Pervez Musharraf planning return: aides

By Asim Awan/ Zia M Khan

ISLAMABAD: Former president Pervez Musharraf is seeking guarantees from the government that he won’t be indicted on criminal charges when he returns to Pakistan, individuals close to the ousted military ruler said. The guarantees are said to have been sought from Pakistan’s international backers.

Musharraf is expected to arrive in Dubai on Monday for a series of meetings with loyalists, say these sources. And afterwards, they expect him to announce a roadmap for his return to Pakistan.

However, said one of his associates, before embarking upon on a return journey, the former military strongman will ask his ‘influential friends’ in the ruling elite of Arab countries to guarantee he won’t be touched by Pakistani courts.

According to these sources, Musharraf will hold exhaustive consultations with PML-Q parliamentarians for a period of three weeks before he announces future plans. An official of Musharraf’s still-to-be-registered political party All Pakistan Muslim League (APML) told The Express Tribune that a number of PML-Q politicians are encouraging the retired general to return to Pakistan. And local media reports suggest the ex-army chief has chosen Lahore to base APML headquarters.

However, many political analysts predict the party will prove to be a damp squib. As it is, they argue, even the PML-Q was cobbled together by Musharraf by collecting a number of dissident PML-N politicians after former prime minister Nawaz Sharif was deposed. Without this weight of incumbency, these analysts say, Musharraf is politically irrelevant.

However, Musharraf’s sidekicks say he enjoys “very strong goodwill” with several ruling families of the United Arab Emirates including those of Dubai and Abu Dhabi. And these royal friends are said to be persuading the Pakistani government to allow him to return.

“Whenever Musharraf visits any place in the UAE, he is treated as a royal guest,” says one loyalist. “This shows how close he is to ruling families there.”

Meanwhile, according to some sources in the PPP, the lines of communication between Arab rulers and the administration in Islamabad have already been established to discuss Musharraf’s future. According to one, President Asif Zardari made a secret daylong trip to Abu Dhabi last week to meet some “important Arab leaders”. And interior minister Rehman Malik and some other close associates of Zardari are said to have been part of this entourage. According to these sources, Zardari landed in Dubai and traveled to Abu Dhabi by road.

While some PPP officials admitted Zardari made a hurried trip to the Gulf, they insist nothing regarding the giving of ‘safe passage’ to Musharraf was discussed.

The developments come amid reports that a Baloch nationalist party is planning to nominate Musharraf in a murder case for having ordered the military to kill Baloch chieftain Nawab Akbar Khan Bugti in 2006. Already, there are various cases registered against Musharraf in some high courts.

But officials say, the biggest threat would stem from a possible indictment in a high treason case under article 6 of the constitution. A Supreme Court verdict last July said the declaration of emergency by Musharraf on Novemeber 3, 2007 was unconstitutional. And, coupled with the recent amendments to the constitution, Musharraf could now be held culpable of high treason.

According to some lawyers, however, only the government can move a court against an individual for a case under the said article.

Given the various factors in operation, say the analysts, it’s unclear how effective the role of Musharraf’s overseas friends can be.

However, the to-be APML also has a Plan B: the MQM model. This would have Musharraf getting trusted friends to run the party while he calls the shots from abroad.

Published in The Express Tribune, June 21st, 2010.

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