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Monday, 24 September, 2001, 15:39 GMT 16:39 UK
Profile: General Pervez Musharraf
President Musharraf
General Musharraf: In the middle of a world crisis
President Pervez Musharraf is facing his gravest test as ruler of Pakistan since seizing power in a bloodless coup in 1999.

The general - who now finds himself centre stage in an international crisis - was born in Delhi in August 1943.

His family emigrated to Pakistan during the partition of the Indian sub-continent.

His rise through the ranks came despite the fact that he does not belong to the predominantly Punjabi officer class of the Pakistani army - but to an Urdu-speaking family in Karachi.

He began his military career in 1964.

Early on, he reportedly commanded artillery and infantry brigades before going on to lead various commando units.

He reportedly underwent two spells of military training in the UK and was appointed director-general of military operations by the now-exiled former prime minister, Benazir Bhutto, before taking full charge of the armed forces.

Top job

General Musharraf rose to the top job in 1998 when Pakistan's powerful army chief, General Jehangir Karamat, resigned two days after calling for the army to be given a key role in the country's decision-making process.

Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif
Prime Minister Sharif: Increasing tension with general
It was the first time an army chief of staff has ever stepped down and many observers took it as a sign that Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif's political power had become strong enough to secure the long-term future of civilian administrations.

Some independent commentators suggested that General Musharraf's promotion came precisely because he did not belong to the Punjabi officer class.

They say the Prime Minister believed that Musharraf's ethnic background would leave the general unable to build a powerbase.

Kashmir crisis

During the Kashmir crisis in 1998, General Musharraf was regularly seen briefing the media and making appearances on state television.

But while he said that Pakistan-backed militants were preventing Indian gains, he and other senior generals were reportedly increasingly angry at the prime minister's attempts to find a diplomatic way out of the crisis.

Mr Sharif's moves led to speculation that the military did not have the full political backing of the government and he eventually ordered a full withdrawal.

General Musharraf was the first senior figure to acknowledge that Pakistani troops had entered the Indian-administered sector during the fighting.

Previously, Pakistan had said that the forces had all been Islamic militants determined to take territory from the other side of the Line of Control.

Click here to watch an interview with General Musharraf from the time

Following the order to withdraw, Gen Musharraf told the BBC that the crisis had been a "great success" for Pakistan.

In contrast, India's ruling BJP party sought to make electoral capital out of what it saw as a great military victory.

While being credited as one of the principal strategists behind the Kashmir crisis, General Musharraf also made clear he did not oppose efforts to ease tension with India.
Indian plane in Kandahar
Ties worsened after a hijack in December 1999
But any hopes that his takeover in a coup might herald a stabilisation in ties with India - or even a new start - appeared displaced in the first 20 months of his rule.

Tension on the sub-continent initially increased markedly - with both sides adopting hostile positions.

The hijack of an Indian Airlines plane to Afghanistan in 1999 - which India blamed on Pakistani-backed groups - and a rising tide of violence in Kashmir plunged relations to a new low.

In July 2001, General Musharraf held his first summit meeting with Indian Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee at Agra - but failed to make much headway in the Kashmir dispute.

Before going to India, he had named himself president in a bid to consolidate his grip on power.

General Musharraf has also firmly resisted outside pressure to move quickly to restore civilian rule.

After the coup he suspended the national assembly. He has said there can be no question of elections until October 2002 - the deadline set by Pakistan's Supreme Court.

Paul Moss reports for BBC News
The man behind the 1999 coup
See also:

12 Oct 99 | South Asia
Pakistan army chief sacked
13 Oct 99 | South Asia
Profile: Nawaz Sharif
12 Oct 99 | Talking Point
Pakistan in turmoil - your reaction
13 Oct 99 | South Asia
US calls for democracy in Pakistan
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