Dubai: In what appears to be a surprising move, former president General (retd) Pervez Musharraf has decided to return to Pakistan earlier than he had announced due to the fast-changing political scene in the country.
According to one of his aides, Musharraf will fly back to Pakistan on January 31, 2012, instead of March 23 as was announced by him in a press conference in Dubai earlier this year.
A deepening political crisis and the sharp increase in popularity of Imran Khan in Pakistan have ostensibly prompted Musharraf to take this decision.
Meanwhile, a senior Pakistan government official has revealed to Gulf News that the Pakistani authorities have clearly conveyed to Musharraf the threats to his life in case of his return.
"We advised him to stay out of the country because there are threats to his life not only from extremist groups but also others who don't want to see him in Pakistan," the official said.
Former prime minister Benazir Bhuatto, who was assassinated on her return from Dubai in 2007, also faced similar threats and warnings before her return but it was Musharraf, in power at the time, who had warned her.
Musharraf, however, has rubbished these threats and is determined to go back. He will be on a tour of the UK, US and Saudi Arabia for the next month to ensure guarantees for his safe return and the launch of his political campaign to contest the next elections.
The decision has been taken following marathon meetings Musharraf held with his party leaders and supporters who came to Dubai from Pakistan, UK, US and Canada.
The three-day-long parleys concluded yesterday with a decision that it is time for Musharraf to go back as soon as possible. Musharraf, who has been living in self-exile, had launched his political party, the All Pakistan Muslim League (APML), in October 2011 in a bid to give a third option to the Pakistani electorate.
"We have almost finalised our party's organisational structure in Pakistan and are paving the way for our leader's return," Fawad Chaudhry, a spokesperson of the APML told Gulf News in Dubai.
When asked about Musharraf's early return, he did not confirm the date but did acknowledge that the decision had been taken for Musharraf to go back earlier. He said formal plans of his return would be announced by the end of December.
Some five plane-loads of people will accompany Musharraf to Pakistan. He will start his journey from London and reach Pakistan via Dubai. However, a decision is yet to be taken on whether he will land in Karachi or Islamabad.
Meanwhile, Chaudhry said efforts are on for a possible alliance with Imran Khan's Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaf and Altaf Hussain's MQM, while a number of politicians from different factions of Pakistan Muslim League are also in touch to join the APML.
"APML will emerge as a third political force and alternative to the current political parties because the people of Pakistan want change," Musharraf had said in an earlier meeting and added he would take his chances in a bid to make a comeback to power to save Pakistan.
He said the current government had become completely dysfunctional while the administration structure had broken down and the country was facing political turmoil, in addition to a worsening law and order situation.
The meetings lead by Musharraf also discussed his security plans on his return and also the issue of arrest warrants. Musharraf is facing two arrests warrants including one over the killing of a Baloch leader Nawab Akbar Bugti and the another on the murder of Benazir Bhutto.