Zardari sheds party post, makes son patron-in-chief

The former President Pervez Musharraf on Saturday reiterated his resolve to return to Pakistan from self-exile on Sunday as scheduled despite an assassination threat from the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP).

Media reports from Dubai quoted Gen. Musharraf as saying: “I shall go to Pakistan without any fear and threat. I don’t get scared by such threats. I have been facing them for the last 10 years.”

Earlier in the day, Reuters claimed to have accessed a video in which TTP said it had put together a squad to eliminate the former President.

In the video, Adnan Rasheed — who was taken out of Bannu Central Jail last April in a jailbreak by the TTP — said: “We have prepared a special squad to send Musharraf to hell. There are suicide bombers, snipers, a special assault unit and a close combat team. It is said when the jackal’s death is near, it comes to town.”

Gen. Musharraf is scheduled to land in Karachi on Sunday. Though he faces arrest warrants in three high profile cases including the assassination of former premier Benazir Bhutto, the threat of imprisonment on arrival has receded with the Sindh High Court granting him pre-arrival protective bail in all three cases.

His party — the All Pakistan Muslim League — has been trying to mobilise support for the former army chief’s return after nearly four-and-a-half years with an advertisement campaign across newspapers and television channels.

Gen. Musharraf’s return at this juncture — just ahead of the general elections — has left many wondering. The past week has seen many including the former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif — whom Gen. Musharraf ousted in the 1999 coup — softening their position on the former President.

Change of guard

Meanwhile, President Asif Ali Zardari has quit the post of co-chairman of the Pakistan Peoples Party in view of the case in the Lahore High Court questioning his dual role as head of state and party. Given the criticism about the Presidency being used for political purposes, Mr. Zardari has decided not to hold any official post in the party and made his son Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari the patron-in-chief of the PPP.

The PPP has also effected a change of guard at the office-bearers level amid rumours that Mr. Bilawal is not too happy with the five years of his party’s government.

Though he was launched with considerable fanfare in December and was a constant presence beside his father at party meetings earlier this year, the heir to the Bhutto legacy has been conspicuous by his absence in recent weeks.