Karachi: After remaining in self-exile for over four years, Pakistan's former military ruler Pervez Musharraf will return home on March 24 to participate in historic elections in May. Musharraf, 69, will be flying from Dubai to Karachi where his supporters are planning to give him a rousing welcome.
Clearing the way for his homecoming, three Pakistani courts on Friday granted him pre-arrest bail in several cases, including the Akbar Bugti and Benazir Bhutto murder cases, in which he has been declared a proclaimed offender. His party, the All Pakistan Muslim League, on Saturday placed quarter page advertisements in leading newspapers asking people to welcome the former president at 11:00 am at the airport.
Later, he is also scheduled to address a public rally near the mausoleum of the Quaid-e-Azam. Musharraf, who has been shuttling between Dubai and London after going into self-exile, has been advised by Saudi officials against returning to Pakistan, citing "danger".
Since he went into self-exile in early 2009, Musharraf has several times announced his intention to return home. Musharraf told the 'Waqt' television channel on Friday that he was not afraid to stand trial for the cases evoked against him as most of them were unconstitutional. "I am ready for a long fight but the time has come for me to return and play my role in Pakistani politics. Security is not a concern for me and I have not asked for any security from the government. I will have my own security when I return home," he said.
The former president made it clear that he intends to contest the forthcoming general elections on May 11. "These elections are very important for Pakistan and I think many of these parties are going to be surprised by the results."
A party official, Aasia Ishaq said that earlier Musharraf could not return to the country due to the cases pending against him. "Most of these cases are constitutionally and even otherwise unattainable but tomorrow will be a historic day for Pakistan," she said.
Political and security analysts believe that Musharraf's return has only been made possible after some "deals" in which some foreign governments and the military would have played an influential role. "Otherwise the situation didn't warrant a return for him in existing scenario. Security should not be a problem for him as he is a retired General and a former SSG head," political analyst Faiza Malik said.
She said that Musharraf had chosen Karachi wisely for his return home as the Mutthaida-e-Qaumi Movement with whom he had a good working relationship and understanding during his rule would ensure he gets a befitting welcome home. "MQM has never spoken out against Musharraf or his policies as head of state and I am sure silently there will be a lot of MQM supporters at the airport to welcome Musharraf," she said.