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Self-Exile Semiotics

by Newsweek Pakistan
Self-Exile Semiotics

Asif Hassan—AFP

Karachi, March 24, 2013

The similarities were uncanny. Pervez Musharraf ended his self-imposed exile from Pakistan, on March 24, in a fashion similar to Benazir Bhutto’s. Like the assassinated ex-prime minister, the ex-president touched down in his hometown of Karachi on an Emirates flight, with journalists in tow, from Dubai. Like in her iconic disembarkation photo, her hands raised in tearful prayer, the shalwar kameez-clad Musharraf struck a similar pose. Like her, an imamzamin adorned his arm to protect him from evil. The sound bites of brave fatalism—expressing blind faith in God in the face of threats from militants—were also the same. Musharraf has returned, he said, to “save the country,” despite facing, like Bhutto, express warnings from the Taliban that they will kill him. But unlike Bhutto, Musharraf (who was thronged by a few hundreds and not hundreds of thousands like her in October 2007) could not go ahead with his homecoming progress. Authorities cancelled his planned rally at Jinnah’s mausoleum citing security fears. As a former president and Army chief, Musharraf has been provided state security and is residing in the fortress comforts of the Avari Towers hotel as he plots his political future. Coming home was the easy part. Musharraf now has to confront a host of powerful enemies—the chief justice of Pakistan, Nawaz Sharif, Akbar Bugti’s sons, rightwing media, and, of course, the Taliban—and somehow survive.

From our April 5, 2013, issue.

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