x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Musharraf determined to return to Pakistan

The former president of Pakistan, Pervez Musharraf, again pledged his determination to return to his homeland during a speech marking the country's independence day.

Musharraf cuts a giant birthday cake to celebrate Pakistan’s independence day.
Musharraf cuts a giant birthday cake to celebrate Pakistan’s independence day.

DUBAI // The former president of Pakistan, Pervez Musharraf, reaffirmed his determination to return to his homeland in a speech marking the country's independence day.

The former army general spoke to more than 2,000 supporters of his political party during an iftar at  the Crowne Plaza hotel last night.

He did not give a date for his return but urged those in attendance to use their votes wisely in the country's elections, due next year.

"You have to value your vote and unless you vote real change won't come," he said. "I'm calling for free and transparent elections and for an interim government."

Mr Musharraf, who came to power in a bloodless coup in 1999 and left office in 2008, faces an arrest warrant in Pakistan and accusations over the death of the former prime minister, Benazir Bhutto.

He has denied suggestions that he or his security agencies had any role in the murder. He also denies using the UAE as a launching pad to build support for a political comeback.

The event last night was organised by his All Pakistan Muslim League political party. Mr Musharraf told the audience Pakistan had been failed by its current government.

Quoting Muhammad Ali Jinnah, the founder of Pakistan, he said existing politicians had not delivered on important tenants he had laid down for the country's future.

"The first duty of a government is maintain law and order so that the life, property and religious beliefs and are fully protected by the state," he said. He pointed out that many people faced sectarian violence between Shiites and Sunnis.

Mr Musharraf said many of the ruling class were wasting Pakistan's wealth and neglecting the poor.

"Quaid-i-Azam [great leader] said one of the curses from which India is suffering is bribes and corruption. That is a poison we must put down with an iron fist."

nhanif@thenational.ae