Skip to main content

From president to exile to ...? Pakistan's Pervez Musharraf plots next step

By Tom Watkins and David Challenger, CNN
updated 7:11 AM EDT, Mon March 25, 2013
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Musharraf must appear in court
  • "It's risky, certainly," he says about his planned return
  • He plans to have private security as well as government security

(CNN) -- About a decade ago, Pervez Musharraf was a powerful president, torn between complicated ties with the United States and rising Islamic militants at home.

After four and a half years of self-imposed exile, the former Pakistani president hopes to reassert his power.

Musharraf returned to Karachi on Sunday to help his political party gain momentum prior to the May general election.

The retired general, who wrested power in a bloodless coup in 1999 and lost it nine years later, acknowledges that happens next is uncertain.

Pakistan's battle for democracy
Ex-president returning to Pakistan
Pervez Musharraf on Osama bin Laden
Zardari: Musharraf 'murdered my mother'

"It is risky, certainly," he said.

"But when I formed this party, the point was to go back and fight the elections. Why I'm going back is to do something for the country. The cause is much greater than self. Therefore, I'm prepared to take the risks for the sake of my country."

More security

He may not find a warm reception. Last year, Musharraf scuttled his plans to return after being warned against doing so by the military.

"There were indications that they didn't want me to come, and my own colleagues told me not to come," he acknowledged. "Therefore, I changed my mind."

This time, he said, he will be protected by his own private security agents as well as by government security.

Pakistan's upper house of parliament passed a nonbinding resolution in January 2012 demanding Musharraf be arrested and tried for treason for unconstitutional acts during his regime.

Musharraf's lawyer obtained pre-arrest bail for him on Friday, which means he will not be arrested for at least 15 days, but must appear in court.

But Human Rights Watch said Saturday that the Pakistani government should hold Musharraf accountable for human rights abuses once he returns.

"Musharraf should not be allowed to elude the serious legal proceedings against him on his return to Pakistan," said Ali Dayan Hasan, Pakistan director at Human Rights Watch.

"Only by ensuring that Musharraf faces the well-documented outstanding charges against him can Pakistan put an end to the military's impunity for abuses."

Under Musharraf, the country's military and its intelligence agencies "committed widespread human rights violations, including the enforced disappearances of thousands of political opponents, particularly from Balochistan province, and tortured hundreds of Pakistani terrorism suspects," Human Rights Watch said.

Mixed reviews

His goal, Musharraf said, is to help lift his country from its malaise.

"My motivation is to go back and correct the situation, bring it back to the level where I left it."

He left it and went into self-imposed exile, largely in London, after the 2008 elections.

But he never gave up hopes of returning to the political stage.

In late 2010, he launched the All Pakistan Muslim League party with a view to running for office in 2013.

His years leading the country earned mixed reviews.

Under his leadership, Pakistan attained respectable economic growth rates and established a generally favorable investment climate. Along with that came a growing middle class, a more aggressive media, and a more assertive judiciary.

"He brought parliamentary reforms; he brought women into the parliament," said Ahmed Bilal Mehboob, director of the Pakistan Institute of Legislative Development and Transparency in an interview last year.

Military mindset

But, analysts say, Musharraf never lost his military mindset.

"He in a way, always believed in a unity of command, a very centralized command, which means his command, in fact," said Lt. Gen. Talat Masood, a political analyst.

Musharraf's popularity began dropping in 2007 after he suspended Supreme Court Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry for "misuse of authority."

The move triggered protests and accusations that he was trying to influence the court's ruling on whether he could run for another five-year term. Chaudhry was reinstated but the damage was done.

That October, Musharraf was re-elected president by a parliament that critics said was stacked with his supporters. Opposition parties filed a challenge. The next month, he declared a state of emergency, suspended Pakistan's constitution, replaced the chief judge again and blacked out independent TV outlets.

Under pressure from the West, Musharraf later lifted the emergency and promised elections in January 2008.

He allowed Nawaz Sharif, the prime minister he had deposed in 1999, to return from exile.

He also let in another political foe, former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, who led the Pakistan Peoples Party.

Bhutto returned from a self-imposed, eight-year exile to run in the country's general elections in 2007, but was assassinated that December while campaigning in the Pakistani city of Rawalpindi, the seat of the country's military, by a 15-year-old suicide bomber.

Musharraf's government and the CIA contend the killing was orchestrated by a group with ties to al Qaeda, but polls found that most Pakistanis believed Musharraf's government was complicit.

He has denied the assertions.

Re-entering politics

In 2010, further criticism of Musharraf emerged after the United Nations ruled that Bhutto's death could have been prevented had Musharraf's government taken adequate measures to protect her.

Musharraf rejected the findings, saying that Bhutto had police protection and took unnecessary risks.

Other factors hastened the decline in Musharraf's popularity: a shortage of essential food items, power cuts and high inflation.

In February 2008, Musharraf's party admitted defeat in parliamentary elections and he was succeeded by Asif Zardari, Bhutto's widower.

The leaders of Pakistan's two main opposition parties formed a coalition and vowed to restore deposed judges.

Six months later, the coalition moved to impeach Musharraf, who then resigned as president and went into self-imposed exile, though he said the allegations of misconduct were false.

In August 2009, Pakistan's supreme court found that Musharraf had violated the constitution in 2007 when he imposed a national state of emergency. Government officials said that if he returned, he'd be arrested.

In May 2010 Musharraf announced that he planned to re-enter Pakistan politics and launched a new political party in October of that year.

But a Pakistani court then issued an arrest warrant for him in connection with Bhutto's assassination. He has said that the accusations are baseless.

He has described his support as scattered, and said he needs to rebuild it.

"This is a do-or-die moment for me and my party. I need to muster all the support I can," he said.

Exiled Pakistani ex-president returns home

CNN's Samia Mohsin, Leone Lakhani and Reza Sayah contributed to this report.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
updated 2:26 AM EDT, Thu April 24, 2014
A year ago, 1,000 garment workers died in the collapse of Rana Plaza building in Bangladesh. Here's a look at what has changed since then.
updated 12:53 AM EDT, Thu April 24, 2014
Focus is on the fish as U.S. President starts tour with visit to legendary Tokyo restaurant.
updated 1:23 PM EDT, Wed April 23, 2014
Fireworks are fantastic and human endeavor has its place, but sometimes Mother Nature outshines any performance we can produce.
updated 11:06 PM EDT, Wed April 23, 2014
In 1987, China sent its very first email. Here's what it said,
updated 10:13 PM EDT, Wed April 23, 2014
The world's new fastest elevator will fling you from earth to the 95th floor before you're done reading this article.
updated 4:12 PM EDT, Wed April 23, 2014
In one U.S. state, a new bill will allow ordinary citizens to carry guns in all sorts of places. Does it make you feel safer?
updated 10:10 AM EDT, Mon April 21, 2014
In South Korea, volunteer divers are risking their lives to rescue victims of the sunken ferry.
updated 3:15 PM EDT, Wed April 23, 2014
Park Jee Young, 22, helped passengers escape as the Sewol ferry sank -- giving out life jackets while refusing to wear one herself.
updated 12:43 PM EDT, Tue April 22, 2014
What did outgoing manager David Moyes get wrong in his six months with English Premier League football team Manchester United?
updated 1:36 PM EDT, Wed April 23, 2014
In honor of Shakespeare's birthday, here are 15 of the world's most amazing theaters.
updated 1:34 PM EDT, Tue April 22, 2014
CNN exclusive: Australian officials are hammering out a new agreement for widening the Flight 370 search area.
updated 8:28 AM EDT, Tue April 22, 2014
Malaysian officials sent to brief Chinese families are armed with little to no information.
updated 11:45 AM EDT, Tue April 22, 2014
When a team of Indian surgeons opened up the stomach of a 63-year-old man, they had no idea they'd extract a fortune.
updated 3:01 AM EDT, Tue April 22, 2014
Do these photos CNN of gun-toting men wearing green uniforms prove Russian forces are in eastern Ukraine?
updated 1:11 PM EDT, Wed April 23, 2014
If the Duchess wears it, then your fashion career is sorted for life.
updated 7:15 PM EDT, Wed April 23, 2014
Browse through images you don't always see on news reports from CNN teams around the world.
ADVERTISEMENT