Musharraf’s return to Pakistan is set to unleash cash for photo-op

US supporters chart out the program.

By Amna Ehtesham-Khaishgi

ABU DHABI: Gone are the days when branding was associated only with entertainment and sports. Politicians have now joined this league. And guess who has taken the initiative in the subcontinent? Who else, but General Pervez Musharraf. His political party, All Pakistan Muslim League (APML), has come out with an out-of-the-box political campaign.

Musharraf, who is currently based in the UAE, is eying a second innings with this campaign for the forthcoming general elections in Pakistan in mid-March. And this wouldn’t be a normal journey back home by any stretch of imagination.

APML has decided to put a price tag on all those who wish to join their leader during his journey. Titled “A unique opportunity to travel with General Musharraf to Pakistan” the US chapter of APML has charted out the program with the help of an event management company.

So if you wish to travel with Gen. Musharraf, one has to pay $2,500, which will include one-way seat on the plane carrying the leader from Dubai to Pakistan. It also includes invitations to a photo-op, reception and dinner in Dubai the night before departure. The second category will cost $1,000 and include dinner, reception and a photo op in Dubai while the third category is priced at $500 and will include a reception and a photo-op in Dubai. There is also a $250 ticket which ensures a hand-shake and a photo opportunity in Dubai the night before his departure.

According to social media inputs, over 8,000 people have already confirmed attendance at the event. However, organizers are reluctant to share the exact number of how many have actually paid. It is clear though that this exercise has become popular among Pakistani expatriates and they appear interested to use this opportunity.

Brand building around a politician is a new phenomenon in South Asia. Musharraf’s team is the first to take the plunge in a region where political loyalties are defined on the lines of caste and other social affiliations.
Office of General Pervez Musharraf (OGPM)’s North America representative Dr. Raza Bokhari describes the idea as a response to a popular demand of the Pakistani diaspora in United States, Canada, UK and GCC. “They have expressed keen interest to meet with General Musharraf and want to find a way to support him in his efforts to bring about change in Pakistan and break the political status quo,” the Philadelphia-based Bokhari says.

When asked whether South Asian politics, particularly in Pakistan, is mature enough to handle such corporate initiatives, Dr. Bokhari asserted that it is an evolving situation. “People in large numbers, especially the educated middle class, is beginning to realize that they have to contribute their time and treasure to help reshape the destiny of Pakistan by breaking the political status quo controlled by select affluent elites who have largely accumulated wealth through corrupt practices of abusing public trust.”

Dr Bokhari disagrees that the rate card is expensive and will discourage ordinary Pakistanis to use this platform. On the contrary, he believes that it is “an avenue for hard-working Pakistani expats to contribute their time and treasure to support the efforts of President Musharraf.”

On the security front, Dr Bokhari says, Musharraf is assigned full protection and security by the Government of the UAE and that is also the case in whichever country he is traveling in. He, however, is not willing to label this as a corporate exercise. According to him, it is a chance for Pakistani expatriates to give something back to their country.

Regardless of whether Musharraf manages to gain acceptance of the masses in Pakistan, it will be interesting to note how this new campaign initiative, launched by Pakistanis away from home, turns into a successfully political strategy. After all, as they say, there is nothing called free lunch! (Global India Newswire)

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