What the future holds for Musharraf is anybody’s guess but the present certainly doesn’t look optimistic for the former strongman. He has a slew of high profile court cases against him including the alleged (illegal) detention of judges of Supreme Court of Pakistan in 2007 (after he imposed the provisions of emergency in the country) and conspiracy in Benazir Bhutto, the former Prime Minister of Pakistan, assassination case. To add to his turmoil, his bail has been cancelled by Islamabad High Court in the 2007 case related to illegal detention of judges. Pakistan Senate has passed a resolution that he should be tried for treason for the events of 2007 which also included imposition of emergency. He is sent to 14 day judicial custody on 30th April 2013 by anti- Terrorism court in Bhutto assassination case and will be confined to his farm house cum sub jail complex. This brings us to the most important question as to why Musharraf decided to return to Pakistan when pessimism and bleak prospects of future looks brighter.
The maverick former Chief of Army staff and President of Pakistan, General Parvez Musharraf, in a significant reversal of fortune, is at the receiving end of the very same establishment which he had ruled and crushed with an ‘iron fist’ at one point in history of Pakistan. Parvez Musharraf was once inarguably the most powerful person in Pakistan since he occupied two posts simultaneously. He was appointed Chief of Army Staff in 1998 and in military coup; he toppled the civilian government led by Nawaz Sharif. In a turn and twists of events, he further added badges to his uniform after being declared President of the country in 2001. During his tenure (from 2001-2008), Musharraf leadership provided necessary logistic and military support to US in its war against terrorism until his rapprochement turned his fellow countrymen against him.
Though, Musharraf’s power at home grew exponentially after he toppled Nawaj Sharif government, and even at international front, he got a shot in the arm when he aligned Pakistan’s foreign policy with that of US in immediate aftermath of 9/11. Pakistan received substantial financial aid and military technology in return of its support for allowing its territory to be used as a transit facility, but all did not go well at least at the end of his tenure. The turning point for Musharraf came when terrorist occupied Lal Masjid (Red Mosque) in Islamabad in 2007 and Musharraf in the more ‘Operation Blue Star’ like operation responded back with military might which created tremendous resentment against the General. Subsequently, home grown terrorists and fundamentalists turned their ire towards the army, and in act of retaliation, failed assassination attempts were made against him. Against this background, in 2008, he was made to renounce the post of Presidency under the pressure of PPP (Pakistan’s Peoples Party) and Pakistan Muslim League (N) and went into self-imposed exile in London in November 2008 when anti-Americanism sentiments were widely felt across the country. However, within two years, the self styled General attempted to re-enter political arena with an announcement of his forming a political party under the banner of ‘All Pakistan Muslim League’ in June 2010 while his stay in exile.
Recently, for the first time in the history of Pakistan, democratic government in Pakistan has completed its full term and the present political situation in the country is comparatively the most stable. The army is unwilling to take over the reins of the country which is in turmoil because of its financial mismanagement and dealing with home grown terrorism. Against this backdrop, Musharraf placed his bet to regain power through legitimate political participation. He applied and was granted anticipatory bail before his arrival in Pakistan, but his nomination papers for the Senate were rejected by the election commission from four constituencies which he had chosen to contest. His comeback has been coupled with inherent problems that lies in the country and is working against him.
Musharraf, even while was at the helm of affairs, failed to adapt with institutionalized politics currently prevalent in the country. The reason for this can be attached to his failure in building a loyal and permanent constituency (apart from the army and whose support for its former head is ambiguous if not unsure) which can stood behind him. He lacks strong societal support base on which he could build up political clout and outmanoeuvre his opponents. Secondly, he failed to win over hardliners, and fundamentalists who are vehemently opposed to him and strike on him whenever right opportunity emerges. Third, a very important factor which comes in his way is his failure to garner enough international support for his return.
His electoral fortunes currently in dismay and with him being virtually physically confined, and no second rung leadership in his party, the fate of his party is virtually sealed. The only saving grace for him is that he is being well protected which is due to tacit/untacit military’s backing. Musharraf after his return to the country projected himself as the savior of Pakistan, and claimed that he has returned to the country for the betterment of people who have reached the end of their hopes, but it is Musharraf himself who has contributed to these dwindling hopes. Now he hopes to achieve his political objectives through the very electoral process which he had clamped down upon.
The reason for his return can be attributed to his willingness to mend (tarnished) public image by having a say in the institutionalized political system, but the impending trial goes against his plan. He had hoped to see people standing by ex General but he seems not to take enough lessons from the history that man in uniforms are remembered for their participation in war not for governing electoral politics. It remains to be seen how the future unfolds and how would the maverick Musharraf turn the events in his favor. But the immediate future does not look upright to us.
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