Pervez Musharraf, Pakistan’s former president, is back home after more than four years in self-imposed exile. He is hoping to re-assert his influence ahead of the country’s elections in May.
Musharraf touched down in Karachi on Sunday morning, despite the possibility of arrest, and a threat from the Taliban to kill him.
“I have put my life in danger by coming back to Pakistan. I was thinking that the government would call me back, and would say ‘Save Pakistan’ but that did not happen. Today my nation ordered me to come back. I came back, putting my life in danger, to save Pakistan,” the former leader said.
“He believes that he [Pervez Musharraf] is a man of destiny, that he has a purpose in life, but his return to Pakistan is more to secure himself and get to do something inside Pakistan. He is facing some very serious challenges here, he has not returned as an ex commando or ongoing commando, because commandos always remain commandos, he is returning as the head of a political party, which doesn’t quite exist on the ground … he plans to contest an election, so he is returning primarily to take refuge in the protection of politics, and trying to legitimise himself.“
– Talat Hussain, journalist at Express News
Musharraf left Pakistan in 2009, a year after being forced to step down.
He has experienced the highs – and lows – of being one of Pakistan’s most powerful politicians.
In 1998, General Musharraf was appointed army chief by then Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif. But the two fell out.
Musharraf seized power the following year, a day after Sharif sacked him. Musharraf was later sworn in as president, but retained his position as army chief.
Then came the events of 9/11, and Musharraf’s support for George Bush’s War on Terror made him deeply unpopular at home.
The year 2007 proved a tumultuous period for Musharraf when he took on the judiciary, sacking judges and Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry.
He ordered security forces to storm the Red Mosque in Islamabad, resulting in the killing of more than 100 people. 2007 also saw the assassination of Benazir Bhutto, with Musharraf’s government accused of “willful failure” over her protection.
And with pressure mounting over events during his time in power, Musharraf resigned, going into exile in 2009.
He is wanted by Pakistani courts over the deaths of Bhutto, and Akbar Bugti, a Baluch rebel leader in the southwest. The former leader believes these and other charges – which he describes as “trumped-up and politically motivated” – will be thrown out.
But with all these political, legal and security issues at stake, is returning to Pakistan a gamble worth taking?
And how will Musharraf fare in the upcoming elections?
To discuss this, Inside Story, with presenter Jane Dutton, is joined by guests: Humayun Gauhar, a publisher and writer, who is also a good friend of Pervez Musharraf, and helped him write his autobiography; and Talat Hussain, a senior journalist at Express News, who was the executive director of AAJ Television – which was briefly shut down in 2008 for reportedly upsetting the then president Musharraf.
“The former president and general, Pervez Musharraf, has threatened to come back on many occasions, but he is finally here. Now he arrives back to a very different Pakistan to the one than he left. When he left he still had some summons of political support, although he was a very unpopular figure. That political support has disappeared, here in Karachi he used to have the support of the main political party, the MQM, what their sources are telling us is that they are not sure whether they would do any kind of deal with him now in order to make this work, in order to have some sort of success in the general elections, Pervez Musharraf needs to make alliances, now at the moment he doesn’t have the kind of political clout that makes those alliances worthwhile. He needs to make deals with people, what he said is he want to try and unite those people that are undecided, those people that are against dynastic politics, the family politics of Pakistan.”
– Imran Khan, Al Jazeera correspondent.