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Mush to travel to Mecca before deciding on his future

world Updated: Aug 19, 2008 11:27 IST

Former President Pervez Musharraf is expected to travel to Saudi Arabia with his family to perform a pilgrimage to Mecca in the near future, following which he will decide whether to live outside Pakistan.

Musharraf, who resigned on Monday to avert his impeachment by the PPP-led ruling coalition, will remain in the country for some time before travelling to Saudi Arabia, media reports said on Tuesday.

Reports have suggested that Musharraf does not want to give the impression that he is fleeing the country to avoid charges that were levelled against him by the coalition.

After announcing his resignation during a televised address on Monday, Musharraf left the Presidency in the heart of Islamabad and went to his camp office in the nearby garrison city of Rawalpindi, where he is expected to stay for a few days, media reports said on Tuesday.

Following his trip to Saudi Arabia for Umra, a pilgrimage to Mecca that can be performed at any time of the year, Musharraf will spend some time outside Pakistan. This could include a trip to the US to see members of his close family, a source told the Daily Times newspaper.

Musharraf's younger brother Naved, a doctor, lives in Chicago, while his son Bilal has a residence in Boston.

Reports have suggested that Musharraf resigned following an agreement with the ruling coalition, which would provide him security and not try him after declaring any of his actions as unconstitutional.

The US, Britain, Saudi Arabia and Pakistan Army chief Gen Ashfaq Parvez Kayani are guarantors to the agreement.

Musharraf initially wanted to stay in Pakistan and demanded protection from the government but changed his mind after his close aides convinced him that he might never be safe in the country.

Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Britain and the US are among the places that he might choose to live in.

Diplomatic sources were quoted by the Dawn newspaper as saying that Musharraf is not very keen on living in Saudi Arabia, where he might have a safe stay but will not have the freedom to speak his mind should he choose to do so.

Turkey, where Musharraf spent six years during childhood, is a "more attractive destination". But because of its proximity to Iraq, it is not considered safe for Musharraf.

Al Qaeda has a strong presence in Iraq and it might not be difficult for the group to target him in Turkey.

Diplomatic sources in Washington said Musharraf might live in Saudi Arabia briefly before moving to another location, probably somewhere in the US.

Leaders of the ruling coalition discussed the question of giving Musharraf a safe passage during a marathon meeting yesterday but were unable to arrive at a decision.

Sources said PPP co-chairman Asif Ali Zardari is keen on letting "bygones be bygones" and "getting on" with tackling the real issues facing Pakistan and its people instead of focusing on the fate of the former President.

"Mr Zardari is not interested in the politics of revenge and is not baying for Gen Musharraf's blood like some PML-N leaders and partisan mediamen. He wants this chapter to be closed," a source told the Daily Times.

Meanwhile, Rehman Malik, who functions as the Interior Minister, has said that Musharraf will get security cover of a President and the government will provide foolproof security to him. However, the security staff of about 600, including 200 policemen, who were deployed for guarding Musharraf, were recalled soon after his resignation.

Army troops guarded the route when Musharraf went from the Presidency to his camp office in Rawalpindi on Monday.