ABU DHABI // Pervez Musharraf, the former president of Pakistan, was on the hustings in the capital last night as part of efforts to raise support from communities abroad for his re-election bid.
Addressing about 200 prominent members of the Pakistani community, Mr Musharraf, who served as president from 2001 to 2008, confirmed he would run for presidency at elections scheduled to be held in 2013 and would return to the country "when the time is right".
In 2008, he resigned under impeachment pressure from the coalition government and could still face treason charges in his home country.
His 30-minute speech at the Millennium Hotel in Abu Dhabi followed an invitation from UAE-based Pakistanis including Dr Syed Qaiser Anis, the former president of the UAE Pakistan Business Council.
Mr Musharraf took the opportunity to highlight his tenure, claiming he turned a "failed state" into a successful emerging economy.
He also criticised the current leadership, saying: "We have to bring political stability and a functional government in Pakistan, whose focus in on governance and not only politics. You need governance that unifies thought and action [and] has the mandate of the people."
Many of those listening to his speech said they were looking for change in Pakistan's political arena and wanted to know what he would promise in return for support from overseas Pakistanis.
Dr Hadi Shahid, the founder of Alliott Hadi Shahid Chartered Accountants, who has lived in the UAE for 25 years, said: "The outcome of this visit is that everyone will look at Pakistan in a positive, energetic way, because there has been a depressive situation.
"[Former] president Musharraf has been advocating for cultural revolution in the country, which everybody welcomes. That's where the change is coming and we expect some enlightened moderation."
Another supporter, Sarfarazul Haque, said: "We have seen his performance during the last nine years of his rule and with exception of the political turmoil during the last year in office, Mr Musharraf took Pakistan to new heights when the country was on the verge of collapse, He took Pakistan out of economic mess. He took Pakistan out of IMF [International Monetary Fund] clutches - now it's back."
But not everyone was so enthused by his visit to the UAE. A few expressed their discontent with his politics and the way he came into power.
"If somebody does wrong from day one, you can't expect any good from him," said Inamul Haq, the general secretary of the Abu Dhabi Cricket Council, who has lived in the UAE for nearly 30 years.
"He grabbed the government unlawfully. During his tenure he was so powerful, he could do whatever he wanted, but he didn't do anything," Mr Haq said.
In his speech, Mr Musharraf spoke of Pakistan's economic potential, and said it had the ingredients to be self-sufficient and a key player in international politics due to its geographical location.
"With my nine years of experience, I say Pakistan has the human potential, it has the resources, and it has all the capabilities to stand on its own feet."