British-trained general is man behind the seizure of power

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The Independent Online

WITH HIS dark shades, Pervez Musharraf appears the classic Third World army general. But colleagues and associates say that the man who is believed to have instigated last night's dramatic coup is a sophisticated thinker who understands Pakistani domestic politics and their global ramifications.

WITH HIS dark shades, Pervez Musharraf appears the classic Third World army general. But colleagues and associates say that the man who is believed to have instigated last night's dramatic coup is a sophisticated thinker who understands Pakistani domestic politics and their global ramifications.

He began his career in 1964, receiving some of his military training in Britain.

Ironically it was another general's confrontation with Nawaz Sharif that brought Musharraf the promotion that has brought him so close to power today. Last October Musharraf's predecessor, General Jehangir Karamat, suggested a closer involvement of the military in the civilian government. Mr Sharif, ever insecure, saw the idea as criticism of his leadership and a veiled threat. After a dramatic meeting in the Prime Minister's official residence, Karamat resigned and General Musharraf was appointed as chief ofarmy staff.

It was a popular decision with the military. General Musharraf, an artilleryman, is widely respected in the army. Although he is an Urdu-speaking Mohajir - a descendant of the Indian Muslims who fled to Pakistan in 1947 - he has support among the army's upper echelons. A devout Muslim, he is also moderate, something that endeared him to the political leadership, who are worried about a growing hardline lobby in the forces.

His relations with the government were tested this year when Pakistan sent heavily armed militants and, India alleges, regular soldiers intoIndian-held Kashmir, bringing the two countries to the brink of war.

The outcome for Pakistan was humiliation, but General Musharraf took it on himself to deflect much of the criticism for the ill-judged adventure, going as far as to say that the army and the government were "totally together" on the events of the summer, and embarking on a tour of garrisons, where he listened to junior officers' grievances.

However his straight-talking hides a flamboyant streak. Before being interviewed by the BBC earlier this year he asked whether he should be seen smoking a cigarette on camera, especially at 20,000ft on a glacial frontline. He was told it was probably a bad idea but rejected the advice. "If I want to smoke, I'll smoke," he said.

Perhaps some of that confidence is behind last night's events.

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