* Former president ‘thinks All Pakistan Muslim League has been registered’ to mark his return to politics
LAHORE: Former president Pervez Musharraf hinted that the All Pakistan Muslim League might have been registered to mark his comeback to Pakistani politics, a foreign news channel reported on Monday.
The channel said that Barrister Saif Ali would be the coordinator of the party. To a question about the registration of the party and whether he would lead it, the former army chief said, “I think the party has been registered.” Talking to journalists before a lecture in Seattle, Musharraf said that he would return to Pakistan if the country wanted him to do so and if he believed he had enough support to make a contribution.
“If I have to just go there and join the political fray and be involved in accusations and counter-accusations…like most politicians are doing, then I am not interested in that kind of politics,” he said.
Musharraf became Pakistan’s head of state in 1999 during a military coup, but he said any return to power would be through a democratic process. He was an ally of former US president George W Bush in the aftermath of the September 11 attacks, yet was forced to resign in 2008.
Talking to an audience of several hundred largely Pakistani Americans in Bellevue, Musharraf said the Taliban’s brand of Islamic extremism poses a serious threat to the nation. “We need to ask ourselves, do we or don’t we want a Taliban and al Qaeda culture in Pakistan … because every action then flows from that decision,” he said, the Seattle Times reported.
Musharraf’s visit to Washington was sponsored by the Friends of Pakistan First, and after the speech his audience asked wide-ranging questions on Pakistan’s economy, India, feudalism and other topics.
He was asked about recent terrorist attacks that killed World Vision workers in Pakistan, to which he said the aid organisation should show resolve and not withdraw from the country.
Musharraf’s swing through the area came at a time when the Pakistan press has been speculating on whether he has a future political role in the country.
In December, Asian News International quoted Pakistan Muslim League-Quaid leader Sher Afgan Niazi as saying his party would welcome the former president’s return, which was likely to happen this winter. But an aide said this month that Musharraf had no plans of returning to Pakistan and rejoining the political fray.
His visit prompted more than 70 protesters to gather early on Sunday evening on a sidewalk outside the Westin Hotel in Bellevue where he spoke. One sign read “Dictator Not Welcome”, while others read, “Stand for Peace” and “Mister Commando is on the Run”.
“My biggest concern is that he was a dictator and now he is getting this welcome in America,” said Agha Khan, a Microsoft software engineer at the protest.
Musharraf also faces bitter opposition in Pakistan, where there are calls that he be put on trial for detention of Supreme Court justices and other alleged violations of the constitution.
“Security would be a huge issue for Musharraf if he returns,” said Ryan Crocker, former US ambassador to Pakistan. “So there would have to be some very solid understandings, backed up by the army,” he added.