Islamabad: Pakistan`s ex-military ruler Pervez Musharraf has spent two years building a Facebook following and cultivating the media but few believe his audacious plan to recapture power has any chance of success.
Aside from the small matter of possible death or arrest if he steps foot on home soil, there is little sign he can win over the politicians he alienated, the judges he sacked, his former underlings at the military or the Americans.
From the comforts of self-imposed exile in London, the 67-year-old unveiled the All Pakistan Muslim League yesterday and has said he would contest elections in 2013.
The current climate could not be more uncomfortable for President Asif Ali Zardari and his Pakistan People`s Party (PPP), facing an onslaught of criticism at home over perceived economic, political and governance failings.
With the military said to be mulling ways to shake up the coalition, the Supreme Court flexing its muscles and the media calling for Zardari`s head, now could be the perfect
time for the return of a leader remembered for his firm grip on power.
The government`s perceived shambolic response to floods, a deadly threat from Taliban militants and an economy in meltdown have all shaken a country still getting used to
democracy after almost a decade of military rule.
But aside from a tiny band of loyalists, none of the principal power-brokers and few people on the street believe Musharraf is the answer. "I wouldn`t read too much into him announcing his party. The going would be very, very tough for him if he did decide to return," Pakistani political and security analyst Imtiaz Gul told AFP.
"Those chances are remote in the near term because Pakistani people already suffered him for nine years and neither the military nor the Americans would like to hedge
their bet on a person who has outlived his utility."
No prominent politician has declared support for Musharraf. Both the PPP and its main rival, the Pakistan Muslim League-N (PML-N) loathe him. When asked recently about Musharraf`s possible return, Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani snapped back that he would be "received by the chief justice."
The meaning was clear -- the current government wants Musharraf back in Pakistan only in the dock, standing trial in the highest court in the land.