Justice records show former Pakistani president's new political ambitions

Justice Department records show that Pervez Musharraf, the former Pakistani president who resigned under pressure in 2008, still harbors political ambitions as his country readies for its 2013 general elections.

Pakistani-Americans considered close to Musharraf have filed registration forms with the Justice Department's Foreign Agent Registration Unit this week to represent the former Army chief of staff as well as his own political party, the All Pakistan Muslim League, here in the United States.

Once considered a close U.S. ally in the war against terror, Musharraf soon found himself in hot water with the international community after his government cracked down on a lawyer-led pro-democracy movement in his country. After facing calls for his impeachment, Musharraf would step down in 2008.

The ex-military general now lives in London where he launched his political party last year. Musharaff has said he plans to return to Pakistan in the future and run for political office.

His representatives here in the United States could help further his ambitions.

Raza Bokhari, a Pakistani-American, has had “a personal relationship” with Musharraf since 2004 and, beginning last summer, has voluntarily been operating the former general’s “global office”; “coordinating paid public lectures”; and “serving as a liaison to a speakers’ bureau,” according to Justice records.

Bokhari registered “out of the abundance of caution” because he might end up doing “political activity” on behalf of Musharraf here in the United States, such as scheduling meetings between the former military man and government officials.

“Since he maintains a political profile, it is better safe than sorry,” Bokhari told The Hill.

Another Pakistani-American and former Musharraf political appointee, Nasim Ashraf, has filed registration forms to represent Musharraf’s political party.

According to Justice Department records, the party has organized “community events” in America where Musharraf has spoken at and plans to raise funds for its U.S. operations. The party registered “out the abundance of caution” and does not plan to fundraise for its Pakistani counterpart.

Ashraf said the party has organized about 11 events in U.S. cities so far, resulting in local party chapters.

“The whole idea was to create a grass-roots movements here,” Ashraf said. “Our goal is to raise funds here for our political education and community activities of Pakistani-Americans and other like-minded individuals.”

Musharraf may be in need of all the support that he can get. A Pakistani arrest warrant has been issued for the ex-general due to his alleged involvement in the 2007 plot to assassinate Benazir Bhutto, charges that he has denied in the past.

Bokhari dismissed the warrant, saying there were no ties between Musharraf and the assassination plot.

“It is unwarranted judicial activism that has been prevailing there for quite some time now,” Bokhari said. “It is more political than anything else.”

An United Nations investigation released last year criticized the Musharraf government for not providing Bhutto with adequate enough security when she was killed leaving a campaign rally.