Musharraf back in Pakistan but political future remains uncertain

ISLAMABAD — Pakistan’s former President General (retired) Pervez Musharraf, who returned home on Sunday after over four years of self-exile abroad, said he has jumped into political arena to ‘save Pakistan’ and will stand in the May 11 parliamentary elections.
Pakistan’s former President Pervez Musharraf speaks to the media upon his arrival from Dubai in southern Pakistani port city of Karachi on March 24, 2013. Net photo.
Pakistan’s former President Pervez Musharraf speaks to the media upon his arrival from Dubai in southern Pakistani port city of Karachi on March 24, 2013. Net photo.

ISLAMABAD — Pakistan’s former President General (retired) Pervez Musharraf, who returned home on Sunday after over four years of self-exile abroad, said he has jumped into political arena to ‘save Pakistan’ and will stand in the May 11 parliamentary elections.

Musharraf, who ruled Pakistan from 1999 to 2008, had been living in exile in Britain and the United Arab Emirates since he had resigned in August 2008. He had launched his own political party, All Pakistan Muslim League, during exile and will lead the campaign for his party and himself amid serious security threats by the Taliban militants.   

On the eve of Musharraf’s arrival in Pakistan, the Pakistani Taliban released a fresh video threatening to attack Musharraf for ordering the military in 2007 to raid the Taliban-linked ‘Red Mosque’ in Islamabad, which had killed nearly 90 religious students and 10 security men.The video showed a group of the militants getting training and a Taliban leader saying that the plan to eliminate Musharraf includes suicide bombers, sniper team, special assault team, and close combat team.

Musharraf played down the threats when he spoke to his few thousands supporters upon his arrival at Karachi on Sunday and said that he is not worried about the Taliban threats “as they are not new to him.” “Some people had been saying that I would not return. Where are those people,” he said.

The authorities suspended permission for Musharraf’s public meeting at the mausoleum of the founder of Pakistan over security concerns and he instead delivered speech to his supporters at the Karachi airport. However, he failed to attract a huge crowd presumably because of the threats to his life.

Musharraf said he will take active part in politics and will run for a National Assembly seat. He said he will also actively campaign for the other candidates of his party. The nearly eight-year rule of Musharraf had been marked by controversies. Now that he is back in the country, he will have to face several cases in court, including his failure to prevent the 2007 assassination of former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto. 

On Monday, a cleric of the Red Mosque approached the Supreme Court to put Musharraf’s name on the Exit Control List alleging that he is the ‘main suspect’ in the military operation against the religious school.

The court had issued arrest warrants for Musharraf during his exile and now he has got a temporary protective bail but he will face the cases until they are decided.

Although he has now restarted his political life, his role is seen as very limited since most his former cabinet ministers have already parted ways with him. The cases filed against him could also weaken his intention of rejoining active politics.

It is also not clear if he would be allowed to contest elections as he faces several criminal cases including detaining and keeping many judges of top courts who had refused to validate his emergency rule in illegal detention of his critics.

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