REPORTING FROM ISLAMABAD, PAKISTAN -- Former President Pervez Musharraf said Sunday that he planned to return to Pakistan in late January to prepare to campaign for elections, but authorities said he would be arrested as soon as he arrived at the airport.
Musharraf made the announcement by phone from the Persian Gulf emirate of Dubai to a gathering of supporters in Karachi, Pakistan’s largest city, saying he would arrive between Jan. 27 and Jan. 30.
“I ran Pakistan successfully for 10 years and steered it toward prosperity,” Pakistani media quoted Musharraf as saying.
Musharraf is wanted in Pakistan on charges stemming \from allegations that he did not provide enough security to prevent the 2007 assassination of former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto. The current government, led by Bhutto’s widower, Asif Ali Zardari, has made it clear Musharraf will be detained if he sets foot on Pakistani soil.
Musharraf appeared undeterred by the threat. “I am not scared of anything, and hence I will come back,” he said.
National elections are slated for next year. Few in Pakistan believe Musharraf will be able to mount any kind of serious political challenge either to the ruling Pakistan People’s Party or the country’s leading opposition movements, led by former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and onetime cricketer Imran Khan. Musharraf is widely derided as a military ruler whose tenure was characterized by widespread corruption and the rise of the Pakistani Taliban insurgency.
In 2009, Pakistan’s Supreme Court found that Musharraf had violated the constitution in 2007 when he imposed a national state of emergency and purged the country’s courts of 60 judges. The former general’s actions were aimed at preventing the Supreme Court from declaring him ineligible to simultaneously hold the posts of president and head of the army.
In addition to the charges surrounding Bhutto’s assassination, Musharraf also has been charged by Islamabad authorities of illegally detaining the 60 judges at their homes. In the southern province of Baluchistan, he faces charges that he ordered the killing of a Baluch tribal chieftain in 2006.
Musharraf’s actions against the judges in 2007 led to a grass-roots movement of lawyers that became crucial in forcing him to relinquish his role as army chief and eventually driving him from office in 2008.
-- Alex Rodriguez
Photo: Supporters of former Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf listen in Karachi to him speak from Dubai on Sunday. Credit: Rehan Khan / EPA