ISLAMABAD - Instead of coming out boldly in media to claim some sort of moral-political upper hand after braving many-months-long house arrest, former President Gen Pervez Musharraf is unusually silent these days, adhering strictly to advice from his aides to focus on the high-profile cases against him.

It may be unusual, unlike him, but people may not see the bold and impulsive former military ruler-turned politician in action through media for quite some days as he is said to be more interested in taking a visit abroad, may be for some days, to inquire after his ailing mother. His journey abroad will remain pending till exclusion of his name from Exit Control List (ECL) of the government, and any decision to this effect will be decided by the Sindh High Court which has already been approached by his legal team. For now, some of his close aides think crucial political-security issues like American drone strikes and nonstarter talks with Pakistani Taliban dominating the national scene at the moment were not conducive for him (Musharraf) to indulge in controversies which many in the country perceive is painful continuity of his era.

Politically, the euphoria created by his friends and aides on his return from self-exile earlier this year, has ended unceremoniously. The notion that the former general enjoyed tacit backing of the present day military establishment has also died down with the passage of time. His former colleagues believe providing security to the former head of state and military, and then making sure he doesn’t end up in some jail in a humiliating fashion was more of an institutional decision to safeguard prestige of the office (chief of the army) rather than a personality. Even his arrival earlier this year was not more than his personal decision, and against advice from his friends in the military establishment. The same stands true for his stay or departure in near future, some officials believe. All the talk about a major pre-election political move to install Musharraf at the centre of some political alliance has evaporated in the stark realities of post-election politics, especially when his staunch opponent PML-N is in power.

Perhaps, with this state of mind, the plan to hold an immediate press conference at the end of his months-long house arrest was put off last week, even when one of his top legal aides, Ahmed Raza Kasuri, announced it in media the day Musharraf’s house arrest ended formally. Of-late, realisation to keep low till the right time is prevalent in the Musharraf camp these days.

“General Musharraf may not appear in media for quite some time as he is in consultations with his legal aides to focus on court cases,” his party, All Pakistan Muslim League (APML) secretary general, Dr Amjad, told The Nation. “At the moment he is with family, meeting friends and aides. Let’s see what he decides for the near future, or about interaction with media,” he added.

Dr Amjad especially mentioned the three four-tier strict security cordons around the former military strongman even when his months-long house arrest ended recently. “Even I had to get clearance at three levels to meet him. This is the procedure to meet him in the present environment when there is a high security threat to the former president’s life,” he said.  As the situation stands today, Gen Musharraf has got bail from respective courts in all the four high profile cases – Benazir murder case, Bugti murder case, Lal Mosque as well as November 2007 emergency imposition. The PML-N government that Musharraf deposed in October 1999 through a bloodless coup has yet to come up with formal complaint against the former general in a treason case it announced in June last to institute. The decision to this effect may not come in near future due to sensitivities involved, PML-N people believe.  Politically, Musharraf feels isolated at the moment. As none of the major political parties of the country is ready to sit with him or indulge with his toothless APML at any forum.

The situation is grimmer in the backdrop of security challenges the country faces due to terrorism, which touched its peak during his era, some go to the extent of squarely blaming him for the mess. With no political clout and slogans to boast at the moment, even the former King’s party, the PML-Q, which came to power in 2002 through patronage of Musharraf, seems allergic of their one-time patron. Even after facing a rout in this year’s elections, PML-Q has silently but practically fixed eyes on Imran Khan for leadership role as the local body elections in Punjab are round the corner.

MQM which was another favourite of Musharraf during his rule is also keeping a safe distance though there is a sizeable goodwill in its ranks for the former military ruler. The affairs of his party are no different. It is almost non-existent in important cities and towns of the country except some ceremonial office bearers, and a handful of people representing the central party organisation.

“What can we do, for now? Should we talk against the present government or judiciary etc? So it is better for us to focus on cases and get General Musharraf’s lifetime disqualification from electoral politics lifted?” says the party’s secretary general, Dr Amjad, when asked about the political strategy of the party. To be fair to Musharraf and his party, the APML, many think, will take them several months to come out of the political isolation and structural woes, and that too if their leader gets a clean chit in court trials expected to be a tediously long and tiring process.