakistan. There was none of that stiff upper lip that one normally attributes to an army general and chief executive of the country.
He was born in Delhi in a middle-class family and it was to the credit of the General that he never forgot his roots. The fact that he enjoyed the country’s top-most offices from a position of power and not merely as a ceremonial head did not change his demeanour in any way. This became vividly obvious when he paid a state visit to India and made it categorically clear to his hosts that during his stay in the country, he would especially visit the Dargah of Khwaja Moinuddin Chishti in Ajmer to pay homage.
General Musharraf attained the highest rank of 4-star general in the Pakistan Army. He studied at St. Patrick’s School in Karachi, then at Forman Christian College in Lahore and, subsequently, at the Pakistan Military Academy, Kakul, the Command & Staff College, Quetta, the National Defence University, Islamabad and at the Royal College of Defence, UK.
His father was Syed Musharrafuddin, an Accounts Director at the Pakistan Foreign Office. His mother was Zarin Musharraf, while his siblings are Javed Musharraf, an economist and one of the Directors of the International Fund for Agricultural Development and Dr. Naved Musharraf, an anaestheologist based in Illinois, USA. He leaves behind wife Sehba Musharraf and two offspring - daughter Ayla and son Bilal.
The children never took advantage of their father’s positions, whether as President of Pakistan or as Army Chief and neither did General Musharraf encourage them to do so at any point. They were happy with being a normal family.
There are many anecdotes that show the ordinariness of the Musharraf family.
In 2003, Ayla, Gen. Musharraf’s daughter, was going with friends to the Karachi Expo Centre to attend a musical concert being held by the All Pakistan Music Conference; she was the general secretary of the Music Conference.
Since she was a bit late, the main gate had been closed and she could not enter. The security guard asked her to take a long detour and enter from the rear. Her friends asked her to tell the guard that she was the general secretary of the event and that she was the daughter of the then President of Pakistan, but she refused to do so and took the detour.
After retirement, while living in Dubai, General Musharraf was kind enough to invite me to accompany him to New Delhi to attend the “Leadership Summit”, hosted by the Times of India, as one of his guests. The General was the keynote speaker there.
We arrived in New Delhi late in the evening and as the general had various meetings, he went to bed very late. The next morning, as I peered out of my balcony at the third floor, I saw General Musharraf in his track suit having breakfast. He waved at me and asked me to come down and join him. I did.
At exactly 9.00 am that morning, General Musharraf was on the conference stage, looking spanking fresh. Karan Thapar, the well-known Indian anchor, introduced him. He addressed an audience of some 1500 people and spoke extempore. What a speech it was. It had everyone completely spellbound. The audience just kept clapping as he concluded his speech with an Urdu couplet on India and Pakistan relations:
After the session, General Musharraf decided to go to the bazaar to have chaat at the famous “Haldi Mul” – a popular brand of nimco products. The local administration was reluctant because of security reasons but the General decided to take the risk and we all went there without any prior information.
When we wanted to leave, our hosts, the Haldi Mul management, presented their products to each of us as gifts. On this, General Musharraf imposed the condition that he would pay on behalf of all of us. They accepted, though quite reluctantly.
It was always such a pleasure to visit General Musharraf. I have never seen anyone who is so concerned about his guests and their welfare. The General was an extremely sincere individual who was always so full of humanity and modesty.
The writer is a columnist and Editor-in-chief of SouthAsia.
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