LAHORE - Will former army chief and president Pervez Musharraf leave the country or not is a question difficult to be answered at this point of time. However, the developments concerning the issue strongly hint at the keen interest of those international powers to broker a deal between Musharraf and top leadership of the incumbent government which brokered a similar deal between the two in December 2000.

According to informed sources close to the developments regarding Musharraf’s status told this correspondent on Friday that some international powers as well as the high command of the current ruling party wanted that the former strongman should leave the country to avoid a difficult situation likely to emerge after the continuous silent friction between a powerful and meaningful quarter of the state and the ruling party.

They said that international players which facilitated the ruling party’s deal with the military government of Musharraf in December 2000 strongly desire peace between their two vital friends as both the parties are vital for them of which one enjoys the support of the populace while another, it is believed, enjoys support over the strong security forces.

Informing of the support of Musharraf’s institution, they maintained that the former army chief enjoys complete support of his former organisation, however, they would leave the matter to Musharraf whether he wants to leave the country or not.

They added the members of Musharraf’s institution would be closely watching the circumstances if he decides not to leave the country despite the efforts of his friends in the country or international powers.

The sources maintained that the opinion emerging from various ranks of Musharraf’s institution in the recent past was unwelcoming concerning the treatment meted out to the former army chief during the course of various trails against him.

Major-General (R) Rashid Qureshi, a close aide of Musharraf, talking to The Nation from Armed Forces Institute of Cardiology (AFIC), insisted,

“The former president is not ready to leave the country under any circumstances and will face the situation as he did after his arrival in the country.” He, however, added that all those who desire to send Musharraf out of the country should wait for the medical report of his doctors.

Answering a question, he said, “The ex-COAS hasn’t asked for assistance of any international power, however, he cannot stop his friends to do something for him as he still enjoys strong contacts in Middle East and Western powers.”

Commenting over the support of his former institution, he claimed, “Musharraf has not demanded anything from his colleagues, but he can demand certain privileges, being a former army chief and president.”

Ahmed Raza Kasuri, a counsel of Musharraf and his close aide, when contacted, said, “Anybody can leave the country on medical grounds if a board of medical practitioners establishes in a court of law that the treatment of any accused is not possible in the country while Musharraf, being a citizen of this country, has this right.” About the support of former institution of Musharraf, he said it was but natural that they would support their ex-army chief.

Replying to a question about meetings of senior military officials with Musharraf in AFIC, he said the former army chief is on complete rest and is not allowed to take any mental stress.

Sheikh Rashid Ahmed, a vital member of Musharraf’s regime, when called, said, “The forces are 100 percent behind Musharraf, however, nobody can avert a trial on medical grounds.” He remarked that many big political personalities left the country on medical grounds in the past and there is no harm if Musharraf leaves the country on similar grounds.

Raja Basharat, a senior leader of PML-Q, the party which was believed to be founded with the blessings of Musharraf, when contacted, said, “It is very clear now that former institution of Musharraf is standing behind him. He is being treated in AFIC and the same institution is providing security to him there.”

He added it was the duty of the government to provide security and medical facilities to a former president and army chief, but Musharraf’s former institution came forward when the government failed to dicharge its duties on this count.

Basharat remarked that the ruling party should take a clear position over Musharraf’s episode and should not mislead its electorates by hiding behind the judiciary.