Mom effect on Musharraf - Mother's 'last wish' plays key role in 'exit' talks

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By OUR SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT in Delhi
  • Published 19.08.08
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New Delhi, Aug. 19: When Pervez Musharraf worked out his exit deal, he may have had in mind advice from his mother Zarin, the former President’s family sources said.

Zarin, who is in her 80s, had prodded her son to centre the negotiations on her “last wish” to live and die in her homeland, they said.

Musharraf yesterday resigned under a Saudi-brokered deal that gives him indemnity for his actions as President, and allows him to decide if he should stay in Pakistan or leave for a foreign country of his choice, government sources reaffirmed today.

Zarin had made it clear to Musharraf she was not willing to leave Pakistan under pressure from politicians, a relative said. The widow of diplomat Syed Musharrafuddin insisted that seeking asylum in the US, Turkey, Saudi Arabia or anywhere else was not acceptable to her.

Zarin, who had studied at Delhi’s Indraprastha College before taking up a United Nations job, is a proud Pakistani with great regard for Maulana Abul Kalam Azad, Mahatma Gandhi and many other freedom struggle stalwarts.

It’s still not fully clear, though, whether Musharraf will succeed in fulfilling her wishes although his relatives said the “exit route” had been the “best among the worst-case scenarios”.

Government officials said Musharraf had told the government he wanted to stay on in the country for “quite sometime”. They added that the former President might later go to Saudi Arabia and stay there for a while, but planned to eventually return and live in Pakistan.

For now, he is likely to visit Mecca on the Umrah pilgrimage. From there he may travel to the US to meet his younger brother Naved, a doctor based in Chicago, and son Bilal, who lives in Boston, Pakistani media reports said.

Musharraf spent a quiet day with his family, not receiving any visitors today at Army House in Rawalpindi, from where he is likely to shift to his own farmhouse on Islamabad’s outskirts in a few days.

“The government will provide foolproof security to the former President under the blue book, which deals with the security of VVIPs, though it is highly unlikely that he would be moving around in the near future,” an official said in Islamabad. He added that army commandos would continue to guard Musharraf.

Even if he doesn’t travel much, Musharraf is likely to keep in close touch with his relatives -- spread over Pakistan, India, West Asia, the UK and the US – as he had done during the past few weeks.

A relative who met him recently said the former army chief had been confident about getting a “fair deal” throughout the recent crisis. In the initial days, particularly, Musharraf was certain that his adversaries would not be able to overcome their political differences and gang up against him.

Some of his distant relatives believe that the former President had erred by simultaneously taking on the judiciary and media, which led to his image being tarnished and his lines of communication with the masses snapped.

Some other associates of Musharraf feel that his long career in the army had stunted his growth as a politician, though in the past nine years he had proved himself a survivor. They said the retired general’s inability to appreciate the democratic ethos, and to deal with constructive dissent or political ambiguity, proved his undoing.

For instance, when India witnessed a change of government in 2004, Musharraf had hoped that Manmohan Singh and Sonia Gandhi would speed up the peace process. When this did not happen because of their domestic political compulsions, he used to wonder aloud why the new Indian leadership was being so considerate and cautious about parties that had lost the polls.

Musharraf had wanted Sonia to visit Pakistan but the Congress president did not come. When Musharraf’s son Bilal called on her along with grandmother Zarin, the guests insisted that Sonia should visit Pakistan as a “goodwill gesture”.

Sonia was polite but made it clear that Manmohan would be visiting Pakistan first.

With inputs from Our Special Correspondent in Islamabad