Pakistan's Ousted Pervez Musharraf Announces Return to Politics
Tohid, Owais, The Christian Science Monitor
Pervez Musharraf, Pakistan's former military ruler who left the country amid unrest and legal trouble in 2008, said this week he intends to return home to lead a new political party.
On Wednesday, dressed in civilian clothes, former Pakistani military ruler Pervez Musharraf announced from Hong Kong that he intends to return home as head of a new political party called the All Pakistan Muslim League. He is reportedly eyeing the posts of prime minister and president.
He says he has a strong following among Pakistan's silent majority: the progressive-minded, economically mobile, urban, and urbane younger sections of society. As proof, he points to his 300,000 Facebook followers mainly aged between 18 and 34. "Therefore, I know that it is the youth who are yearning for change," he said Wednesday.
Already, supporters of Mr. Musharraf are reaching out to people on the street. As they collect funds in his name for survivors of the catastrophic floods that rocked Pakistan last month, they hoist pictures of him in civilian clothes. It's a rather new look for him, but Musharraf has experienced many incarnations: from coup-leader, to self-proclaimed chief executive of Pakistan, to popularly elected president-general, to disgraced president thrown out of power, to a man in self-imposed exile.
Capitalizing on floods fallout
This time, Musharraf plans to start a campaign to join the 2013 elections within the parameters of parliamentary democracy. His plans come at a time when his rival political parties - the ruling Pakistan Peoples' Party and the PML, which rules the country's powerful central Punjab province - face sharp criticism for their handling of recent devastating floods.
"He is trying to convert supporters by presenting [the flood response] as a failure of political forces domestically and at the same time waiting to play his cards internationally, especially in the Middle East and America, in case any political vacuum is created," says analyst Najam Sethi.
Political rivals say his Musharraf's newfound Internet popularity won't get him far. "He might be a political leader in the virtual world of Facebook. But the real political field is on the streets of this poverty ridden country, and that he hasn't faced yet," says Nihal Hashmi, a central leader of former premier Nazwaz Sharif's Pakistan Muslim League (PML). Mr. Hashmi points out that in one of his earlier incarnations, Musharraf reached out to the same political elite that he now claims to revile. …