Former Pakistan president Pervez Musharraf dies in Dubai after long illness

Former Pakistani president Pervez Musharraf (REUTERS)
Former Pakistani president Pervez Musharraf (REUTERS)

Former president of Pakistan Pervez Musharraf has died aged 79 following a prolonged illness at a hospital in Dubai.

The ex-army chief seized power in a coup in 1999 and served as president from 2001 to 2008.

"I can confirm that he passed away this morning," Shazia Siraj, spokesperson for Pakistan’s consulate in Dubai and embassy in Abu Dhabi, told Reuters.

Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif, President Arif Alvi and the chiefs of Pakistan’s army, navy and air force expressed thier condolences.

Mr Musharraf’s body will be flown from Dubai to Pakistan for burial on Monday, local TV channel Geo News reported.

The former four-star general, who seized power in a bloodless coup in 1999, oversaw rapid economic growth and attempted to usher in socially liberal values in the conservative Muslim country.

He enjoyed strong support for many years, but his popularity tumbled due to his support for the United States in its fight against al Qaeda.

Mr Musharraf joined what Washington called its "war on terror" after the September 11, 2001, attacks on the United States.

Pakistan provided US forces with ground and air access to help them track down the al Qaeda militants linked to the attacks.

This made Musharraf a target for militants in Pakistan as well as causing his support to plummet among conservative voting blocs.

In 2008 he suffered defeat in the polls and left the country six months later.

When he returned in 2013 to try to contest the election, he was arrested and barred from standing. He was charged with high treason and was sentenced to death in absentia only for the decision to be overturned less than a month later.

He left Pakistan for Dubai in 2016 to seek medical treatment and had been living in exile in the country ever since.