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Musharraf back in Pakistan after exile in 2008

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
March 25th, 2013
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

Pervez Musharraf, Pakistan's controversial former president has touched down in his homeland for the first time after going into exile in 2008. Musharraf, formerly the army chief, seized control in a military coup in 1999. Rebranding himself as president after general elections in 2002, he was forced out of office in 2008. His homecoming was attended only by 300 well-wishers at the airport.

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) -  Musharraf has returned to Pakistan to run in the elections to be held in May. Landing at Karachi's Jinnah International airport Musharraf arrived aboard a commercial flight from Dubai.

The Pakistani Taliban had issued a death threat against him this past weekend, and security was tight. Musharraf brushed aside the threats. "They have been trying to send me to the hells since 9/11, which means its 12 years now," Musharraf said before boarding his flight. "These statements could be planted even from anywhere, they may be true or untrue, so I'm not the kind to get scared of mere statements," he added.

After leaving due to widespread popular pressure and a looming impeachment hearing, Musharraf first moved to London and then Dubai. He then spent the better part of the past two years vowing to return to Pakistan and to re-enter politics.

The past decade has seen the former president fall from the top of his country's political and security establishment into a quiet life in exile.

Born in Delhi in 1943, his parents fled to Pakistan four years later, shortly before the partition. Musharraf then went through the ranks of the Pakistani army, eventually being named chief of staff in 1998 under then-prime minister Nawaz Sharif.

Seizing power in a coup the following year, he ushered in a period of military rule that would last until 2002. He rebranded himself president after elections that year, and remained in office until 2008, when he was forced out by opposition parties.

In the west, Musharraf distinguished himself after the September 11 attacks on the United States, in which he declared himself a staunch ally of U.S. President George W. Bush's "war on terror."

He then allowed the U.S. and NATO to transfer war materiel into Afghanistan via Pakistan. He clashed loudly with armed groups in 2007, when he ordered Pakistani security forces to storm the Red Mosque and Islamic school in Islamabad.

Musharraf had accused the mosque's clerics and students of waging an increasingly aggressive campaign to enforce strict shari'a law in the capital. More than 100 people were killed in the clash.

By the end of his tenure, Musharraf had actually lost some of his popularity in the West, where he was often criticized for failing to prevent fighters from trickling back and forth across the Afghan-Pakistani border.

Leaving politics, Musharraf embarked on a lucrative worldwide speaking tour, then settled in London, and then Dubai. His return to Pakistan, however, with very little grassroots support, has left his future uncertain.

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