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The Era of Pervez Musharraf in Pakistan

Pakistan Politics Musharraf Files


When Pervez Musharraf took hold of the government in the October of 1999, he found himself looking at a crippling government filled with a corrupt constitution, deceitful bureaucracy, deteriorating economy, and unstable foreign relations up to the brim. In his memoir, “In The Line of Fire,” he is quoted to have compared his initial feelings at the time of this takeover of an unstabilized Pakistan to ‘being thrown into the deep end of a swimming pool, and being expected to learn how to swim.’ In his speech to Pakistan on 13 October 1999, he earnestly addressed his seven objectives: “1. Rebuild national confidence and morale. 2. Strengthen the federation, remove inter-provincial disharmony and restore national cohesion. 3. Revive the economy and restore investor confidence. 4. Ensure law and order and dispense speedy justice. 5. Depoliticise state institutions. 6.Devolution of power to the grassroots level. 7. Ensure swift and across-the-board accountability.” However, due to hindrances like – 9/11 and the War on Terror, the initial opposition of the Constitution, a fatal drought (2000), and the India-Pakistan standoff (2001-02) – his regime and implementation of his seven-point agenda was nothing short of being a laborious endeavor.

Revamping The Government

Despite Musharraf’s takeover of Pakistan technically being a coup d’état, he established his opposition towards instituting Martial Law, coupled with taking point 1 of his 7 objectives in account, and instead, stated the decision to carry forward the fundamental rights of the constitution under the condition of them being under direct military control. “Our past experience had amply demonstrated that martial law damages not only military but also civilian institutions, because as the army gets superimposed on civil institutions the bureaucracy becomes dependent on army officers to make the crucial decisions that they themselves should be making.  I, therefore, decided that there would be no martial law.” Nevertheless, Musharraf civilianized and camouflaged his martial rule similar to the reigns of Field Marshal Ayub Khan and General Zia ul-Haq through a series of steps granting him being elected as president for five years (April 2002): the amendment of the 1973 Constitution strengthening his presidential position (August 2002), strategically carrying out general elections (October 2002), appointing a controllable prime minister, Zafarullah Khan Jamali (November 2002), and the complete restoration of the Constitution (February 2003). As a chief executive, and with Provisional Constitution Order No.1 of 1999 granting him authority over the president, he expropriated complete virtual power to himself. 

Another step of his circled around the second, fourth, and fifth points of his 7 objectives, affirming forming a National Security Council, and a limited, yet, qualified governing cabinet, which, instead of being a result of mere corruptive nepotism, as was the case with the preceding constitutions, was adroitly strategized; “During the “dreadful decade of democracy,” cabinets had been chosen by favoritism. Merit counted for little. In addition, my cabinet was small, starting with just ten people, a far cry from the scores of ministers, junior ministers, and minister equivalents we had had under previous administrations.” In addition, as a follow-up of the seventh point of his objectives of 1999, he established the National Accountability Bureau (NAB), ‘to put the fear of God into the rich and powerful who had been looting the state.’ However, despite this main agenda of Musharraf’s in bringing forth “honest” and “credible” representatives in order to eradicate corruption in Pakistan, multiple reports accused him and his assigned government on accounts of corruption and fraud with the country’s economy; for instance, the 2005 Stock Exchange swindle, the ghost pension scandal, or the Pakistan Steel Mills privatization.

The Fusion of Terrorism and Religion

General Pervez Musharraf’s political reign had countless strenuous events attached to it, but the repercussions for the Pakistani government and economy after September 11, 2001, was, as admitted by the man himself, one of the hardest challenges he had to deal with during his regime. Outlining the past, it was the year of 1979, as unrest dispersed within the Muslim world when the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan fully-fledged. Pakistani nation and military too, with the realization of being vulnerable to a two-front threat, India from the east and the Soviet Union in Afghanistan from the west, fell into tumult. However, the United State due to its foreseen gains rendered Afghanistan helpful to itself. Consequently, a Jihad commenced in Afghanistan, with a striking total of 200 to 250 thousand mujahideen allocated from all over the Muslim world, and with Pakistan playing the role of a major training ground for these mujahideen crossing into Afghanistan to combat against the Soviet forces. Additionally, General Zia-ul-Haq, who was in power during the period, too, for his political gains, and in continuation of the religious extremism prevalent during his reign in 1980 encouraged Jihad, consequent to which, a huge number of Pakistani men signed up as Jihadis. The Jihad after continuing for 10 years came to a stop in 1989, however, the sudden abandonment of the armory-filled battlefield by the Soviet Union resulted in a breeding ground for even aggravated results; “First, it brought 4 million refugees into Pakistan. Second, it sparked the emergence of the Taliban. Third, it led to the coalescing of the international mujahideen into al Qaeda.” Moreover, after thorough research, Pervaiz Iqbal brought forward two negative effects of Pakistan’s acceptance of the Afghani refugees after the war; an increased rate of drug consumption amongst Pakistanis due to the smuggling of the by-product of Heroine produced in Afghanistan; the rates of heroin-addicted Pakistani population were recorded to rise from a 100 thousand in 1982 to a whopping 657 thousand in 1987; and an additional burden on Pakistan’s economy, with the reported maintaining cost of the registered refugees recorded to be a million dollars per day. Nevertheless, Pakistan’s history of being a supportive pillar toward Afghanistan’s mujahideen was, on the event of 9/11, seen to be questioned; “America was sure to react violently, like a wounded bear. If the perpetrator turned out to be al Qaeda,  then that wounded bear would come charging straight toward us. Al Qaeda was based in neighboring Afghanistan under the protection of those international pariahs, the  Taliban.  Not only that:  we were the only country maintaining diplomatic relations with the  Taliban and their leader,  Mullah Omar”;  and forcefully tossed aside on the despicable event, as Musharraf quotes“…my military secretary told me that the U.S. secretary of state, General Colin Powell, was on the phone. I said I would call back later, but he insisted that I come out of the meeting and take the call.  Powell was quite candid: ‘You are either with us or against us.’ I took this as a blatant ultimatum.” Consequently, Musharraf analyzing the two options, religion or terrorrism-eradication, arbitrated to support the latter. However, contrary to this step’s predicted economic advantage, Pakistan, despite receiving significant foreign and military aid, and loan write-offs from the United States in return for it’s potent role in the War of Terror, endured a major counter loss. For instance, a total of 52 thousand human lives were reported to be compromised of civilians and law enforcement personnel during the War On Terror, and as reported by Pakistan’s official finance records, a substantial economic setback worth $45 billion was spent on the war from September 2001 till 2009.

Amending the Previously Toppling Economy

On his arrival, Musharraf was seen to have witnessed Pakistan’s crumbling economy; the extent going as far as to the country being called a ‘failed state’. Not only was there a prevailing trend of nepotism in public banks and financial institutions of Pakistan, public-sector firms, for instance, KESC, Pakistan Steel Mills, PIA etc. despite being integral contributors to Pakistan’s economy were extremely mismanaged. Moreover, external factors such as tax revenues and exports were reported to be on a decline, with the foreign trade value plummeted as low as $7.5 billion during 1999. In addition, debt burden, and most importantly, poverty were on an alarming rise, with the statistics reported going as high as $20 billion to $39 billion between 1988 and  1999 for former, and 18 percent in 1988 to 34 percent in 1999 for the latter category. Musharraf was quick to generate a plan, as he illustrates in the nineteenth chapter of his memoir: 

I devoted my initial few months to assembling a team of technocrats in the fields of finance, commerce, trade, banking, and privatization so as to understand what really happened during the  1990s that had led to such a disastrous outcome… I outlined the broad framework of this strategy to the nation on  December  15,  1999,  but kept adjusting and fine-tuning it over the next six years.

This updated strategy of Musharraf consisted of four bullet points, “1. Achieving macroeconomic stability. 2.  Making structural reforms to remove microeconomic distortions. 3.  Improving the quality of economic governance. 4.  Alleviating poverty.” In addition, he made a bold yet successful decision of approaching the International Monetary Fund (IMF) in 2000 for assistance, which due to its completion ahead of time, proved to be a big boost towards Pakistani economy in the long run.

However, despite a well-established and motivated mindset, multiple unpredicted hurdles were recorded to emerge for Musharraf during the timeline. For instance, the three-year-long drought (2000), which not only impaired Pakistan’s agriculture but also adversely affected it’s rural economy. And, most importantly, the mobilization of Indian troops on Pakistani borders i.e the India–Pakistan standoff (2001-2002), where, as reported, the Pakistani army’s forced retaliation indented a strain on the country’s economy worth a whopping $400 million. 

Nevertheless, despite the countless adverse setbacks, Musharraf’s reign and government scored Pakistan a flourishing economy. The previously stagnant annual GDP growth of 4.7 percent increased to an astounding value of 6.3 percent a year. In addition, a striking reduction in poverty incidence was reported, from 34.5 percent in 2000-01 to 22.7 percent in 2004-05. Moreover, Musharraf’s economic decisions not only got Pakistan ranked third in world banking profitability but also secured an increase in Pakistan’s foreign reserves from $700 million to $17 billion. Furthermore, myriads of loans were paid off of Pakistan’s back as well, “To the credit of my economic managers,  we paid off all our most expensive loans;  secured debt relief;  obtained new,  favorable loans;  and paid off the remaining foreign currency deposits owed to foreign banks and financial institutions. All this gave us the fiscal space for public investment.”

And since a country’s literacy rate and quality of education is in one way or another proportional to its economy, Pervez Musharraf came into view again, with the first point of his 7 point agenda affirming his innumerable contributions to Pakistan’s education system. In essence, he increased Pakistan’s percentage of GDP expenditure on education from a previous 2 percent to 2.4 percent, which resulted in an overall increase of 11 percent in the national literacy rate. Moreover, during his regime, nine high-class engineering universities, and 18 public universities were substantially developed. Essentially, Musharraf’s governance gave light to the creation of an astounding total of 99,319 educational institutions all across the country.


Pervez Musharraf, despite having myriad controversies and blames attached to his regime, can not be stripped of the credit of countless positive amendments in Pakistan’s government, economy, and general infrastructure he was responsible for. From paying off countless international loans and strengthening the country’s education system, to ridding the country of a corruption-packed government through the establishment of NAB. Moreover, from having to deal with the consequences of natural disasters such as the 2005’s earthquake and the 2000’s drought amidst an economic crisis, to having to heed both, the United States’ enforcement and the opposition of Jihad supporting groups from Pakistan on the event of 9/11. The 1999-2008 reign of Musharraf, putting all contrary altercations aside, is, after thorough research, worthy of being seen as a direly golden period for Pakistan.


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