Musharraf vows to return to Pakistan

Disgraced former leader pledges political comeback, despite threats of prosecution.

Pakistan Former president Pervez Musharraf
Musharraf will return to Pakistan to campaign in upcoming parliamentary election, despite risks of arrest [Reuters]

Pervez Musharraf, Pakistan’s self-exiled former president, has said he plans to return to the country in January to lead his political comeback, while sources said he is seeking foreign guarantees that he will not be arrested when he returns.

“I will be coming between the 27th and 30th of this month. And I also announce that I will come to Karachi. And God willing, I will stand in front of you and address you once again,” Musharraf told a rally organised by his recently-formed political party, the All Pakistan Muslim League.

He was addressing the rally of around 8,000 people in Pakistan’s largest city Karachi via video link on Sunday from Dubai.

Musharraf struck a defiant tone and renewed his pledge to return to Pakistan despite security threats and possible arrest, saying he was ready to risk his life for the Pakistani people and termed the cases against him as “baseless”. He said there were efforts to scare him.

Supporters set off fireworks after his announcement.

Seeking support

Musharraf has been living abroad since he resigned in disgrace in 2008, after his allies lost the general election that year and the new coalition government threatened impeachment.

His popularity had plummeted after he became embroiled in a row with the judiciary and briefly imposed a state of emergency in 2007.

A Pakistani source has confirmed that Musharraf, who took over power in a 1999 coup, plans to travel to Saudi Arabia soon to gather support for his political comeback.

The source declined to say what form of support the former president is seeking. 

But some reports have said that Musharraf, who faces possible arrest on charges that he had failed to provide adequate security to former prime minister Benazir Bhutto before her assassination in 2007, will seek Saudi guarantees that he would not be detained.

He also faces court petitions against him over the death of a Baluch separatist leader and violation of the constitution, and threats to his life from militants seeking revenge for the crackdown he ordered against them.

“There are no guarantees that I’m looking for from anyone, I said many times that my intention is to get the support of the people,” Musharraf told Reuters.

Saudi Arabia, which has considerable influence in Pakistan because of its economic support, has expressed concern over the friction between the army and the government in recent months.

Admits mistake

Asked if he had asked any of Pakistan’s military leaders for protection once he returns, Musharraf said it was not the army’s duty to provide security to individuals.

“I don’t like to embarrass them, I haven’t asked them,” he said. “I will ensure my own safety, I know how to keep myself safe … there are a large group of officers who are in support and I’m very proud of that.”

Musharraf said he had made a mistake by granting amnesty to politicians and bureaucrats accused of corruption, embezzlement, money laundering, murder, and terrorism between 1986 and 1999.

“The NRO is something I shouldn’t have done. Although I was advised, but the ultimate decision was mine,” he said, referring to the controversial National Reconciliation Ordinance (NRO) which he issued in 2007.

The NRO was declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court of Pakistan in 2009.

Source: News Agencies