Musharraf attempting a dangerous political comeback

KARACHI – Former Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf ended more than four years in self-exile Sunday with a flight to his homeland, seeking a possible political comeback in defiance of judicial probes and death threats from Taliban militants.
Musharraf speaks to a journalist upon his arrival in Karachi; He returns to Pakistan amid death threats. Net photo.
Musharraf speaks to a journalist upon his arrival in Karachi; He returns to Pakistan amid death threats. Net photo.

KARACHI – Former Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf ended more than four years in self-exile Sunday with a flight to his homeland, seeking a possible political comeback in defiance of judicial probes and death threats from Taliban militants.

Security forces whisked Musharraf away in a convoy of about a dozen vehicles shortly after he touched down in the southern port city of Karachi and did not allow him to greet hundreds of supporters waiting at the airport, ready to shower him with rose petals.

The move angered other supporters traveling with the former president, and raised concerns he may have been detained because of legal charges against him.

But one of Musharraf’s close associates said security forces were acting out of concern for the former president’s safety and took him to a different part of the airport, where he is expected to hold a news conference. The associate spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorised to talk to the media.

Musharraf tweeted that he was “thrilled to be back home” and posted a picture of himself meeting with party workers after he landed.

The journey from exile in Dubai is intended as the first step in his goal of rebuilding his image after years on the political margins. Since the former general was forced from power, Pakistan’s civilian leadership has struggled with a sinking economy, resilient Islamic extremist factions and tensions with Washington over drone strikes and the secret raid that killed Osama bin Laden.

Musharraf represents a polarizing force that could further complicate Pakistan’s attempt to hold parliamentary elections in May and stage its first transition from one civilian government to another.

He is viewed as an enemy by many Islamic militants and others for his decision to side with America in the response to the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. On Saturday, the Pakistani Taliban vowed to mobilize death squads to send Musharraf “to hell” if he returns. Also Saturday, militants launched a suicide car bomb attack against a military check post in the country’s northwest tribal region, killing 17 soldiers, the army said. Musharraf’s supporters, including elements of the military and members of Pakistan’s influential expatriate communities, consider him a strong leader whose voice — even just in parliament — could help stabilise the country.

Agencies

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