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Musharraf Takes Heart From Facebook Fans for Pakistan Return

Sept. 15 (Bloomberg) -- Former Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf said he’s taking a cue from his Facebook following for how to regain power at polls scheduled for 2013 -- targeting the 60 percent of the country’s electorate who don’t vote.

Since setting up his Facebook Inc. page seven months ago, “to my surprise, I have a fan base of 295,000 people,” the retired general told reporters in Hong Kong following a speech at an investor forum organized by CLSA Asia-Pacific Markets.

Most of those following the site are inside Pakistan, with the majority in their 20s or early 30s, he said. Energizing voters among disaffected or marginalized groups such as the middle classes, women and young people “yearning for a change” can help him return to power, he said.

Musharraf, a former army chief who seized control of Pakistan in 1999 and became a U.S. ally against terrorism, stepped down as president in 2008 to avoid impeachment charges for illegally seizing power and mishandling the economy. He left Pakistan after resigning and now lives in London.

“We have to bring about a new political culture in Pakistan,” Musharraf said today. “The essence of democracy is not there in Pakistan, nor in the political parties of Pakistan.”

Musharraf reiterated plans to set up a new party, the All Pakistan Muslim League, and announce his political program at an event in London on Oct. 1. While any move back to Pakistan will be a “step by step” process, by the next election “I will be there in Pakistan,” Musharraf said.

Police in Pakistan last August issued charges against him for unlawfully keeping top judges under house arrest in 2007, when he imposed emergency rule in the country.

Musharraf said if he returns to Pakistan, some elements in the country may seek to oppose him using legal charges, adding that he is confident of defending himself against any accusations.

“My going back is dependent on an environment being created in Pakistan,” he said. “Nothing can happen, legally, against me.”

To contact the reporter on this story: Simeon Bennett in Singapore at sbennett9@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Paul Tighe at ptighe@bloomberg.net

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