Dawn has learnt that prominent among them are Hamid Nasir Chattha, sitting member of Punjab Assembly, former federal ministers Khursheed Kasuri, Chaudhry Shahbaz and Ghulam Sarwar Khan, his press liaison officer Maj-Gen (retired) Rashid Qureshi and Barrister Mohammad Ali Saif.
“We reached here on September 23. Other colleagues also wanted to be here but Musharraf Sahib told them to stay in Pakistan and work for the party there,” Chaudhry Shahbaz told Dawn on phone from London where the former ruler is to announce his entry into politics at a press conference.
Interestingly, supporters applied for the party’s registration long before its launch. But the Election Commission had been sitting on their application since March.
Gen Musharraf had ruled Pakistan for nine years when a popular movement triggered by his confrontation with the top judiciary forced him to resign in August 2008 and go, like many others, into self-exile.
And like them, he saw an opportunity in the bitter political infighting and economic crises that followed his departure to stage a come back with the support of old loyalists. His powerful detractors at home promise him a rough welcome as criminal cases registered after his departure await him in the courts.
That, the 67-year-old former commando president has said, does not scare him and that he is intent upon “to try to lift Pakistan out of its pathetic situation”.
Although the PML-Q party, the mainstay of his military rule, had dumped him, Gen Musharraf recently boasted to a private TV channel that he would contest the 2013 general elections and become president once again.
His political pointman in Pakistan, Barrister Saif, however, claims that he has assurances from many prominent politicians that they would join the Musharraf venture soon. “Over 200,000 people have enlisted as members since we started our membership campaign in March,” he said.
“Cases made out against Gen Musharraf are so weak that they cannot be pursued in the court,” lawyer Saif said.
Musharraf’s associates recently met the chief of Pakistan Muslim League-Functional, Pir Pagara, who is engaged in unifying Muslim League factions.
“Pir Sahib has assured us that his party will merge into, or become an ally of Musharraf’s All Pakistan Muslim League,” said Chaudhry Shahbaz. In case of merger, the proudly pro-army Pir Sahib would work for electing Musharraf president of the new party, according to him.