Former president Pervez Musharraf, who has announced his intentions to return to Pakistan before the 2013 general elections, will formally launch his new political party and unveil its programme in London on October 1.
Musharraf is also planning to hold a show of power in Birmingham on October 3, less than two months after a man hurled his shoes at President Asif Ali Zardari during a rally in the same British city with a large population of Pakistani origin. The former military ruler's spokesman Mohammad Saif told the Dawn newspaper that Musharraf would "start his political journey at a press conference (in London) on October 1".
Musharraf will address a public rally at the Oval Banqueting Suite in Birmingham's Sparkhill area two days later, media reports said. The meet is being described by Musharraf's aides as a demonstration of the support enjoyed by his new party, the All Pakistan Muslim League, among Pakistanis abroad. Supporters of Musharraf from the Middle East, the US, Europe and Pakistan, including former Foreign Minister Khurshid Mehmood Kasuri, are expected to attend the meet.
Musharraf has reportedly chosen Birmingham as the venue for the meet because of the strong backing from Khalid Mahmood, a local Labour party MP. Before the show of power in Birmingham, Musharraf will hold meetings of his new political party in London. During the planned interaction with the media, Musharraf will launch his party's manifesto, explain how he rates the current government and opposition in Pakistan and outline his future plans. Musharraf's supporters are planning another gathering in Manchester on October 9.
The MP has stood by Musharraf all along and has hosted him at the House of Commons on a number of occasions despite the opposition from many British Pakistani groups. Chaudhary Aslam Wassan, the APML coordinator for Birmingham, claimed Musharraf has a lot of support among expatriate Pakistanis who have nostalgia for his time in power "when the land mafia and criminal gangs were under control and foreign investors were flocking to Pakistan".
"He served Pakistan wholeheartedly. Compare today's Pakistan with Mushararf's period. It has been taken over by bandits who only want Pakistan for their children," Wassan said.
Musharraf's spokesman Mohammad Saif claimed a number of prominent politicians were with the former president and many others had promised to join him soon. "We started a membership campaign in March and the number of our members has crossed 200,000," he said. Saif said the cases against Musharraf are "so weak that they cannot be pursued by the complainants in the courts of law".
One case registered at a police station in Islamabad was filed by a lawyer for keeping supreme court judges in house arrest and the second was filed for killing Baloch nationalist leader Nawab Akbar Bugti. "The former President has nothing to do with the detention of judges because it was an administrative matter and in the second case, Nawab Bugti was killed in a military operation in which some army personnel died too. Both the cases are bailable, even then Prevez Musharraf is ready to face imprisonment," Saif said.
During an interview with BBC last week, Musharraf said he was forming a new political party with the intention of participating in Pakistan's next general election in 2013. He also said he was hopeful of becoming either president or prime minister. However, Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani said yesterday that the Supreme Court Chief Justice would welcome Musharraf if he returned to Pakistan as many cases had been filed against him. Meanwhile, people from across the world pledged over Rs 250 million during a three-hour telethon for flood victims on Dunya TV that was joined by Musharraf. The people pledged donations for the Pervez Musharraf Foundation which has been registered in Britain. Asked by people about his future plans, Musharraf said he planned to return to Pakistan to take part in the next general election.