ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s former dictator Pervez Musharraf came under mounting pressure Thursday to delay his return from exile as he admitted that he would be danger if he goes back to the crisis-ridden country.
Friends and supporters advised Musharraf to put off a homecoming announced between January 27-30, following more than three years of self-imposed exile in London and Dubai, after Islamabad said he would be arrested.
Mohammad Amjad, senior vice president in Musharraf’s All Pakistan Muslim League, told AFP that "no final decision had yet been taken" but said the retired general would make an announcement on his plans "later, perhaps today".
"His friends and party officials want him to postpone it for sometime. This was discussed yesterday at a meeting and conveyed to him," Amjad said.
Musharraf had promised to fly home to contest general elections now
widely expected within months as Pakistan’s civilian government sinks deeper into a major crisis, squeezed by the military and the judiciary.
In an interview broadcast on BBC Radio 4 at the same time that Amjad spoke to AFP, Musharraf admitted he would be in danger in Pakistan.
"I do feel endangered. There is a danger certainly, but you take your own protection and then leave things to destiny. Nobody can ensure you 100 percent protection," he said in what appeared to be a pre-recorded interview.
He admitted that his arrest was possible but said he would "like to remain out" of the crisis currently engulfing the government, army and judiciary.
On Wednesday, Interior Minister Rehman Malik told the upper house of parliament that Musharraf would be arrested if he returns as planned.
Despite widespread disillusionment with the current government over power cuts, inflation, unemployment and the unpopular US alliance, few believe that the ex-dictator is the answer to Pakistan’s troubles.
He faces two Pakistani court warrants for his arrest — connected to the 2006 death of Akbar Bugti, a rebel leader in the southwest and the 2007 assassination of ex-prime minister Benazir Bhutto.
Pakistan’s crisis on Thursday saw the prime minister hauled before the Supreme Court on contempt proceedings at a time of enormous pressure with the army over alleged efforts to clip the military’s wings with American help.
"I personally feel he should not come. The current situation is not in his favor and the atmosphere is hostile," Hamid Nawaz, a former general and Musharraf’s former interior minister, told AFP.
He said Musharraf’s fledgling APML party was ill-prepared to contest elections and that the former ruler would not be safe in Pakistan.
On October 19, a suicide attack targeting Bhutto’s homecoming killed at least 139 people in Karachi, to date Pakistan’s deadliest militant attack.
"He faces security issues. The war on terror began in his rule, he had the Red Mosque siege and there is the murder case of tribal leader Akbar Bugti whose clan has already announced a cash reward for his killing," Nawaz said.
The military has not publicly announced that it would guarantee his safety and retired lieutenant general Talat Masood also warned against his return.
"This is not the right time for him to come. It will be difficult for the government to provide security," Masood said, dismissing his aims as "unrealistic" and his party as "politically bankrupt".
"He is taking a political step and the military cannot do much because there are cases against him and he may be arrested," he added.
Musharraf was forced to step down in August 2008 after the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) formed a government following elections.