Former Pakistani military ruler Pervez Musharraf on Sunday said that he is not scared and announced that he will return home later this month to launch his political career despite facing threats of arrest in the Benazir Bhutto assassination case. His announcement to return to Pakistan between January 27 to 30 came at an impressive rally organised by the All Pakistan Muslim League near the Quaid-e-Azam Mazar in the city which was attended by hundreds of people who kept on imploring him to return to Pakistan.
Winding up his video address to the crowd at the party's first big rally, Musharraf, currently living in Dubai and London on self-exile since April 2008, said he was not scared of anyone and would return to Karachi.
Musharraf, 68, said that he would contest the next general elections from Chitral in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa. "I am living comfortably abroad and I have no problems but I am coming back for the Pakistani people because now is the time for change. People are fed up with the old faces," he said. "They are trying to scare me but I am not a scared person and I am coming back to face the situation," he told the cheering crowd that included women.
The former president's announcement to return to Pakistan comes just hours after Interior Minister Rehman Malik told reporters in Islamabad that Musharraf should be arrested on his return as he was a proclaimed offender. Malik supported the statement of senior special prosecutor, Azhar Chaudhary made on Saturday that the former President will be arrested from the airport.
Sounding confident and bold, Musharraf said there were elements who didn't want him to return to Pakistan and were trying to scare him. "But I am not one to be scared I will come back and face these people for the sake of my nation. I committed no crime but did a lot for the progress and prosperity of the people during my tenure," he said.
Musharraf was declared a fugitive last year by the Rawalpindi-based court conducting the trial of those charged with involvement in the December 2007 assassination of Bhutto.
Pakistan's Federal Investigation Agency prosecutor Chaudhry Zulfiqar Ali told reporters in Islamabad on Saturday that Musharraf will be arrested on returning to Pakistan as an anti-terrorism court has declared him a "proclaimed offender" or a fugitive. He said Musharraf is a "proclaimed offender" and there is no need of any warrant for making the arrest.
The turnout at the rally was slow at the beginning on a chilly day in Karachi but as the time passed people started pouring into the venue just adjacent to the Quaid's Mazar where last month Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf leader Imran Khan had held a massive rally. Though the crowd at the APML rally was not as impressive but still thousands were present to cheer their leader who addressed them dressed in a simple white salwar kameez.
Musharraf pointed out that today Pakistani people were facing many problems including shortage of gas, electricity, employment while state institutions like railways, PIA and Steel Mills were on the verge of collapse due to the incompetence of the present rulers.
"During my tenure I knew what had to be done for the well being of our people. I was the one who shook off the habit of taking loans from the IMF and World Bank and put us back on our feet."
Speaking about allegations leveled at him regarding conditions in Baluchistan province and the death of one of its top tribal leaders and politicians, Nawab Akbar Bugti, in a military operation, the former president dismissed it as a conspiracy against him. He said that he respected his Baluch brothers and that certain people wanted to portray him as an enemy of the Baluch people.
"Go and ask the people of Baluchistan many of them respect me because the level of progress and development we carried out in Baluchistan was never done before any government," he claimed. Musharraf said that if one were to ask the people of Dera Bugti about who re-established them, they would acknowledge him.
According to sources, more than 50,000 chairs had been set up at the venue of the rally and police, commandos as well as the bomb disposal squads were deployed for security purposes.
Musharraf came to power in a military coup in 1999 unseating former prime minister Nawaz Sharif's government and ruled Pakistan till 2008. Musharraf after the rally told "Samaa" television channel that he was even prepared to go to jail if arrested on returning home and prepared to face any hardship. "Look I am a trained SSG commando and jail does not scare me. I have been trained to bear much more hardships," he said.