x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 20 January 2018

Musharraf ‘will fly to Pakistan for polls’

The former Pakistani president says the decision was made after discussions with senior members of his All Pakistan Muslim League political party

DUBAI // The former president of Pakistan, Pervez Musharraf, will risk arrest to return home before the end of the month and stand in the country’s coming elections, he said yesterday.

Mr Musharraf said he would fly to Karachi from Dubai most probably within a week of an interim government being announced, which is expected to be some time after March 16.

Speaking at a hotel in Dubai Media City, he said he would stand for elections to be announced by the interim government within three months.

But he played down ambitions of becoming prime minister or president, saying the first step was to get elected.

“Pakistan is now at a critical stage, not in terms of democracy or politics, but for its very survival,” Mr Musharraf said.

The decision to return was made after talks with senior members of the All Pakistan Muslim League political party, he said.

The former general has been warned he faces arrest if he returns, on allegations that he failed to provide enough protection for former prime minister Benazir Bhutto, who was assassinated in 2007.

“I do not feel there is a case against me,” he said. “I have not been convicted of anything but if it gets to court then I will face it.”

Asked if he was concerned about being arrested on his arrival, Mr Musharraf said he would assess the situation when he landed and react accordingly.

The current government’s term is due to expire on March 15, after which an interim administration will be appointed.

Mr Musharraf said his party would put up candidates in most, if not all, constituency seats once elections were announced.

He said that people already disqualified from running for office should remain barred, and that free and fair elections could only happen with the army’s support.

“The only way forward for Pakistan is through someone leading, but that is not happening now,” Mr Musharraf said.

He defended his record as president between 2001 and 2008 and said his immediate focus would be improving the economy and tackling religious extremism.