Ex-Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf, crucial supporter of U.S. after 9/11, dies at 79

Pervez Musharraf, the Pakistan leader who provided crucial support to the U.S.-led war on terror following the 9/11 attacks, has died at 79, the Pakistan military announced Sunday.

No cause of death was revealed, but Musharraf had been battling a rare disease, amyloidosis, and was being treated at a hospital in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, Pakistani media reported.

The Pakistan military issued a statement expressing "heartfelt condolences on the sad demise of General Pervez Musharraf. ... May Allah bless the departed soul and give strength to bereaved family."

Musharraf seized power in 1999 from then-prime minister Nawaz Sharif in a bloodless coup after Sharif tried to oust him as leader of the army. After 9/11, Musharraf condemned extremism and terrorism, banned foreign funding of mosques and Islamic centers and limited the number of foreign students coming to Pakistan for Islamic studies. Joint U.S.-Pakistani operations led to the arrests of dozens of leading Al Qaeda figures, including ringleader Khalid Sheikh Mohammed

Former Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf is escorted by soldiers on his arrival at an anti-terrorism court in Islamabad on April 20, 2013.
Former Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf is escorted by soldiers on his arrival at an anti-terrorism court in Islamabad on April 20, 2013.

Musharraf forged close ties with US, George W. Bush

Musharraf served as president of the Islamic country from 1999-2008 and was a close ally of the U.S. and President George W. Bush after the 9/11 attacks. Bush referred to him as a "best buddy, Musharraf earned the praise, providing land routes for NATO forces to enter landlocked Afghanistan, allowing U.S. air bases in his country and sending troops to tribal areas to combat al Qaeda and its affiliates. But Musharraf's partnership with Washington during its military intervention in Afghanistan drew at best mixed reviews at home. Musharraf walked a political tightrope between pressure from the U.S. to crack down on extremism in Pakistan and the increasingly vocal demands of a broad, anti-American Islamist constituency.

Musharraf denied knowing where bin Laden was hiding

In the later years of his rule, Musharraf denied claims by NATO and the U.S.-backed Afghan government that he was allowing free movement of al Qaeda and the Taliban militants from Pakistan's tribal areas into Afghanistan. He was further vilified in 2011 when U.S. forces killed Osama Bin Laden in Pakistan – in the fortress home near a Pakistan military academy where the Al Qaeda leader apparently had been living for years. Musharraf denied he knew bin Laden had been hiding there.

Death sentence handed down, revoked

Musharraf was defeated at the polls in 2008 and soon after left the country. He returned in 2013, but was arrested and barred from running for office. A Pakistani court sentenced Musharraf to death in 2019 after a six-year treason trial tied to the harsh state of emergency he imposed while clinging to power in 2007.

Musharraf was sentenced in absentia, having left the country while on bail in 2016 to seek medical treatment. Shortly after his conviction, another Pakistani court threw out the death sentence, citing legal issues with the trial.

Contributing: The Associated Press

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Pervez Musharraf dies: Pakistan leader backed war on terror after 9/11