You could say the writing was on the wall for Pervez Musharraf's return to Pakistan even last month -- the Facebook wall of his party that is:
You are all requested not to use bad language while making comments. We are all Pakistani's and we are always representing our great Nation! Please do not post vulgar comments or abuses as it reflects badly on ALL of us. We are not a nation that abuses our own people! Sab Say Pehlay Pakistan! (Pakistan First)
The message was also posted on Mr. Musharraf's official page, and sent out through his Twitter account. It was an embarrassing moment for a campaign that has pioneered the use of social networking. For not only had the Facebook account been used to generate support, it had also become a magnet for criticism. And with Mr. Musharraf last night announcing that he was reconsidering his plan to return to Pakistan by the end of January, it is a reminder that he remains a deeply divisive character.
The problem for the former military ruler as he plots his return to the country he ruled for nine years, is that the divide is between voters at home and the world outside.
His urbane manner makes him a popular draw on the lecture and chat show circuit abroad. And in Western capitals he is remembered as the leader who quickly threw in his lot with the U.S. after 9/11, delivering several notable successes against al-Qaeda, such as the capture of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the mastermind of the attacks.
Closer to home, his popularity nosedives. Few have forgotten the way in which he clung to power in 2007, introducing emergency powers and arresting judges for trying to limit his reach. He eventually stepped down a year later after his party was trounced in elections and impeachment loomed.
The military, who propelled him to power in 1999, don't want him back. They are still rebuilding their reputation and have shifted allegiance to Imran Khan's upstart campaign. (A senior member of Mr. Musharraf's party here in Pakistan told me the triumphal homecoming had been delayed after the generals delivered a message that he was to stay away for now.)
Then there are the legal challenges. Two warrants have been issued for his arrest -- and a third case has been filed - so there is a good chance he would be detained as soon as he stepped off the plane. Local officials say they have already cleaned out a prison cell.
Members of his All Pakistan Muslim League in Pakistan can see the challenges. They have urged him to delay. So for now, the question is not when or if he will return, but why it is that he thinks he has any hope of contesting elections due within the next year?
But as one commentator put it to me: He is like any other good dictator -- deluded to the point where he still believes his people love him.