Defying Taliban, Pervez Musharraf returns to Pakistan

Last Updated: Sunday, March 24, 2013 - 16:33

Karachi: Former Pakistani military dictator Pervez Musharraf on Sunday ended nearly four years in self-exile by flying into Karachi despite Taliban death threat, saying he would face the security, political and legal challenges that lay ahead.

Musharraf, 69, along with his delegation of around 150 people including his party supporters and journalists landed at Jinnah International airport in Karachi by a chartered Emirates flight from Dubai.

Talking to reporters within the aircraft that flew him from Dubai to Karachi, a smiling Musharraf said: "It is (a) very emotional (moment). I`m going back after four years."

"There are a lot of challenges. There are security challenges, legal challenges, political challenges. But I will face them," Musharraf clad in a white shalwar-kameez said as he made his way out of the aircraft.

Geo News reported that the military authorities had through the defence ministry sent a letter to the interior ministry to provide security for the former president.

The defence ministry had said that given the existing circumstances in the country it was imperative for the interior ministry to provide top security to the former President, the channel reported.

His planned press conference at the airport was cancelled and would be held later in the week in Islamabad.

Security and party officials confirmed that the former President had after consultations with his All Pakistan Muslim League executive members inside the terminal building decided to hold a press conference in Punjab on Wednesday.

"Security officials advised Musharraf after his arrival that he should not hold any press conference neither try to address a rally as they wanted to take him from the airport to his destination as soon and as discreetly as possible due to high security risks," one of the party members said.

He is expected to stay in Karachi for two days before going to Islamabad where he ruled the country as chief executive and then President from 1999 to 2008.

Security at the airport was tight in the wake a threat to
Musharraf`s life from Pakistani Taliban.

Hundreds of Police and paramilitary rangers were present inside and outside the airport to provide security cover for the former President.

Sniffer dogs and scanners being used to check all incoming and outgoing vehicles and people coming to the airport.

Erlier, in a message posted on Twitter shortly before he boarded a flight from Dubai, Musharraf wrote: "I will arrive in Karachi today, March 24th, at 1pm & address a public rally at the airport at 5 pm in the evening."

He also tweeted a photo of him leaving his Dubai home. He later tweeted another photo of himself "settled in my seat on the plane to begin my journey home".

"I am feeling nostalgic....I miss Pak...I love Pak...What people want, that will happen."

Hours before his return, authorities in Karachi cancelled permission for a meeting that was to be addressed by Musharraf at a ground near the mausoleum of Mohammad Ali Jinnah, the founder of Pakistan.

Sindh police spokesman SSP Imran Shaukat said the no-objection certificate for the public meeting to be addressed by Musharraf had been withdrawn due to "serious security threats" to the former President.

The police had officially informed Musharraf`s party, the All Pakistan Muslim League, about the decision, Shaukat said.

"The APML has agreed to cancel the public meeting," he said.

The banned Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan said it had formed a squad of suicide bombers to target Musharraf on his return.

In another message posted on Twitter, Musharraf said Pakistan "must crush terrorism and extremism".

Musharraf had left Pakistan on April 19, 2009, saying he was going abroad for a series of lectures.

He did not return from that trip and several courts issued arrest warrants for the former President in connection with the killings of former premier Benazir Bhutto and Baloch nationalist leader Akbar Bugti.

Musharraf obtained pre-arrest bail from the Sindh High Court ahead of his return.

The former President told Pakistan journalists on the flight he had nostalgic feelings about returning home as he had missed Pakistan and loved his country.

"I know they are security threats to my life but one has to take risks in life and my decision to return home is a calculated one," Musharraf said.

Musharraf admitted he had some concerns about what to expect in Pakistan now.

"?Basically there are a lot of unknown factors especially of terrorism and extremism and still unresolved legal issues with the main question will I be allowed to contest the elections," he said.

His official Facebook and Twitter accounts kept on providing live commentary, posting messages and photographs of him boarding the aircraft and sitting in his seat in the Emirates flight which took off from Dubai after some delay.

His supporters were clearly excited to see their leader return home as they waited outside the terminal building and around the airport which is a high risk security zone.

Musharraf`s spokesman Rashid Qureshi said that hundreds of more supporters had been unable to reach inside the airport due to the security arrangements.

"Many of them were also confused about where to welcome their leader as they have gone to the Quaid`s mazar for the public rally which has not been allowed by the authorities."

ARY television reported that some supporters of the APML had also managed to get into the airport area with arms which they were waving openly.

PTI



First Published: Sunday, March 24, 2013 - 14:48

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