Have you forgotten all that Musharraf did for you, Pakistan?

By Rafay Bin Ali

Rulers never have absolute power. There are millions of interests that have to be accounted for prior to taking decisions that affect nations and their citizens.

It was just another day, on October 12, 1999, in New York City where I was an undergraduate student. Little did I realise then that it was the day that would go down as one of the most controversial days in Pakistan’s history.
It was the day when the Pakistan International Airlines’ (PIA) flight PK 805, was denied landing rights in Pakistan on its return from Sri Lanka. A detour out of Pakistani territory would have meant an imminent crash of the commercial airliner, due to low fuel, with its 198 passengers on board. Amongst the passengers was none other than General Pervez Musharraf – a man who was to become the country’s first-ever Chief Executive and was destined to bring about some positive social changes in the life of the average Pakistani.

In his book Hijacking from the Ground, Mr Aminullah Chaudhry, then director general Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) in Karachi, narrated the incident in the following words:

Hijacking From The Ground. Source: Google Books (www.books.google.com.pk)

General Pervez Musharraf was truly a blessing in disguise for all Pakistanis. Whether we dare to admit it or not, Pakistan saw some of its best years in terms of economic progress and social stability under his rule.

I, for one – an average Pakistani – have intermediate needs to worry about which my counterparts in the West often take for granted.

Social security, which forms the hallmark of the democratic and developed governance systems of the West, is absent without a doubt. In the absence of government support, issues such as employment, wages and prices take precedence over treason trials. Although it is critical and vital to get our ‘houses’ of governance in order, usually the systems follow strong social foundations. However, in Pakistan we seem to have it the other way around – a top-down approach – where we aim to develop macro systems of governance without considering the ground realities.

These ground realities are that life and living conditions for an average Pakistani are at an all-time low. Although we saw a moderate rise in living standards during the years of General Musharraf, even those indicators have fallen during the last five years.
Ask any Pakistani and I can bet that they would say that we were more financially sound from the perspective of an average Pakistan then than we are currently.

Over the last five years, the lower-middle class has slipped into further financial decline.

Still don’t believe me?

For a quick comparison, please take a look at the infographic below to put things into perspective. The graph clearly shows that the economic decline only came about after Musharraf vacated the presidential seat. A growth rate of 5.14% is only a consequence of sound economic policies that trickled down to the common Pakistani. Yes, there was probably corruption and most likely, plenty of it. But the living standard of an average Pakistani was also rising.

Now compare this with some figures from as recent as 2013 when inflation was at 11.3% in April.

Design: Ali Darab

Moving onto factors other than economic prosperity, I, an average Pakistani, care more about the fact that our literacy rate rose by approximately 11% under Musharraf than about the technical fact that the constitution was held in abeyance by him.

And I can say, without a doubt, that any Pakistani, irrespective of political affiliation, cannot deny the importance of hundreds of kilometres of highways constructed, a decrease in poverty levels by approximately 10% and the establishment of a wide network of universities.

If we look at it from a more macroeconomic perspective, Pakistan’s foreign exchange reserves rose to approximately $17 billion, and sectors such as manufacturing and IT saw unprecedented growth. A flourishing manufacturing sector and IT industry translates into jobs and employment opportunities, which in turn, means social security – one of the most fundamental requirements to lower petty crimes and thefts in a society.

Unemployment actually fell during the Musharraf years and rapidly rose during the years termed as ‘democratic’.
As facts tell us, it was nothing but a massive mirage of sorts.

Source: Economic Evaluation of Democracies and Dictatorships (http://www.slideshare.net)

Moreover, inflation was tightly controlled as illustrated in the following graph:

Source: Economic Evaluation of Democracies and Dictatorships (http://www.slideshare.net)

Still, in case you doubt statistics reported by local bodies, here is what the World Bank reports about the overall economic performance of Pakistan during Musharraf’s reign.

Source: Musharraf’s Economic Legacy (http://www.riazhaq.com)

Hence, it comes as no surprise that the International Monetary Fund (IMF) declared Pakistan as the fastest growing economy after China and India during his years.

I don’t know about you but I would pick progress of this magnitude over meaningless constitutional violations any day. Yes, building institutions is important. But strong institutions only result from a process of evolution – they cannot be crafted artificially with superficial doses of ‘democratic governance’.

We may not realise it or we may not want to admit it, but the Musharraf years were more ‘democratic’ – at least for the common man.

Why, you ask?

Democracy is a mindset

I believe that democracy is a mind-set where dissent from the status quo is not brutally persecuted and suppressed. Democracy is not ‘the best revenge’ – it is the best, period.

Did we not see the rise of electronic media with an unprecedented freedom-of-expression during the years that some term as ‘undemocratic’. The years under Musharraf were far from being undemocratic and the biggest testament to this is the proliferation of electronic media which even had the liberty to take Musharraf himself to task when the need arose.

Freedom to question the official narrative was officially encouraged

Musharraf also set the precedent for his successors. His years in power set the practise of both, media and people freely questioning those in power without incurring either the wrath of the rulers or censorship. This was a massive achievement in Pakistan’s context and a key pre-requisite for true democratic dispensations. And we must acknowledge General Musharraf for this achievement.
Acknowledgment of mistakes – the good and bad go hand-in-hand

Yes, General Musharraf did make some mistakes – blunders that were too massive to be forgiven or forgotten. And yes, some of those had huge repercussions for the country. But then, who does not err? Is there any human that has never erred?

Other than the divinely appointed prophets and messengers of God, there is no human on earth who is perfect; the good and bad go hand-in-hand. One characteristic trait that I notice in most Pakistanis is that they not only forget their benefactors but they also fail to realise that a system can never be 100% perfect.

However, it is crucial to measure the performance of governments in terms of what they delivered to the people. Most people would agree without a doubt that the most prosperous years of Pakistan were those of Ayub Khan and General Musharraf.

Given all these facts, the question in my opinion is not whether we should indulge in a trial or not. The more pertinent question is whether we can afford it.

It is a classic cost-benefit and Return-On-Investment (ROI) analysis that most business organisations indulge in. After all, a country and its management are not very different from an organisation.

In fact, a country is an organisation by all definitions and practical implementations.

Remember – it was a hijack

The most important thing that we need to remember is that the airliner was officially hijacked without the slightest regard for all the regular Pakistanis who were returning home. This was not a Pakistan Armed Forces aircraft and neither was it a private jet on contract. A diversion of the plane without adequate fuel to sustain the air travel would have caused the plane to crash. Hence, my only question to the people is this,

“Is a treason trial more important than the verdict of death that was officially handed to each one of those Pakistanis on board PK-805?”

Please let us invoke some sensibility and realise that even though General Musharraf did make mistakes, he also made sincere and honest efforts to transform the living standards for an average Pakistani with the little amount of ‘real power’ that he wielded.
The treatment that he is being meted out now makes my head fall in shame and rise in awe simultaneously.

Is this the way to treat a person who actually did something to make my life better?

Is it right to haul him to court under charges that are quite superficial compared to the improvements he brought in the social infrastructure of Pakistan?

What kind of a lesson are we sending to the future leaders of Pakistan – that if you dare to work towards improving the living conditions of Pakistanis, you would not only be prosecuted, but also persecuted and hounded?

While you are in the process of answering these questions, do try and recall that the plane was on the verge of a crash with approximately 198 Pakistani civilians on board.

It may be hard for some to fathom this but rulers never have absolute power. There are millions of interests that have to be accounted for prior to taking decisions that affect nations and their citizens.

Considering the sycophants that surrounded Musharraf, it is not only remarkable that he managed to bring about this little improvement to an average Pakistani’s living standards, it is also evidence that the General’s heart was in the right place.

So, on behalf of all Pakistanis who agree with me and those who will hopefully try to understand my point-of-view, this is what I have to say to General Musharraf

“Dear Sir, On behalf of all Pakistanis, I apologise to you. This is the least that I could do considering how you worked to make my life better. Thank you for your efforts.”

Dear Sir,
On behalf of all Pakistanis, I apologise to you. This is the least that I could do considering how you worked to make my life better. Thank you for your efforts.”1511554_571493566291040_6041969369819590017_n1526244_571493592957704_934018679263069029_n10177447_571493552957708_1539061532065944851_n

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GOVT PERFORMANCE 2000 – 2008

By : Pervez Musharraf

1. Responsibility. Ensure Security, progress and development of Pakistan and welfare/wellbeing of its people.

2. Security.
a. External Threat
1) Al Khalid tanks for Army.
2) JF 17 Thunder Fighter jets for PAF.
3) AWAC Surveillance aircraft for PAF.
4) Frigates for Navy.
5) P3C Surveillance aircraft for Navy.
6) All missiles tested and proven for nuclear capability.
7) Nuclear arsenal strengthened and protected.
8) Army Strategic Force Command created.
b. Internal threat
1) Law and order in Karachi controlled.
2) Terrorism in Balochistan controlled.
3) Sectarian terrorism controlled.
4) Spread of Talibanisation controlled.
5) Strategy against extremism being implemented.
(Focus on Mosques, books/publications, extremist/militant organization, school syllabus, madrassahs)

3. Progress and Development of Pakistan
a. Economy. Core strategy of privatisation, deregulation and liberalization
1) GDP growth – $63 billion to $170 billion.
2) Annual GDP growth – Around 7%.
3) Per Capita Income – $430 to $1,000.
4) Foreign Exchange Reserves – $0.5 billion to $16.5 billion.
5) Revenue generation – Rs 308 billion to Rs 1 trillion.
6) Debt to GDP ratio – 102% to 53%.
7) Exports – $7.8 billion to $17.5 billion.
8) Remittances – $1 billion to $6.4 billion.
9) Foreign Direct Investments – $400 million to $8.4 billion.
10) Karachi Stock Exchange Index – 900 to 16500 points
11) Annual development budget – Rs 90 billion to Rs 520 billion
12) Poverty reduction – 34% to 17%.
13) Dollar maintained at Rs 60.

14) Declared one of the Next – 11 countries of the world.

b. Communication Infrastructure
1) Roads
 Coastal Highway Karachi – Gwadar 700KMs.
 (M1) Peshawar to Islamabad Motorway.
 (M3) Pindi Bhattian to Faisalabad Motorway.
 (M4) Faisalabad to Multan Motorway (Launched).
 National Highway (N5) dualised Karachi to Peshawar.
 Quetta – Zhob – D I Khan road.
 Quetta – Loralai – D G Khan Road.
 Gwadar – Turbat – Rato Dero road (Launched)
 Chitral linking with Gilgit over Shandur Pass.
 Gilgit linked with Skardu via Astore – Chillum – Deosai Plains.
 Lowari Tunnel linking KPK to Chitral.
 Kaghan Valley linked with KKH at Chilas over Babusar Pass.
 Kohat Tunnel.
 Lahore – Sialkot Road.
 Lahore – Faisalabad Road.
 Karachi – Lyari Expressway.
 Karachi Northern Bypass
 Lahore Ring Road.
2) Port. Strategically significant Gwadar Port developed with Chinese assistance.
3) Airports.
 Lahore Airport completed.
 New Islamabad Airport started.
 New Sambrial (Sialkot) Airport.
 Multan Airport expanded.
 Gwadar Airport developed.
 Quetta Airport expanded.
4) Railways.
 Dual railway line project from Peshawar to Karachi launched.
 Over 50 locomotives, innumerable cargo bogies included in the railway fleet.
 About 12 new trains started to ease travel for the common man.
 All Railway stations improved in cleanliness and facilities.

c. Agriculture
1) Irrigation Projects
 Diamer Bhasha Dam launched. 5 maf water and 4000 MW electricity.

Mangla Dam raised by 30 feet increasing 2.9 maf water storage capacity and 100MW electricity.

 New Mirani Dam for Balochistan.
 New Subukzai Dam for Balochistan.
 New Gomal Zam Dam for KPK.
 Kachi Canal from Taunsa to Dera Bugti and Jhal Magsi (Balochistan) over 500Kms to irrigate 713000 acres of barren cotton producing land.
 Thal Canal for Punjab to irrigate 20 lac acres of barren land.
 Rainee Canal for Sind.
 Brick lining of all the 86000 water channels in all provinces of Pakistan at a cost of Rs 66 billion.
 Overal brought 3 million acres of barren land under cultivation.
2) Drain. Right Bank Outfall Drain (RBOD) constructed through Sind taking all the effluent water of Punjab and Balochistan to the sea saving Indus River and Manchar Lake (Sind) from pollution
3) Dairy. Introduced white revolution in Pakistan.
 Introduced unique milk collection and chillers milk storage system in rural areas.
 Brought world renowned Nestle to spearhead white revolution in Pakistan. They opened their biggest milk plant in the world at Kabirwala in Punjab.
 Initiated artificial insemination and Embryo Transfer Technology for genetic improvement of cows for increasing yield of milk.

4) Agriculture Products.

 Increased wheat production from 14 million tons to 22 million tons.
 Increased cotton production from 9 million bales to 13 million bales.
 Introduced rotational loan system through banks for poor farmers.
 Increased loan facility for farmers from Rs 35 billion through ZTBL only, to Rs 160 billion from all other private banks.

d. Energy. Overall 2900 MW electricity added to national generation capacity.
1) Ghazi Barotha hydro electricity project – 1600MWs.
2) Chashma – II nuclear electricity plant – 300MWs.
3) Over 6 thermal electricity plants
4) Neelum – Jhelum hydro electricity project initiated – 1800 MWs.
5) Satpara Power project, Skardu
6) Naltar power project, Gilgit
7) Launched Alternate Energy Project – Wind Farm in Sindh

e. Telecommunication. Brought telecom revolution in Pakistan.
1) Increased mobile telephones from 6 lacs in 2000 to over 7 crores in 2006.

2) Increased teledensity from 2.9% to over 70%.
3) Created millions of jobs in telecom sector.

f. Information Technology. IT revolution introduced.
1) Internet connectivity increased from 40 cities to 2000 towns of Pakistan.
2) Fiber optics connectivity increased from 30 cities to over 1500 towns of Pakistan.
3) 2 megabytes band width cost reduced from $86,000 to $3,000.

g. Industry.
1) Focus on SMEs for increasing job creation and spreading wealth.
2) Core strategy articulated for diversification of products and market.
3) Major industrial parks opened at Sundar (Lahore), M3 (Faisalabad) and Landhi (Karachi).
4) Marble city opened at Hub in Balochistan. Modern technology introduced for mining, cutting and polishing of marble.
5) Auto part industry given a boost as a new export oriented industry.
6) Industrial growth in double figures throughout the 9 years.

h. Culture and Heritage.
1) Quaid e Azam Mausoleum completed to its true grandeur in Karachi.
2) World standard Cultural Heritage Museum opened in Islamabad.
3) World standard National Art Gallery opened in Islamabad.
4) A grand national monument made at Shakar Parian, Islamabad
5) National Academy of Performing Arts (NAPA) opened in Karachi.
6) A Yadgar monument started at Walton, Lahore in memory of the Quaids’ address to the hundreds of thousands of refugees migrating from India in 1947.

i. Democracy.
1) Local government system launched to empower the people through third tier of government..
2) Political empowerment of women done through giving them reserved seats at all tiers of government.
3) Political empowerment of minorities done through giving them Joint Electorate.
4) Media given independence through liberalization and privatization.

j. Women Rights.
1) Political empowerment.
2) Economic empowerment.
3) Amending discriminatory laws.

4. Welfare/Wellbeing of people.

a. Poverty Alleviation. Poverty halved from 34% to 17%.
b. Job Creation. Millions of jobs created in building and construction, telecom and IT sectors.
c. Education.
1) Literacy level improved from 48% to 58%.
2) National Commission on Human Development (NCHD) opened, who in turn opened 1 lac adult literacy and primary level feeder schools for universalising education.
3) National Vocational and Technical Education Commission (NAVTEC), opened for imparting mass vocational and technical education/shill development.
4) Army opened about 3 vocational training centers for skill development in youth.
5) Higher Education Commission (HEC) created to oversee university education. Their annual allocation increased from Rs 500 million to Rs 28 billion.
6) PhD program in engineering and High Technology launched. Annual PhD output increased from 40 to 800. Overall 3800 students sent aboard for PhD, 300 completed. 3500 doing PhD in Pakistan, 340 completed.
7) No of universities in Pakistan increased from 48 to 130.
8) 6 universities opened in Balochistan.
9) 7 Cadet Colleges opened in Balochistan.
10) 1 University opened in Gilgit.
11) 1 cadet college opened in Skardu.

d. Health. Focus on primary and secondary heath care.
1) BHUs and RHCs activated with Doctors and medicines in the whole of Punjab.
2) District hospitals made fully functional with specialists and required equipment.

e. Price Control – Essential Items.
1) Atta –Rs 16 per Kg. Now it is Rs 36 per kg.
2) Naan – Rs. 2. Now it is Rs. 7.
3) Cooking oil – Rs. 180 per liter. Now it is Rs. 264 per liter.
4) Dal channa – Rs. 39 per kg. Now it is Rs. 115 per kg.
5) Sugar – Rs. 30 per kg. Now it is Rs. 75 per kg.
6) Tea – Rs. 152 per kg. Now it is Rs. 330 per kg.
7) Milk – Rs. 45 per liter. Now it is Rs. 90 per liter
8) Yogurt – Rs. 49 per kg. Now it is Rs. 100 per kg
9) Vegetable – Rs. 25 per kg on the average. Now it is Rs. 65 per kg
10) Mutton – Rs. 265 per kg. Now it is Rs. 520 per kg
11) Urea – Rs. 850 per bag. Now it is Rs. 2,600 per bag

12) DAP – Rs 2,200 per bag. Now it is Rs. 4,500 per bag

Poverty reduced to half in Musharraf’s regime: WB report

Saturday, August 07, 2010
By Mehtab Haider

ISLAMABAD: A World Bank survey has revealed that poverty in Pakistan was reduced by 50 percent on consumption-led growth of the economy under the rule of the former president, Pervez Musharraf.

“The percentage of the people living below the poverty line in Pakistan fell from 34.5 percent in 2001/02 to 17.2 percent in 2007/08,” World Bank said in its Country Partnership Strategy (CPS) paper, based on a survey conducted in fiscal year 2007/08. The bank is going to provide $6 billion to Pakistan on the basis of CPS findings.

According to Planning Commission officials, the PPP-led government asked the commission to conceal the results of the survey because the poverty started rising after the Musharraf’s regime.

According to the WB survey, poverty in urban areas fell from 22.7 percent in 2001/02 to 10.1 percent in 2007/08. In rural areas, it declined from 39.3 percent in 2001 to 20.6 percent in 2007/08, it said.

“This progress was a result of growth in real per adult consumption expenditure and declining inequality from 2005/06 to 2007/08,” the report said.

Key human development indicators of educational attainment, health outcomes and unemployment rates also corroborated these figures, the officials said.

The report showed that the pace of poverty reduction varied across provinces. Poverty in Punjab and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa steadily declined from 1998/99 onwards. “In Sindh and Balochistan, it recorded sharp rises in 2001/02 and 2005/06, possibly owing to weak agriculture performance in those years,” the report said.

The reduction in poverty in KP is particularly noteworthy as officials believe that it was facilitated by higher remittances through both foreign and domestic channels. “The large volatility in poverty suggests that a substantial portion of Pakistan’s population is vulnerable, living close to the poverty line, and could fall into poverty as a result of shocks,” the report said.

The overlap between vulnerable and poor households is low as about 60 percent of the highly vulnerable population does not belong to the poorest 20 percent. This means that a significant share of the non-poor population is as vulnerable as poor households, it said.

The WB report conceded that the gains in poverty reduction may have been partly reversed in the wake of the recent economic crisis.

“Food and fuel prices rose by 23.7 and 18.4 percent, respectively in the review period, resulting in a 21 percent reduction in the purchasing power,” it said.

The 2007/08 household survey results also suggest that poverty started rising towards the end of the fiscal year.

Officials said that the impact of the recent economic downturn on poverty levels in the country will only be known when the next household survey is conducted.

The Task Force on Food Security estimated that poverty headcount increased to 33.8 percent in 2007/08 and 36.1 percent in 2008/09. This means that about 62 million people were below the poverty line in 2008/09.

Data suggests that between 2005 and 2009, over 12 to 14 million people may have been added to the ranks of the poor in Pakistan. This would translate into an increase in poverty from 22.3 percent of the population in 2005/06 to between 30-35 percent in 2008/09,” the report added.

Topmost Questions asked and there answers from Great General’s Desk

1) Was there a way post 9/11 for Pakistan to handle the Americans and the Taliban that would have avoided the current situation where we seem to be stuck with a deteriorating law and order situation?

I think we dealt with both in the best possible manner under most difficult circumstances. With regards to the US, the big question after 9/11 was whether to join the Coalition or not. The Americans had decided they were going to attack Afghanistan, and because of geographic compulsions, the attack was most likely going to come from the East. The positives of joining the coalition far outweighed the negatives of not joining.

Imagine what would have happened, had we not joined the coalition? The attack would have still taken place using bases provided by our neighbour, jeopardizing our territorial integrity. The flow of Al Qaeda and Taliban into Pakistan and the spreading of obscurantist Talibanisation into our country would have happened at a much greater scale. This was certainly not in our own interest. Therefore joining the Coalition was and is primarily in our own national interest. It happens to be in US interest also. The thought that we are playing the US game is simply not correct.

With the passage of time the situation has become more complex. There is strong Taliban resurgence in Afghanistan, developing nexus with Taliban in our tribal agencies, spreading Talibanisation into settled districts of NWFP. These in turn are developing links with extremists in our own society, further complicating the issue. The bottom line is that we have to defeat terrorism and extremism wherever it comes from. The Taliban have done tremendous damage to us and will not hesitate to do more unless we defeat them. The choice is stark. We as a nation have to decide what we want for ourselves. A progressive, enlightened, tolerant Islamic society or a retrogressive, obscurantist society?

2) Lal Masjid- Sifting Truth from Lies

The Lal Masjid operation is a case study of how an appropriately timed, meticulously planned and boldly executed operation launched in the supreme national interest can be distorted by vested interests who want to present it as a disaster. I would like to elaborate/clarify various issues which have been distorted.

“Hundreds of innocent people were killed which included scores of women and children.”
This is an absolute lie. Firstly none of those killed were innocent. They were terrorists (including five foreigners) who took the law in their own hands and killed a number of policemen, kidnapped and physically tortured Chinese citizens (causing embarrassment to the government) and burnt down Ministry of Environment offices, property and vehicles. They had stored arms and explosives in the mosque and were equipped/prepared for suicide bombings. Secondly the numbers killed were NINETY FOUR and not a single woman or child was killed. This can be ascertained by digging their graves and counting.

“The operation was launched overriding efforts to end the occupation peacefully.”
Nothing could be farther from the truth. The siege of Lal Masjid and Jamia Hafsa was started about six months before the operation. There were about two thousand five hundred girls in Jamia Hafsa and an equal number of men who had taken over Lal Masjid. Despite all the pressure on the government in the media to act and evict the occupants who were challenging the writ of the government and causing immense embarrassment, the decision taken was to negotiate a peaceful settlement to avoid casualties. In the months that followed, representatives from Wafaqul Madaris and the Council of Islamic Ideology were sent to negotiate, Maulana Edhis’ wife was sent to pacify the girls and even Imam Kaaba was gracious enough to contribute towards an amicable end to the confrontation. Besides this, a number of politicians and notables also tried their best to resolve the issue. All this was to no avail. The primary concern before launching the operation was how to avoid casualties. The operation was launched only after all efforts towards a negotiated settlement failed and maximum occupants including all women and children were drawn out. The individuals left were all hardened terrorists including five foreigners who refused to surrender and decided to fight it out.

We as Pakistanis must realise that we cannot be known internationally as a “Soft State” or a “Banana Republic” where there is no writ of the government. The government has to be strong enough to meet any challenge to its authority. Then only can we emerge as a stable, strong, respectable country in the comity of nations. We also have to make sure that religion is not misused to challenge the state and spread extremism in the society.

Lal Masjid operation stands as a tribute to the gallantry of all the soldiers, especially of SSG, rangers and policemen who participated in the operation. May all the Shaheeds rest in peace.

3) What compelled you to promulgate the NRO?
I very much feel responsible for answering this question which is rightly agitating many minds. However because of certain political sensitivities, I will have to pend the answer for the time being with a promise that I will take the nation on board at the appropriate time. The one clarification that I will make is that I committed this mistake on the strong advice of the political leadership at that time who are now blatantly disowning connections with it. My interest was only national with absolutely no personal bias or agenda.

“Through the NRO you brought corrupt politicians to power and made Zardari the President.”
NRO may have allowed Asif Zardari or corrupt politicians to contest elections but it certainly was not the cause of their coming to power. NRO is not responsible for electing the PPP as the majority party or allowing Asif Zardari to win an election. NRO is not responsible for corrupt politicians sitting in Assemblies, or being appointed as Ministers. All this happened through the votes of the people of Pakistan. NRO is not responsible for all Parliamentarians of Provincial and National Assemblies and Senate having overwhelmingly voted for Asif Zardari as President. The nation has to learn to cast their votes for the right person and the right party.

Question: When are you returning to Pakistan? Will you consider forming your own Party or will you form an alliance with existing politicians?

Answer: One thing is for sure, that I will return to Pakistan. The timing however is of the essence. It is mainly dependent on the domestic environment. I have to see whether people vastly want me to return and also whether I can deliver. I have to work through the political and democratic process. Only grassroots support can enable me to carry out a programme and policy based on my vision for the future. So if this question is coming from someone who desires that this happen, it is really up to you to begin engaging. The youth who have been voicing this question and are the future custodians of Pakistan, have to get activated.

As far as forming a new Party or getting into an alliance is concerned, one has to be pragmatic. Existing politicians have their importance and a definite role to play. I have to generate direct public support to try something original. I do believe in a military maxim: “Never reinforce failure.”

Question: Why were such large amounts of bank loans written off? Does this not send the message to the citizenry that crime pays?

Answer: Absolutely correct, it should never be done. But who says I have written off a single loan of any rich or influential individual? Never have I done this.

I have, however, written off loans of the poor, especially those stricken by natural calamities. This was always done on a collective basis. Loans of the poor were written off in drought stricken areas of Baluchistan and Sindh in 2000, then of the earth quake affected in 2005, the flood affected of Baluchistan and Sindh in 2006 and as a part of agriculture reform package for the poor. It was always made sure that these special reliefs were not availed by well off individuals. I have never written off a single loan on an individual basis.

Any individuals who got loans written off have done so on their own, using their influence or other underhand means which must be investigated and action taken. This has never come to my knowledge, and I never took any decision to write off loans to benefit a single individual.

Question: Why did you handover Pakistanis to US for interrogation? In particular, why were Americans given access to an accomplished Pakistani citizen like Dr. Afia Siddiqui?

Answer: These are baseless allegations. Not a single Pakistani was handed over by me to the US or any foreign country. Those taken by US were captured in Afghanistan and not given to US. Our policy was clear:

Pakistanis will be tried in Pakistan.

Foreigners will be offered to their own countries first and in case of refusal (which was invariably the case), will be handed over to the US.

The facts about Dr Afia Siddiqui’s case are still unclear. I only heard her name through the media when the story of her arrest in Afghanistan became public.