Former Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf has said he would be prepared to return to office in Pakistan if the political and economic situation in his country continues to deteriorate
Pervez Musharraf has said he would be prepared to return to office in Pakistan In a rare interview since being forced to resign from office last year, Mr Musharraf, said he would consider serving a second term as Pakistan’s president if he felt he could make a valuable contribution.
“If Pakistan is in a nosedive, or about to self-destruct, if I can contribute something to rectify the situation, certainly I will. My life is for Pakistan,” he said. “I still believe that Pakistan comes first.”
Mr Musharraf, 65, ruled Pakistan for nine years after seizing power in a bloodless coup in 1999 and became a close ally of the West in the war on terror following the September 11 attacks.
He was forced to resign last August after helping the country’s successful transition to democracy, and has successfully resisted attempts by the civilian government to prosecute him for violating the constitution during his presidency.
Interviewed by Sir David Frost for the al-Jazeera television channel, Mr Musharraf said he had decided to resign because if he had remained in office he would have become “some kind of an impotent president. I’m not the kind of person who sits around uselessly. I can’t be a useless man.”
But since stepping down Mr Musharraf said he had become “despondent” about what was happening in Pakistan, particularly now the Taliban has been allowed to introduce Sharia law to the Swat valley, which was previously controlled by Islamabad.
The former Pakistani President said “terrorism and extremism” were the biggest threat to Pakistan’s future, and he was opposed to the deal the government of President Ali Asif Zardari had struck with the Taliban allowing it to control the Swat valley. “Denying the constitution of Pakistan, and bringing in laws which are different from Pakistan, must not be allowed,” he said. “We don’t want that kind of Islam in Pakistan. We don’t want Talibanisation in Pakistan.”
Mr Musharraf said he believed the Taliban now constituted a far greater threat to Pakistan’s future than al-Qaeda, which he estimated had only about 300 activists based in the country. The Taliban posed a greater threat because “they get strength from the population. al-Qaeda does not get strength from the population.”
And he warned that there was a “trust deficit” developing between Washington and Pakistan over how best to tackle Islamist militant groups. “The worst part of the whole situation is that there is a trust deficit between the U.S. and Pakistan’s intelligence service (ISI) and in many quarters against the army. Now that is a very serious situation which never previously existed.
“These are the two institutions which are the guarantors of stability in Pakistan. If anything has to be repaired, it has to be this trust deficit. Otherwise the two elements which are critical to fighting terrorism and extremism will be demoralised and not get the support they deserve.”
Mr Musharraf also criticised America’s use of Predator unmanned aircraft to attack Islamist militants in Pakistan. “We cannot allow any foreign force to attack on our side of the border,” he said. “We must use our own forces. And whatever resources are lacking – such as Predator aircraft – Pakistan must be given those resources.”
Nor did he believe had there been any significant change in American policy since Barack Obama became U.S. president. “He has taken the decision to send more force. So what was happening in the past? There was a force requirement and he is following exactly the same strategy.”
Mr Musharraf said he had no regrets about allying Pakistan with Washington following the September 11 attacks. “It was the right decision from Pakistan’s point of view.”
* Former Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf’s interview with Sir David Frost will be broadcast on Frost Over the World on al Jazeera on Friday at 8pm.