A five-minute primer on an issue making headlines Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf went to America last week, where he launched a blistering memoir in which he accuses the US of threatening to bomb his country back to the Stone Age if it didn't join the so-called 'war on terror'. Is General Musharraf really an important figure on the world stage? One of the most crucial. His moment came on September 11, 2001, when, in the eyes of many western observers, he went from being just another military dictator to being a key player in the battle against Islamic extremism. He has since been welcomed in Washington and London as a statesman. There's a fairly simple reason: nothing scares western officials more than the prospect of chaos in Pakistan, a hotbed of fundamentalism, and jihadists getting their hands on its nuclear weapons. Military dictator? Didn't Pakistan use to be a democracy? The country was created with the partition of India almost 60 years ago, and for most of that time has been under military rule. General Musharraf seized power in 1999 in what was a bloodless but highly dramatic coup. As army chief, he and other military chiefs had been infuriated by prime minister Nawaz Sharif's order to withdraw Pakistani troops from territory on the Indian side of the line of control in Kashmir. Shortly afterwards, Mr Sharif signed General Musharraf's dismissal papers while the general was on a flight back to Karachi from Sri Lanka. Mr Sharif ordered the plane to divert and instructed police to arrest his army chief. But the general's supporters quickly engineered a coup, and Mr Sharif was arrested before being exiled to Saudi Arabia. Despite pledging to restore democracy, General Musharraf has since tightened his grip on power. He reneged on a promise to give up his military title in 2004 and changed the constitution so he could hold both the army post and presidency until elections scheduled for next year. His regime has also come under fire for human rights abuses. How did General Musharraf become the most powerful figure in the military? The general is a soldier through and through, having risen through the ranks after joining the army in 1964. While the officer class of the army is predominantly Punjabi, General Musharraf belonged to an Urdu-speaking family in Karachi. He wasn't born in Pakistan, but in New Delhi in 1943. Sounds like he has a tough job That's putting it mildly. General Musharraf's support of the US sparked a massive policy U-turn in a country that officially backed the Taleban. He faces huge internal political and military pressure from forces sympathetic to the former Afghan regime. Critics have dubbed him 'Busharraf', and there have been several attempts on his life. Analysts remain divided on whether he can find a stable balance between US interests and preventing the radicalisation of Muslim groups at home. And then there is the long-standing feud with India over control of Kashmir. Although relations have since improved, the two countries came to the brink of nuclear confrontation as recently as 2002. Can he succeed? Declaring himself implacably opposed to Islamic extremism, General Musharraf now preaches 'enlightened moderation', declaring his hope to create a tolerant, democratic and Islamic Pakistan. The jury is out on whether he can do it.