ISLAMABAD (Reuters) - Pakistan’s Taliban have threatened to despatch suicide bombers and snipers to kill former President Pervez Musharraf when he returns home from exile on Sunday to contest elections.
In a Taliban video obtained by Reuters, Adnan Rasheed, who took part in a previous attempt to assassinate Musharraf, warned: “The mujahideen of Islam have prepared a special squad to send Musharraf to hell. There are suicide bombers, snipers, a special assault unit and a close combat team.”
Musharraf angered the Taliban and other groups by joining the U.S. war on terror following the September 11 attacks and by later launching a major crackdown on militancy in Pakistan.
He is due to return home on Sunday after nearly four years of self-imposed exile in Dubai and London, in time to take part in parliamentary elections on May 11.
Musharraf seized power in a 1999 coup and resigned in 2008 when his allies lost a vote and a new government threatened him with impeachment. He left the country a year later.
The former army general faces the possibility of arrest on charges that he failed to provide adequate security for former prime minister Benazir Bhutto before her assassination in 2007, and in relation to other cases.
But his most immediate concern may be the Taliban, who are seeking revenge for his crackdown on militants fighting to topple the U.S.-backed government and impose their austere version of Islam.
“When the jackal’s death is near he heads to the town,” said Rasheed, who was among 400 prisoners who were broken out of a jail by militants in 2012.
Militants were especially enraged when Musharraf’s security forces launched a full-scale attack on Islamabad’s sprawling Red Mosque in 2007 after followers of radical clerics running a Taliban-style movement from there refused to surrender.
The government said 102 people were killed in fighting when the complex was stormed.
“The Pakistani Taliban is fully prepared to deal with this pharoah. If God is willing, we will give this devil what he deserves and give satisfaction to the victims of the Red Mosque,” said Taliban spokesman Ehsanullah Ehsan in the video.
In the footage, hooded militants in combat gear clutching AK-47 assault rifles conduct training exercises along hills. Some practice making a roadside bomb, which later explodes.
“Pervez Musharraf you see the death squad around me,” said a bearded man who appears to be their trainer, in English. “We urge you to surrender yourself to us, otherwise we will hit you from where you will never reckon.”
It’s not clear whether Musharraf will manage to regain influence in Pakistan, where strong contenders for the election include Nawaz Sharif, the man he ousted in a military coup, and cricketer-turned-politician Imran Khan.
But he remains ambitious. Musharraf has invested in his political party and has been apparently seeking support from influential Saudi Arabia.
But Musharraf has been far removed from Pakistan’s stormy politics and its streets, where demands have been rising for an end to corruption, poverty and crippling power cuts.
In Dubai, he lives in a luxurious part of the emirate.
Writing by Michael Georgy; Editing by Sanjeev Miglani