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Pervez Musharraf – how not to make a comeback

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There are efforts to scare me, but these people don’t know that I’m not among the afraid”, said Pervez Musharraf to a rally of about 8,000 supporters in the commercial centre Karachi via videolink from Dubai.

For someone who insists he is ‘not scared of anyone’, ex Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf has spent the past few years in exile, hiding away, and hiding behind Saudi Arabia, seeking their guarantees that he would not be detained once he lands in Pakistan.

He said he will return to the country at the end of January to contest elections, despite an announcement by prosecutors that he will be arrested for the killing of former premier Benazir Bhutto upon arrival.

Musharraf has promised to make a comeback, one worthy of Rocky Balboa’s I expect, but will it turn into a dull nostalgia trip? Already it seems so, he does reiterate how great the economy was during his time in office. But unfortunately, he has made a few blunders.

The first was to suggest Pakistan should be open to the idea of establishing relations with Israel. Perhaps Musharraf, in all those long, three years of exile in Britain, has forgotten just what Pakistanis’ attitudes are towards Israel. Clue: they’re not amicable.

He was correct when stating that Pakistan and Israel are both ‘ideological’ states, but that is where the similarity ends. If the Arab Spring has taught us anything, it is that the Muslim world is tired of foreign interference from the United States and its favourable stance towards Israel, which brings me on to my second point.

Running to the US and the Saudis will also scupper any chance he may have in the elections. The Saudi royal family has often played the role of an arbitrator in Pakistan’s domestic politics.

It played a key role in facilitating a deal whereby former premier Nawaz Sharif was allowed to leave Pakistan after he was deposed in a military coup led by Musharraf in 1999 and lived in exile in Saudi Arabia.

Already a state in turmoil, the last thing Pakistan needs is even more Saudi influence, which has been detrimental to its society. Musharraf has underestimated Imran Khan, leader of the Tehreek-e-Insaf party, perhaps even dismissed him as a credible opponent, but where Khan gains a lot of support with the voters is with the notion that ‘outside interference’ needs to end.

Despite the odds, Musharraf’s desire to return is based on his belief that he alone can “save” Pakistan. During his speech to supporters on Sunday, Musharraf repeated that he provided strong economic growth and foreign investment during his presidency, and they could expect more of the same.

But do the people want him back?  It looked possible maybe two years ago, but that was before Imran Khan gained popularity in the polls. Like Musharraf, he is a ‘saviour’, someone to ‘rescue’ Pakistan.

Pakistani Journalist Ayaz Amir reckons Musharraf’s electoral chances are ‘not very bright’, but “he hinks the people of Pakistan are waiting for him and that he’s the Messiah. He’s a person who is really a part of Pakistan’s yesterday, but he thinks he’s the future of Pakistan”.

The media is in a frenz yover the possible arrest of Musharraf but it seems unlikely to happen. If, and that is a big if, he is arrested as soon as he lands in Pakistan, it won’t be for long.

American-Pakistani businessman Raza Bokhari, one of Musharraf’s close associates, is expected to meet US Ambassador Cameron Munter in Islamabad to prevent this. Musharraf is not stupid; he has been biding his time in exile and rallying international support to prevent this from happening. Why else would he delay his return and refuse to give a precise date?

Pakistan is a country where the tail, i.e. the military, wags the dog. If you’re not in with the army you may as well be out. The army will be divided over their former ruler and their current leader; even Khan’s support within the army is unpredictable. Either way, Pakistan is definitely one to watch this year.

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Written by Iram Ramzan

January 12, 2012 at 10:25 pm

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