Musharraf to end his self-imposed exile; to return to Pak

Former Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf addresses a news conference in Dubai on Friday. Photo: PTI

Dubai/Islamabad, Mar 1 (PTI): Former military ruler Pervez Musharraf, who has been living in self-exile for nearly four years, today said he would return to Pakistan within a week of the formation of a caretaker administration later this month.

“As soon as the interim government is in place, which we believe will be on March 16, within a week of that I will go back to Pakistan,” Musharraf told a news conference in Dubai. He said he planned to fly into either Karachi or Rawalpindi to end his self-exile.

The Pakistan Peoples Party-led government is set to complete its five-year term on March 16 and the ruling party and main opposition PML-N party have begun negotiations on forming a caretaker set-up to supervise the next general election to be held by mid-May.

69-year-old Musharraf, who stepped down as President in 2008 after he was threatened with impeachment, brushed aside questions on whether he would be arrested on his return in connection with several cases against him, including the case related to the assassination of former premier Benazir Bhutto.

“I don’t see any reason why I should be arrested,” he said in response to repeated questions on whether he would be detained on his homecoming. Musharraf said he would react only “in accordance with what happens at the airport”. “There is no case against me in court. If I am to be punished for giving economic progress to Pakistan and for reducing unemployment, I am ready to face the courts,” he said. “People say it’s too late, there are cases against me, my life is in danger (but) it’s now or never,” he added.

In the past, PPP leaders have said that Musharraf would be arrested as soon as he lands, as he is wanted by authorities in connection with Bhutto’s assassination. Musharraf has been shuttling between London and Dubai after he went out of Pakistan in exile.  Musharraf has set several dates for his return to Pakistan in the past but put off his homecoming after he was threatened with arrest.

An anti-terrorism court has declared Musharraf a “proclaimed offender” or fugitive for refusing to cooperate with investigators probing Bhutto’s death in a suicide attack in Rawalpindi in December 2007. Prosecutors have accused Musharraf of failing to provide adequate security to Bhutto.

Musharraf, who left Pakistan in early 2009, said his All Pakistan Muslim League party will “fully participate” in the next general election and field candidates in almost all constituencies across the country. The former President said he himself planned to contest the polls from one seat in all four provinces and the capital territory of Islamabad.

The former army chief contended that the polls will be free and fair only if they are supervised by the military. “The election must be held in a fair and transparent manner, which is possible only if it is done under the army’s supervision,” he said.

Musharraf contended that the APML would act as a “third alternative” to the PPP and PML-N, Pakistan’s two main parties, to “break the political status quo”. He said he did not foresee any single party forming the next government though it would be best for Pakistan if any coalition government had “few partners”.

He said that during his decade-long reign, he had worked for “internal stability, regional peace, Pakistan’s international acceptability and the country’s role in the uplift of socio-eco conditions” across the Muslim world.

Musharraf condemned terrorist attacks like the shooting of teenage rights campaigner Malala Yusufzai and bombings in Quetta that killed nearly 200 people, a majority of them Shia Hazaras. “These misguided obscurantists who carry out terrorist acts in the name of religion, they are people who bring a bad name to Pakistan and Islam,” he said. He backed efforts to hold talks with militants but cautioned that the Taliban were divided into several factions and were not a “monolithic” group.


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