A Dictator's Second Act

By Giglio, Mike | Newsweek, November 14, 2011 | Go to article overview

A Dictator's Second Act


Giglio, Mike, Newsweek


Byline: Mike Giglio; With Fasih Ahmed, Eli Lake, And R. M. Schneiderman

Pakistan's Pervez Musharraf wants back into politics.

Should the U.S. be wary?

Three years ago, Gen. Pervez Musharraf was president of Pakistan, charged with the world's sixth-largest population and fourth-largest nuclear arsenal. Now he's settled into unglamorous self-exile in London's Hyde Park--he golfs and plays bridge, and runs around without a big security detail. Sitting on his couch one evening in September, on the eve of a U.S. visit to boost his international profile, Musharraf says he doesn't intend to live this way much longer. He's been planning an unlikely comeback: after taking power in a military coup more than a decade ago, he wants to win it back through the ballot box. "I call it the call of destiny," he says.

Musharraf's intent--as he reiterated in October during a stop in Washington--is to return to Pakistan in the spring and contest the country's 2013 elections. He's launched his own party, the All Pakistan Muslim League. He's drumming up a political operation headquartered in Islamabad. He's also speaking out against Pakistan's current government, pushing the idea that things were much better with him in charge.

Musharraf resigned his office under threat of impeachment, with angry mobs massed below his office window. But he feels vindicated by the problems that have gripped Pakistan since: rising poverty, a sinking economy, growing extremism, a disintegrating relationship with the U.S. "As they say, the taste of the pudding is in its eating. And now the people realize that their condition was so good," he says.

Some analysts think Washington may be forgetting its old qualms about Musharraf, who was also accused of playing a double game between America and extremists. "I think there is a bit of longing for him in Washington. I hear people talk about that period as a better period," says Moeed Yusuf, an adviser at the United States Institute of Peace. Karl Inderfurth, the assistant secretary of state for South Asia under Bill Clinton, says the U.S. would do well to keep an open mind about Musharraf. "There is a recycling of Pakistani civilian leaders who you think are out and gone and they come back," he says.

But status in the West doesn't translate to support at home. …

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