Security worries delayed Musharraf return plans

Lahore: Former president Pervez Musharraf was forced to delay his planned return to Pakistan from self-exile after he failed to get any assurances from the military and the Pakistan People`s Party-led government about his security, sources said today.

Two Pakistani courts have issued arrest warrants for Musharraf in cases related to the killing of Baloch nationalist leader Akbar Bugti and former premier Benazir Bhutto.

Top Pakistani officials have said that Musharraf would be arrested as soon as he stepped off the plane if he attempted to return. The army reportedly has conveyed to the former military ruler that it may not provide him foolproof security on his return, his party sources told PTI.

Musharraf had hired the services of a private security agency but was forced to postpone his planned return at the end of this month after he failed to get any assurances from the army and the government, the sources said.

"Hiring a foreign security agency is not a big deal. Foolproof security arrangements matter more," said another APML leader, who was of the view that Musharraf should not return at this juncture as it would benefit his opponents.

The former President`s aides are of the view that proceedings for high treason may be initiated against him under Article 6 of the Constitution whenever he returns.

Several political leaders have demanded that Musharraf should be charged with treason for leading a coup in 1999 and subverting the Constitution in 2007.

Musharraf`s party – All Pakistan Muslim League – has sought to put a positive spin on reports that he has delayed his planned homecoming, with leaders saying that he is yet to formally announce a date for his return.

"Gen Musharraf has not yet announced a delay in his homecoming. However, he has been advised by some friends in political and army circles to give a second thought to his plans in the current political scenario," said Muhammad Ali Saif, a spokesman for APML.

Despite reports that Musharraf had put off his plans to fly into Karachi at the end of this month, Saif contended that the former military strongman would stick to his plan to return between January 27 and 30, and that any changes would be announced by Musharraf himself.

"There has been a soft corner in the army for him and some people would not like Mr Musharraf facing cases after his homecoming," Saif said.

There were reports that the PPP government, in order to save its skin in the face of several crises, would get the superior judiciary to focus on Musharraf and in such a scenario his well-wishers want him to delay his return, Saif claimed.