Musharraf is a coward: Lal Masjid cleric

Islamabad, May 31 (IANS) Former president Pervez Musharraf is a coward and does not have the courage to return to Pakistan, the chief cleric of the Lal Masjid, the scene of a bloody siege three years ago, said Monday

Talking to reporters here after being acquitted in a case in which he had been charged with the unauthorised occupation of a children’s library, Aziz challenged Musharraf to find out for himself if he (Musharraf) has the support of Pakistan’s people.

Aziz still faces some 20 cases, including murder and abduction, and expressed confidence that he would be acquitted in these too, Online news agency reported.

It was during Musharraf’s tenure that the army besieged the mosque July 3-11, 2007 after an 18-month standoff over its increasing control by Islamist militants.

The operations resulted in the death of 154 militants and the capture of 50 of them.

Musharraf resigned as president under pressure in 2008 and left the country soon after. Since then, he has been on a lecture tour of the US, Britain and Europe.

He said May 20 he plans to return home to re-enter politics and indicated he wants to be the prime minister.

Musharraf initially declined to say whether he was eyeing a particular office, telling CNN’s Wolf Blitzer: ‘The question… of whether I am running for president or prime minister will be seen later.’

But his subsequent remarks clearly implied he wants to be the prime minister.

‘We run a parliamentary system there’ Musharraf said, adding: ‘So you have to — your party has to win in the election. Then only do you decide to run.’

‘Basically, you are heading the party, you are running for the prime ministership,’ he said.

‘Because in Pakistan, the chief executive is the prime minister, not the president,’ he added.

Musharraf, however, said he was unsure about the exact timing of his return.