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Musharraf returns, vows to save Pakistan

Karachi, Mar 24, 2013 PTI: 2:07 IST
Pakistan's former military ruler Pervez Musharraf salutes supporters outside the airport in Karachi on March 24, 2013. Pakistan's former military ruler Pervez Musharraf returned home after more than four years in exile, defying a Taliban death threat to contest historic general elections. AFP PHOTO

Former military dictator Pervez Musharraf returned to Pakistan on Sunday after nearly four years of self-imposed exile to contest the May 11 elections despite the possibility of arrest and assassination threats from the Taliban. The former president said he returned home to “save” Pakistan and would face all “challenges” that lay ahead.

Sixty-nine-year-old Musharraf, along with a delegation of around 150 people, including supporters of his All Pakistan Muslim League and journalists, landed at Jinnah International airport here by a chartered Emirates flight from Dubai.

Talking to reporters accompanying 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 said.

“Where are the people who said I will never return home? I have been receiving death threats and some people have been trying to scare me but I have returned home for the sake of my country and people,” Musharraf told his supporters.

The former commando-turned-politician said he would soon launch a countrywide campaign of public rallies and media interaction.

“I have taken a big risk returning home now. But tears come to my eyes seeing the state of the country now. I ask where is the Pakistan I had left five years ago,” he said.
“People have tried to sabotage my first public rally in Karachi and already hurdles are being created for me but I am ready to face all challenges,” Musharraf said.

He claimed that he had been implicated in a lot of cases while in exile but was ready to face them because he wanted to see Pakistan prosper again.

“My party’s slogan today is save Pakistan. I am thankful and happy to see so many people who have come to welcome me,” he said.

Delhi-born Musharraf was the mastermind and strategic field commander behind the highly controversial and internationally condemned Kargil infiltration, which derailed peace negotiations with India.

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 Benazir Bhutto and Baloch nationalist leader Akbar Bugti.

Since then, Musharraf has been shuttling between London and Dubai and earned hundreds of thousands of dollars on worldwide lecture tours. On March 22, The Sindh High Court granted a 10-day pre-arrest bail to Musharraf in several cases.

On Saturday, the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan threatened to use suicide bombers to target Musharraf when he returns home. In a video released to reporters in northwest Pakistan, TTP spokesman Ihsanullah Ihsan said, “We will not leave you alive.” His planned press conference at the airport here was cancelled and would be held later.

He is expected to stay in Karachi for two days before going to Islamabad.

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