Tuesday 21 November 2017

Former leader Musharraf flies in and vows to 'save Pakistan'

Pakistan's former President Pervez Musharraf gestures to his supporters upon his arrival from Dubai at Jinnah International airport in Karachi
Pakistan's former President Pervez Musharraf gestures to his supporters upon his arrival from Dubai at Jinnah International airport in Karachi

By Rob Crilly Karachi

PERVEZ Musharraf, Pakistan's former military ruler, has ended more than four years in self-imposed exile, flying in to Karachi where he promised to restore peace to the crisis-riddled country.

If the former commando hoped for a swashbuckling return to a country he ran for nine years, he would have been disappointed. Officials of his All Pakistan Muslim League party said they were forced to abandon plans for a rally at the mausoleum of Mohammed Ali Jinnah, Pakistan's founding father, after police withdrew permission at the 11th hour.

Instead, Mr Musharraf addressed a crowd of only about 2,000 people at the airport, a fraction of the 100,000 plus that Imran Khan had rallied a day before in Lahore.

"I was born here," Mr Musharraf said, "and I will serve Pakistan until my deathbed."

At the weekend, the Pakistan Taliban announced that it had formed a death squad of suicide bombers and snipers to hunt down the 69-year-old. He is also wanted in connection with a series of criminal cases, including treason and conspiracy to murder Benazir Bhutto.

Mr Musharraf's real undoing, however, may be the memory of his 1999 military coup and a reign that included a ban on political parties, leading to the suspension of the country's chief justice, a move that eventually spelt his downfall in 2008.

Threats

Most of his political allies have switched to other parties and few believe that he can win anything other than a single seat at elections due on May 11.

"I have been ordered by my people to come back and save our Pakistan, even at the risk of my life. I want to tell all those who are making such threats that I have been blessed by Allah the Almighty," Mr Musharraf said at the airport.

The faithful who greeted him at the airport came armed with bags of fragrant rose petals. Drummers kept up a steady rhythm despite the heat.

Syed Riaz Ali Khan, a retired airline ticketing officer, said Mr Musharraf was the only leader who could rid the country of its corrupt politicians.

Others were less enthusiastic.

"I'm not a Musharraf supporter. I'm just here because the MQM told me to come," said Imran, who declined to give a second name, referring to the party that runs Karachi and has struck a deal with the former president.

Mr Musharraf was expected to spend the next few days in Karachi working out a slate of candidates and a strategy for the election.

The final hurdle to his return was lifted on Friday, when a court granted him pre-arrest bail in a string of cases, removing the fear that he would be arrested as soon as he arrived in Karachi. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Irish Independent

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