Former Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf returned to Pakistan Sunday after four years of self-imposed exile in London. The former president seeks a possible political comeback in spite of death threats and legal challenges.
The Taliban have also threatened Musharraf with snipers and suicide bombers in a recent video. Security forces escorted Musharraf away from the airport shortly after landing in the southern city of Karachi, according to the Associated Press. It is unclear whether security forces sought to protect Musharraf or arrest him.
Musharraf came to power through a military coup in 1999 and resigned from his position in 2008 under threat of impeachment. Nevertheless, Musharraf is not without supporters. A couple hundred waited at the airport, some eager to shower the former president with rose petals.
Musharraf allied with the US in the War on Terror, granting the US use of several airbases for Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan. Many have suspected the former president of supporting Al Qaeda with one hand while aiding the US with the other. He sharply criticized Islamic extremism before Western audiences, garnering him some favor abroad and criticism at home. Enough corruption and controversies occurred over Musharraf’s time in office that by 2007, most Pakistani voters did not support his running for another term.
Musharraf faces several charges upon returning home, including conspiracy to commit murder. He stands accused of failing to provide enough security to popular opposition leader Benazir Bhutto after her return from exile. The BBC reports that two explosions killing a total of 140 people greeted Bhutto when she arrived in October of 2007, and she was killed in a rally just two months later.
Pakistan’s civilian government has wrestled with a struggling economy, frequent US drone strikes, and Islamic extremists that have proven difficult to purge from within the country’s borders. Osama Bin Laden was killed by US Navy Seals in a compound in Abbottabad, a city not far from the nation’s capital and the home of the Pakistan Military Academy.
Pakistan has a population of over 180 million people, roughly half the size of the US, making the South Asian country the sixth most populous in the world. The country has had a tumultuous existence since separating from India and establishing independence from the UK in 1947.
Pervez Musharraf, now 69, plans to lead his party in May’s general election.