Former military ruler Pervez Musharraf is set to return to Pakistan on March 24, just a week after the dissolution of assemblies.
If the timing is significant, it’s because Musharraf isn’t coming here on a private visit to meet family and friends – the former president announced on March 1, 2013 that he plans to contest parliamentary elections as the leader of his party, the All Pakistan Muslim League (APML).
“When I look at these conditions that the country is in, I know that my return to Pakistan is crucial. And I will return to my beloved country,” he said at a press conference in Dubai. “Now or never, now or never!”
With this announcement, however, arise a number of considerations – the various cases pending against him, the viability of his party performing well in the polls, the size of his support base and the kind of political drama that could take place once he steps foot on Pakistani soil – not to mention the spectre of violence.
First, the cases: The former military leader has been implicated in the assassinations of Benazir Bhutto as well as Nawab Akbar Bugti. On top of that is his involvement in the Lal Masjid operation. Then of course, the government has scrambled to start the process for lodging a high treason case against the ex-president, currently living in self-imposed exile.
These cases can not be looked at in terms of legal repercussions alone. The Senate was both thrown into an uproar earlier this week, soon after Musharraf made his dramatic announcement.
Senator Raza Rabbani, of the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) reminded the lawmakers that a resolution had been adopted unanimously last year to try Musharraf for treason.
Musharraf’s supporters, of course do not take well to such reminders. Many believe that Pakistan, at a low point as far as peace, security, and tolerance are concerned, would be best handled by a man like Musharraf.
Many people also fear, however, that Pakistan could be thrown into chaos with the arrival of such a controversial figure at such a sensitive time, especially considering the obstacles Musharraf will face in his quest to contest elections without a word of dissent.
Considering this imbroglio that Musharraf is to involve himself in the minute he lands, as well as the receding popularity of APML, should he return to Pakistan? Is it worth the possible price?
And is he even a viable electoral candidate? Musharraf has never come to power via parliamentary elections before. And this time, he plans to enter them with a lot of legal baggage.