Pervez Musharraf to Announce Date for Return to Pakistan
By Duncan Gardham for The Telegraph
Mr Musharraf will announce his intention to return from London where has been living in exile despite facing arrest on treason charges. “His return will be announced by video link at a rally in Karachi on Sunday,” a source close to the former president told the Daily Telegraph.
He is planning to fly back to Pakistan by the end of January, plunging himself into a political crisis amid reports of an early general election and rumors the military is on the brink of mounting a coup.
The government and army are at loggerhead trading allegations over a memo allegedly sent to US military chiefs by senior officials asking for support to reduce military influence. Yusuf Gilani, the country’s prime minister, has said publicly Pakistan’s generals are behaving as though they were a “state within a state”.
As rumours of a coup gathered speed, Asif Zardari, the country’s president, has been forced to fly back to Pakistan from Dubai where he was receiving treatment for “stroke-like symptoms”.
General Ashfaq Kayani, the head of the Pakistan army, rejected coup claims, insisting the army would “continue to support the democratic process”.
However the military distrusts both Mr Zardari and the rival Pakistan Muslim League-N, headed by Nawaz Sharif, the prime minister deposed by Mr Musharraf.
Political analysts believe the army command want to back an outside campaign in the elections but it is unclear if Mr Musharraf fits the bill.
While there has been some support to “bring back the general,” Mr Musharraf was deeply unpopular by the time he was forced out of power four years ago.
In order to stage a return he would need political support from Middle Eastern countries to help persuade the government to drop the charges against
However, there have been reports that the army is backing Imran Khan, the former Pakistan cricket captain who leads Tehreek-e-Insaf [the Movement for Justice] and has staged a series of popular rallies.
Mr Khan is a former supporter of Mr Musharraf who has since become one of his fiercest critics. Ahmed Rashid, a political commentator, said the country was facing a “multi-faceted crisis”, particularly with the economy, but he doubted Mr Musharraf could make a comeback. “I don’t think he has enough people supporting him and he would probably be arrested,” he said.
Mr Musharraf launched his own political party, the All Pakistan Muslim League, in London in June 2010 and told the Daily Telegraph last year: “Pakistan is suffering. The people are extremely alive now that something has to be done in Pakistan. The youth is alive, the educated middle class is alive, they are in a state of shock and dismay over the governance in Pakistan.”
He promised a party that was “capable, viable, honest and deliverable internationally.” “I am a person who believes if I try and if I’m failing, I will quit,” he added. “I have no qualms and no ego. I have governed Pakistan for nine years, very successfully and I have no further ambitions, personal ambitions, my ambition is Pakistan.” But it is unlikely that Mr Musharraf would be able to claim victory on his own and he admitted: “I am trying to create an entity which can be the third political alternative, whether alone or in coalition with some other like-minded parties.” Mr Zardari took over from Mr Musharraf as the country’s first elected leader in nine years following the assassination of his wife, Benazir Bhutto in December 2007.
However his party, the Pakistan People’s Party, has become increasingly unpopular as Pakistan faces a economic depression and copes with one crisis after another. The next government is likely to be decided by smaller parties and Mr Musharraf could play a crucial role in that decision.