SOUTH Yorkshire’s Pakistani community was divided by the Sheffield visit of controversial former president Pervez Musharraf.
Mr Musharraf led Pakistan for nine years after he took power in 1999 through a military coup. He has been living in exile in London since he was forced out in 2008.
The retired four-star general, who is now planning to return to Pakistan to fight the presidential election in 2013, visited Sheffield to gather support and funds from the city’s 20,000 Pakistani community.
Mr Musharraf’s new party, the All Pakistan Muslim League, organised a reception at the Sheffield Park Hotel, followed by a banquet in Attercliffe.
Amjid Imtiaz, president of the party’s Sheffield youth wing, said around 1,600 people attended the events.
He said: “There was an outstanding reception, not one person had a bad word to say. Mr Musharraf talked about his return to Pakistan and the state of affairs in the country. It was a successful event.”
The general’s planned return to politics has been complicated by the issue of a Pakistan warrant for his arrest, alleging his involvement in the assassination of popular leader Benazir Bhutto in late 2007.
Pakistan-born Labour Burngreave councillor Ibrar Hussain refused an invitation to the event.
He said: “I’m not one of his fans. I think he is a man who has done so much damage to Pakistan. I cannot support someone who is on the run from a Pakistani court. He should go back to Pakistan and face trial.”
One of the most senior members of the city’s Pakistani community, Sheffield Council’s Lib Dem opposition leader Shaffaq Mohammed, did attend. He said: “Pervez Musharraf came to Sheffield because there are 20,000 people with a Pakistani background and he was appealing to provide funding.
“I was invited to say a few words but wanted to remain impartial and told how Sheffield has always been a place where different political parties fight to protect people’s freedoms. Mr Musharraf outlined what his plans were and how he would deal with some of the problems which have arisen in Pakistan since he left power before.”