General Musharraf: 'Cool Under Fire'

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General Pervez Musharraf, Pakistan's new military ruler, is an economical man: he chooses his words carefully and counts every penny. He's mentally quick, according to a military insider, and likes to read speeches by Abraham Lincoln. But he is not an intellectual or a deep thinker. His coup was planned and executed with precision. What followed was not.He's also a man of action, with a reputation for getting things done. Friends say he likes taking on daunting tasks, reducing problems to their bare bones and looking for quick solutions. He is impetuous, perhaps, but so are many of the best soldiers. He takes risks and believes that anything is achievable, says a major who served under General Musharraf when he was a corps commander. And he is cool under fire. Those who know him say he is a good manager, a listener, a leader.

Gen. Pervez Musharraf details Pakistan's new government (10/18/99)

After grabbing power for the fifth time in 52 years, Pakistan's generals may put in place a civilian government sooner rather than later (10/22/99)
From a military point of view, Musharraf has done all the right things on the way to the top: he received a solid grounding in an artillery regiment, he spent time as a commando, he attended staff college in Britain, he commanded one of Pakistan's army corps. His credentials are impressive from a political point of view as well. Born in Delhi in 1943 before partition created Pakistan, he is a neutral figure, able to straddle the permanent rivalry between the Punjabi and Pathan officers who dominate Pakistan's 520,000-man army. He is also viewed as a man of principle. Admirers say he is loyal and stands by his commitments. Musharraf is said to be a passionate nationalist, believing the army should help the government serve the country properly. General Musharraf is not power-hungry, says Haroon Akbar, a family friend. He does things which he believes are right.

One military observer likens Musharraf to a parrot on the shoulder of a pirate, whispering into the ear of the Prime Minister about what should or should not be done to maintain the integrity of Pakistan. He felt it was his duty to tell the Prime Minister where the government was going wrong, says the observer. But his advice was disregarded. In a country founded on Islamic belief, Musharraf does not wear his faith on his sleeve, as did an earlier military strongman, General Zia ul-Haq. In his mind, faith is private. Religion and the armed forces are to remain separate.

Like many of Pakistan's senior army officers, Musharraf is an avid sportsman. He plays a daily game of squash--fast, tough, requiring quick thinking. It's an activity that's over in half an hour. No strategic planning necessary.