WASHINGTON: Former military ruler Pervez Musharraf said on Thursday he planned to return from exile and re-enter politics, and did not rule out a new bid for the presidency.
Musharraf, who has mostly lived in London since losing power following 2008 elections, visited Washington this week and met quietly with prominent Pakistanis at a ritzy hotel to discuss his future plans. In an interview with CNN, Musharraf said he intended to return to politics, although he was coy when asked about the time-frame. “I certainly am planning to go back to Pakistan and also join politics.
The question already of whether I am running for president or prime minister will be seen later,” he said. Officials in Pakistan earlier said Musharraf had applied to register a new party with electoral authorities, setting the stage for a political comeback. But Musharraf could face a criminal trial if he returns home for detaining judges in 2007.
Musharraf is also wanted for questioning over allegations in a UN-led investigation that he could have done more to prevent the December 2007 assassination of former prime minister Benazir Bhutto. Musharraf disagreed with the UN report, saying, “I think all the security was provided” to Bhutto. “In fact, it was me who warned her about the threat to her,” Musharraf said. Musharraf said he had previously stopped Bhutto from going to the venue where she was later killed in a gun-andbomb attack. “A lot of political aspersions were cast on me that her movements are being restricted. But she decided to go again,” Musharraf said.
Musharraf could face formidable odds in any return to politics to match the political machinery of President Zardari and former PM Nawaz Sharif. Musharraf said that he fully supported the military campaign ordered by Zardari and Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani in the tribal areas. But Musharraf joined the government in criticising the US deployment of unmanned drones to kill wanted extremists in remote parts of Pakistan. Musharraf mused that Faisal Shahzad, the Pakistani- American accused of trying to set off a car bomb in New York’s Times Square, was angered by the drone campaign.
“I wonder whether this Faisal Shahzad incident... has he been affected by indiscriminate bombing by the drones?” Musharraf said. Musharraf also backed the Pakistani government in banning Facebook over a furor about a page hosting blasphemous caricatures.
Published in the Express Tribune, May 22nd, 2010.