x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 17 January 2018

Musharraf's UAE supporters delay trip to Pakistan

Supporters of Pervez Musharraf in the UAE hold off on plans to fly to Pakistan to protest for his release.

DUBAI // Plans by UAE supporters of Pervez Musharraf to fly to Pakistan to protest against his arrest have been put on hold.

Members of his All Pakistan Muslim League based in Dubai had planned to leave this weekend, but have been told by senior party officials in Pakistan to delay their trips until he is granted bail.

"We were ready to go this Thursday as it is a long weekend for us in the UAE but we have been told to wait," said Tabish Zaidi, a member of the party's central working committee in Dubai.

"He has already been given bail in one case and we are just waiting for the courts regarding the situation regarding the other two cases."

Mr Musharraf returned to Pakistan at the end of March to contest last month's elections after four years of self-imposed exile. But he was banned from taking part by the courts and is under house arrest on charges that he unlawfully detained judges in 2007.

Mr Zaidi denied media reports in Pakistan that a secret agreement had been made by Saudi Arabia or the UAE to allow Mr Musharraf to return to Dubai.

"Mr Musharraf has been very clear from the start that he will not leave Pakistan until he has cleared his name," he said. "The media reports that he is coming back to Dubai are not true."

Three senior members of the UAE branch of his party are already in Pakistan to coordinate the planned protests, Mr Zaidi said.

"We are ready to go when it is required for us to do so," he added.

"But we have been told there needs to be more groundwork done within Pakistan before we can do anything larger scale. We do have some members going to Pakistan over the next few weeks so there will be people there if required."

The initial plan was to protest before Ramadan but that may now not be possible.

"It would have been ideal to go before Ramadan but if we end up going during the holy month then that would be fine," Mr Zaidi said. "The key thing for us is that Mr Musharraf gets a fair trial. Nothing has been proven against him."

The All Pakistan Muslim League boycotted the general election on May 11 but still won two seats - one in the national assembly and one in the provincial assembly.

Mr Musharraf denies charges he failed to provide adequate security for the former prime minister, Benazir Bhutto, before her assassination in 2007.

The Taliban have sent him death threats and a car bomb was defused by police close to his home on the outskirts of Islamabad last month.

Mr Musharraf came to power in a military coup in 1999. He was president from 2001 until 2008.