Musharraf delays plan to return to Pakistan

Islamabad: Pakistan`s former military ruler Pervez Musharraf today delayed his plans to return home from self-exile after warnings from the government that he would be immediately arrested on his arrival in the country. Leaders of Musharraf`s All Pakistan Muslim League told the media that he had delayed his plans to return to Pakistan later this month after consulting friends and party leaders.

"Musharraf may not return to Pakistan this month," said Muhammad Ali Saif, the former President`s spokesman. "Close friends are advising him against returning now," Saif told reporters. He sought to put a positive spin on the development by saying that Musharraf had been advised by his aides that his return at this juncture would provide "relief" to the government which is grappling with several crises. 68-year-old Musharraf had announced earlier this month that he intended to fly into the port city of Karachi between January 27 and 30.

Days after his announcement, Sindh Home Minister Manzoor Wassan said Musharraf would be arrested and sent to jail as soon as he arrived in Karachi. Interior Minister Rehman Malik told the Senate or upper house of parliament on Wednesday that Musharraf would be arrested under the law of the land whenever he arrives in Pakistan. "The moment he lands, he will go to jail," he said.

Musharraf`s spokesman Saif said the former President was not afraid of such threats or the cases that have been filed against him in Pakistan. "Musharraf is not afraid of being arrested. The authorities will have to treat him according to his status and the law," he said. "The former President has never refused to appear before the courts. He will face the courts and the cases against him whenever he returns," Saif said.

Musharraf seized power in 1999 in Pakistan`s third military coup but was forced to step down as President in August 2008 after the Pakistan People`s Party formed a government following elections. He has been living in Dubai and London since April 2009. In October, a court issued a warrant for his arrest over the killing of Baloch nationalist leader Akbar Bugti in a military operation in August 2006. Another court declared him a fugitive and issued a separate warrant for his arrest for failing to cooperate with investigators probing the 2007 assassination of former premier Benazir Bhutto.