KARACHI, Pakistan (AFP) — Former Pakistan president Pervez Musharraf said yesterday that he would return home by the end of January after more than three years of self-exile; piling more pressure on the civilian government.
Musharraf, who ruled as a military dictator and later as a civilian president until 2008, could however be detained the moment he arrives back in Pakistan because he has two warrants out for his arrest.
"I am returning to Pakistan between January 27 to January 30," he told a crowd of around 7,000 gathered in the port city of Karachi through a video link from Dubai. He also based himself in London since standing down.
"I'll land in Karachi despite all sorts of dangers to my life," he said, as the crowd chanted, "welcome, welcome".
"I can sacrifice my life if need be for the people of Pakistan."
A Pakistani court in October issued an arrest warrant for Musharraf and former Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz over the killing of a rebel leader in Baluchistan, Akbar Bugti, who died in a cave hideout during an army raid in August 2006.
Another court, in Rawalpindi in February last year, issued another warrant for his arrest over the assassination of ex-prime minister Benazir Bhutto in a gun and suicide attack in 2007.
The same anti-terrorism court in August ordered the confiscation of Musharraf's property and the freezing of his bank accounts in Pakistan.
Senator Faisal Raza Abidi, of the ruling Pakistan People's Party, said Musharraf's fate would be decided in accordance with the courts' orders, meaning he could be arrested the moment he sets foot back on home soil.
"Anything, including his arrest, at the time of his arrival can happen in accordance with the courts' orders," he told the private Express News television channel.
Eyeing a return to the top and with the government under pressure to call elections, Musharraf accused the administration of President Asif Ali Zardari of pushing the South Asian nuclear-armed nation into international isolation.
"We are virtually isolated in the world," he told supporters.
"Terrorists are using the name of Islam to justify their killing spree and some political leaders are in cahoots with them or encourage them. I was against them and will always condemn them," he said.
"I am ready to fight in the courts and will prove all the cases against me are baseless."