Former Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf has announced he will return to Pakistan sometime between January 27th and 30th. He intends to compete in elections scheduled to take place next year.
Musharraf has been in self-imposed exile in London since resigning from office in August 2008 after the shortlived coalition of current Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari and former Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif planned to bring impeachment proceedings against him after his actions during the state of emergency in 2007 in which he suspended the country’s constitution, fired the chief justice of the Supreme Court and imprisoned political opponents. Last year, a Pakistani court indicted Musharraf as part of the conspiracy to murder former Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto. It is widely believed that Musharraf will be arrested should he return to Pakistan, although he is apparently trying to get the Saudis to intercede on his behalf.
I’m not surprised that Musharraf is planning to make his move at this time. After all, President Zardari is unpopular and in poor health. No doubt he also wants to cut into the rising popularity of Imran Khan, the ex-cricket superstar turned politician.
It also appears that Musharraf is trying to curry favor with this country, particularly those in Congress. How else does one explain his interview over the weekend with the Israeli newspaper Ha’aretz? Musharraf stated, “Pakistan needs to keep readjusting its diplomatic stand towards Israel based on the mere fact that it exists and is not going away.” Needless to say, this statement wasn’t exactly embraced by Jamaat-e-Islami, Pakistan’s oldest Islamist political party and was also condemned in newspaper editorials. But given Musharraf’s past support for Hamas, color me skeptical on his all too convenient embrace of Israel.
Where it concerns the Bhutto assassination, his callousness in blaming her alone for her death and not the people who committed the act should give pause. I don’t think Musharraf was directly involved in the Bhutto assassination but given his lack of outrage at her assassination there must remain a suspicion he was willing to look the other way and facilitate what occurred. In which case, the murder charges against him may very well be warranted.
Then there’s the small detail that Osama bin Laden was in Pakistan under his watch. Of course, Musharraf denies any knowledge of bin Laden’s presence. Given that bin Laden was found near Pakistan’s equivalent of West Point, either he’s lying or he wasn’t really running the show. Whatever the case, the United States should be very wary of Musharraf, especially if he finds his way back into power be it through the democratic process or by military coup.