General Musharraf’s return to Pakistan might be puzzling if it weren’t clear that he’s bored with five years of irrelevance and almost nothing to do. A regular life in sanitised London and Dubai could hardly substitute for the chaos of Pakistan’s politics and experiments with democracy.
“I have put my life in danger and have come to Pakistan — to you, to be the saviour of this country,” he said, when he stepped out of the VIP terminal at Karachi airport. “I have come to save Pakistan.”
According to most pundits and players, that is hubris of the sort that someone once described as akin to a cock who thought the sun had risen to hear him crow.
As NPR’s Julie McCarthy reports from Pakistan, the country’s columnists are calling the 69-year-old former General’s return “politically naïve…even ego-maniacal.”
Could General Musharraf be quite so deluded?
Yes, says Talat Masood, a retired general who knows him fairly well. He’s told The Guardian that the former president has greatly overestimated his importance to Pakistan and is likely to have marginal impact, if any, because he “does not have a political constituency, does not have an organisation, and his support [is] very limited.”
There’s some suggestion that the urban middle class supports Musharraf, a decent, moderate man with an equable temperament and enough inherent liberalism to allow a relatively free press to function in the seven years he ruled Pakistan. But Pakistan’s middle class is not very big.
The surest sign that General Musharraf is likely to be of minimal political importance is the fact that his old political enemies no longer see him as a threat to their ambitions. Some have positively welcomed the General’s return, with Nawaz Sharif, the prime minister he deposed, mildly suggesting it was fine he came home. All Pakistani citizens have a right to live in their country, said Sharif in a humiliating verbal hug to the man who was responsible for his ignominious exit from office.
Perhaps the General’s delusional labyrinth may best be understood by examining the way he gauges his support – from the number of Facebook followers (he claims he has more than Imran Khan)! Mon dieu.