KARACHI: As political fervor whips up across the country, the former dictator has decided to jump in, head first.
Clad in a crisp white shalwar kameez, former president and chairman All Pakistan Muslim League (APML) Pervez Musharraf announced he would return to Pakistan between January 27 and 30, despite ‘baseless’ court cases, and risks to his life.
The announcement was synchronised with red and green fireworks, and chants of ‘welcome’ in the Mazar-e-Quaid neighbourhood.
“I am coming to Pakistan not for myself, but to bring happiness to the masses and solidarity to the country,” Musharraf said, while addressing the APML rally on Sunday through video conferencing.
Speaking from Dubai to a crowd of between 6,000 to 10,000 people, Musharraf said his rally is not a tsunami, but an “earthquake which would affect Pakistan’s politics.”
The former president said that some politicians say he has already had his time, and should not return.
“During my innings, I have scored a century. I know how to run this country more than anyone,” he said, adding: “Then there are those who have not even played their innings. I want to tell them that they should think twice before confronting me.”
The former president, who ruled for eight years, compared his regime with the present-day situation. During my time, people had jobs, trains were functional, Pakistan was safe from IMF’s clutches and there was a reverse brain-drain, with expats returning to Pakistan to settle down, he said.
“But today, Pakistan is on the brink of destruction,” he proclaimed before embarking on a tirade: “Prices of essential items have increased three-fold, people are selling their children to run their houses, electricity and gas, apart from being unavailable, is expensive; trains have derailed and PIA is grounded, the economy has plunged while terrorism and extremism are on the rise, and people have no hope for a bright future.”
Musharraf addressed various ethnic communities, and lent his support to the Bengalis, saying that they should be considered citizens of the country, and given their identity cards and passports.
He reminded the Kashmiris of the foreign aid he solicited for them after the 2005 earthquake, and wooed the Hazaras by saying that he was always in favor of a separate Hazara province.
Musharraf said he would fight from the Chitral constituency in the next elections.
Referring to Nawab Akhbar Bugti’s murder, Musharraf said some politicians are visiting Balochistan and conspiring against him.
People say I am an enemy of the Baloch, but during my eight years, no one did more for the province than I did, he claimed, adding that he brought immense progress to the Marri and Bugti tribes.
He added, though: “I will always be an enemy of those who are against Pakistan, who burn its flag and who are killing Punjabis and Hazara.”
The rally was addressed by a host of other party leaders before Musharraf.
APML secretary general Haris Nawaz, who was criticised by the party’s Karachi division for hijacking the event, said “the party would give all people their rights.”
Salma Murad, wife of actor Waheed Murad, said the people ‘need’ Musharraf. Also in attendance was Gholam Mujtaba, famous for his ubiquitous billboards across Karachi, who said that people coming from Sukkur and Khairpur for the rally has proven that the former president is popular everywhere.
Published in The Express Tribune, January 9th, 2012.