Musharraf's UAE supporters prepare to fly to Pakistan for protests

Activists are angry at what they call unfair treatment of the ex-president since his return to Pakistan at the end of March after four years of self-imposed exile.

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DUBAI // Pervez Musharraf's supporters in the UAE are preparing to fly to Pakistan to hold protests backing the former president.

Talks between senior members of Mr Musharraf’s All Pakistan Muslim League (APML) have taken place this weekend in Pakistan and included some based in the UAE.

“We are currently trying to lay the groundwork to allow for Mr Musharraf’s supporters in the UAE to go to Pakistan and take part in demonstrations,” said Tabish Zaidi, a member of the party’s central working committee in Dubai.

“We know that most of the supporters have jobs here and so it will probably be a case of some people only going over for a couple of days, while others might be able to get more time off.”

Mr Zaidi said dates for the protests had not been decided as they would be part of a wider media campaign in Pakistan.
But he said they would take place before Ramadan in July.

“The demonstrations will take place in all of the major cities in Pakistan and we have seven members of our Dubai team in the country organising with people on the ground,” Mr Zaidi said.

Party activists are angry at what they call unfair treatment of Mr Musharraf since his return to Pakistan at the end of March after four years of self-imposed exile.

He returned to contest elections but was barred by the courts and is under house arrest on charges that he unlawfully detained judges in 2007.

“It’s very difficult to get any access to Mr Musharraf,” said Mr Zaidi. “He isn’t allowed visitors, cannot send emails or make calls, and that is not fair.”

Supporters say they are concerned he will not receive a fair trial and plan to highlight his plight as part of a wider campaign.

“We are sure there is a lot of support for Mr Musharraf in Pakistan but because the media there isn’t highlighting this issue we need to push them,” said Mr Zaidi.

The party plans to pay for advertisements in Pakistani papers telling the public what it intends to do.

“In terms of supporters from the UAE going over to protest that is not something we are forcing people to do,” Mr Zaidi said.

Although the APML boycotted the general election on May 11, it still won two seats, one each in the national and provincial assemblies.

Mr Musharraf also denies charges that he failed to provide adequate security to former prime minister Benazir Bhutto before her assassination in 2007.

He has had Taliban death threats and a car bomb had to be defused by police close to his home on the outskirts of Islamabad last month.

The then Gen Musharraf came to power in a military coup in 1999. He was president from 2001 to 2008.