The sober grey suit and tie were just right for the occasion. It was Pervez Musharraf’s last day in office as president of Pakistan. He addressed the nation in a televised speech, took the guard of honour for one last time and left.
The former general’s future is a matter of wild speculation in Pakistan and abroad: Where will he go? What will he do? And there are no answers at the moment, only choices and options.
Analysts believe that Musharraf has gone as part of a deal, overseen by the Pakistan Army, which will not allow its former chief to be humiliated.
Senate Chairman Mohammedmian Soomro assumed the office of acting president later in the day. A fulltime successor will have to be named within the next four months according to the constitution.
The coalition government that has forced down Musharraf — by threatening to impeach him — is divided on its plans for him. Some leaders — especially those with former PM and a bitter critic Nawaz Sharif — want to put him on trial.
Others appear willing to let him walk into the sunset.
As for himself, Musharraf said in his speech on Monday: “I leave my future in the hands of my people.” More importantly, however, in the hands of aides and world leaders who have been in talks to ensure a safe and secure future for him.
It’s not an easy situation for the country. Its first military dictator – Ayub Khan – died a quiet death after being forced out of office and its last– Zia-ul- Haq — died in an air crash no one has been able to explain satisfactorily yet.
Musharraf is extremely vulnerable in Pakistan, and that his best option is to leave the country. There is no official word on it yet, so every one has a view and theory on where he may be headed.
Saudi Arabia is the favoured destination. A big reason for this has been the recent visit by a Saudi emissary. After it was refuted, rumours started about the United Arab Emirates. And then there are Turkey and the United States of America.
Some local media reports have said Musharraf wants to live in Pakistan, by a golf course. But officials said that the possibility of him living outside a security zone was remote.
Musharraf owns a farmhouse in Chak Shahzad, in the suburbs of Islamabad, which could be a possible residence for him. Secuity for a man who has survived several assassination attempts is a major concern, but Special Security Guard cover would continue.
His supporters said living in Pakistan or abroad was a "non-issue." Kashmala Tariq, a member of the national assembly, said it was unfair to speculate on where he would live. “He has freedom of movement and can take up residence elsewhere.”
Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan, a member of the PML-N party, said he would want Musharraf to stay back and adequate security would be provided to him.
And he could return to politics. Kashmala Tariq said that the chances of Musharraf ending up in politics were bright. “I hope he takes over the PML-Q. This is the party which he started and he should head it.”