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Musharraf prepares to storm Pakistan politics

world Updated: Jul 08, 2010 10:40 IST

IANS
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Former president and ex-chief of Pakistan Army Pervez Musharraf has secured himself a launchpad for his return to the country from his exile in London a political party which is founded with the desire of bringing about "a great change".

"We are happy. There is still a lot of work to do, but we have the concept, the objectives and the will," asserted retired General Rashid Qureshi, who was the military and presidential spokesperson for Musharraf and is now one of the "masterminds" behind the All Pakistan Muslim League (APML).

The APML emulates the name of the historical Muslim party that played a decisive role in the independence of Pakistan in 1947, after decades of struggle for freedom from the dominion of British Empire.

The official launch of the party took place quietly in the southern metropolis of Karachi in June where its leaders announced that the party wants to be for "all Pakistanis" without distinction of religion, ethnicity or social class.

"The people of Pakistan are tired of the government's incompetence. It is time for a great change," Qureshi told EFE, and affirmed that the party "has already been registered" and hopes to establish headquarters in all the big cities and provincial councils.

According to a party source, the party has organised various events in other important places of Pakistan like Lahore and the region of Gilgit-Baltistan, since its launch in Karachi.

Some of its leaders are currently in Dubai to meet Musharraf and design a strategy for the new formation.

The source also revealed that this month there could be a launch of the party in London, but added that the final decision is yet to be taken and that it depends on the political situation in Pakistan.

The most notable thing about the new party is that its existence might be the preamble to the come back to the country of retired General Musharraf, who according to Qureshi "would return soon" to Pakistan to head the organisation and to contest the next elections.

"The date (of the return) is not yet decided. We keep informing him of the situation here. When he returns we'll tell the people in advance," said the spokesperson, who added that the APML "is working to guarantee his security".

After nearly nine years in power, which he gained following a bloodless coup d'état, Musharraf found himself forced to give up the presidency of Pakistan in August 2008 to avoid the process of impeachment against him by parliament.

The former president stayed in the country for a while away from the front line but found himself hounded by a number of his old enemies among the political groups, the judiciary and civil society on account of his past manoeuvres when in power.

This made him leave Pakistan and go for pilgrimage to Makkah, and later serve as speaker at various conferences in the Middle East, Europe and the US, till he settled down in Britain.

Sources from different parties including the one that supported his mandate, the Muslim League-Q, showed their concern on whether the former general would dare to return in the present circumstances; while Musharraf has already announced that he would contest in the "next elections".

In a recent video-conference, complete with a Pakistani flag, a bunch of red flowers, a thick book about Michelangelo and a collection of Mozart discs, he announced his decision to return to politics and was confident of obtaining the nation's support.

His hope comes from the renewed rage that he has awakened through internet: his virtual page on Facebook, for example, has a significant figure of 218,071 followers, and that of the APML has added more than 1,500 in a few days.

"You are actually a real leader. We need you here," writes an internet user in support of his return, among other comments.

Not very pleased with the prospect, the influential Pakistani daily "Dawn" expressed its doubts in a recent editorial whether "the self-proclaimed conquest of cyber-space really coincides with the reality" of an underdeveloped country.

"Musharraf has to be prepared to face possible judicial charges against him if he returns to Pakistan," said the newspaper.

A Western diplomatic source described it as being a "positive" thing that a new political party led by Musharraf has been founded in a country which, after all, is considered a democracy.

"Obviously it is very likely that he would become de facto president and (his figure) represents a rupture in the democratic system, which has experienced frequent alterations in Pakistan," said the source.

Spokesperson Qureshi admitted that some parties are hostile to Musharraf despite not being able to present "solid" accusations, and defended that the former general "is even more popular with the lower classes".