Revealed: Musharraf's luxury retirement pad
Monday 18 August 2008
The pool has yet to be filled, the curtains yet to be hung. But the new tenant of 1-A Park Road is expected any day soon.
This luxurious home in the quiet suburbs of Islamabad, less than six weeks from completion, has been built by Pervez Musharraf as a retirement home for himself and his wife. What he had probably not expected when he commissioned the house four years ago was that he might need it as a bolt-hole should his opponents force him from office.
Amid mounting speculation as to whether Mr Musharraf will resign or fight impeachment charges, there has been much talk as to where the President will live. The most likely destinations floated to date include the US, Turkey, Saudi Arabia and even Britain. But yesterday it was reported that Mr Musharraf was insisting that should he stand down, he wishes to retire to his Mediterranean-style home set in five acres of land.
If he decides to stay, it will be no surprise to Hammad Husain, the architect commissioned by Mr Musharraf. Yesterday, standing on the driveway of the house in Chak Shahzad, Mr Husain outlined the details of the home that will include a fish-pond, a walking track and an extraordinary amount of barbed wire.
"Most of what you see is his input, along with mine," said Mr Husain, as a team of labourers slaved beneath the blistering sun. "He has gone into the detail, he has been part of it and comes here to look at things." Mr Husain, a family friend of the Musharrafs, said the President's wife, Sehba, had chosen the curtains and fittings for the house, estimated at £1.25m.
Mr Husain said Mr Musharraf had a taste for greenery and that every room in the house was designed to have a view of the surrounding countryside. The property has been designed to be energy efficient, and a shaded terrace will allow the former commando to enjoy an evening cigar and tumbler of whisky. Mr Husain said the design was understated, and drew a comparison with the tastes of the President's political enemies, Nawaz Sharif and Asif Ali Zardari, who are trying to force him from office. Mr Sharif's taste was for ostentatious furniture, he said, while he gently mocked Mr Zardari's £4.5m country estate near Guildford. "This is no Surrey palace," he laughed. As the President confronts the end of his political career, the property at 1-A comes heavy with irony. Shortly before Mr Musharraf fired Pakistan's Chief Justice, Iftikhar Chaudhry – a move that spectacularly backfired – Mr Chaudhry had initiated a legal challenge that claimed the land in Chak Shahzad was reserved for farming, not residential use. The matter remains unsettled.
So, how do the residents of Chak Shahzad feel about their new neighbour? "I think there will be no problem. It will be better for all of us," said Sheikh Ahsan, an building consultant who owns a farm nearby. "I think the security will get even better around here." Another, Mushtaq Ali, a labourer, added: "We are just poor people. What difference can it make to us?"
Mr Musharraf's fate remains unclear. He could decide to fight the impeachment charges or else choose to leave, with an "exit package" and immunity deal brokered for him by foreign diplomats, the army and his lawyers. Yesterday Pakistan's Information Minister, Sherry Rehman, said that a charge sheet against Mr Musharraf had been completed and would be passed to the coalition government's leadership for approval. The impeachment process should begin sometime this week, she added.
Mr Musharraf, meanwhile, continues to insist that he will stay and fight his corner. His lawyers say he is ready to appear before parliament to defend himself. Even with his pool and newly laid-out grounds awaiting him, his lawyers insist Mr Musharraf is not ready for gardening duty just yet.
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