Interview: In high spirits, Musharraf to bank on ‘electables’

December 7, 2010

DUBAI: Being out of power seems to have done General (retd) Pervez Musharraf a world of good. He appeared slimmer, happier and relaxed in a meeting on Monday at his party’s office which is located in a quiet apartment in the otherwise prestigious downtown Dubai area, not too far away from the world’s tallest building – the Burj Khalifa.

Musharraf is visiting Dubai so that party faithful as well as those interested in joining can fly down from Pakistan and meet with him. Musharraf himself has promised that not only will he return to fight in the country’s next elections, but he himself will stand from a number of seats from all over Pakistan. “I am waiting for the right time to make my comeback,” says the former military general and president, adding “my return will create the right momentum for the party.”

He decries the vendetta politics in Pakistan but says that he is not worried about cases being lodged against him. He also says that he takes the threat of militant groups in stride. “In this, I expect the government to provide me security.” The former President dismissed talk of his party not having enough political heavyweights.

“I am looking at second tier politicians – tehsil nazims and union council nazims – who will come on board and win elections for the party.” He added “these are good people. I call them the electables.”

Looking back, Musharraf said that his government – which was doing well in all areas, was brought down by the judicial crisis and the deteriorating law and order situation. The situation in Pakistan deteriorated to the extent that the Indian prime minister continued to postpone his visit. “Had the Indian PM come to Pakistan, we would have signed an agreement based on the four point formula I proposed.” He said that while he had no problem with the current government trashing his initiative, no counter has been put forward in lieu of his proposals.

On the issue of elections, Musharraf said he had already been offered a seat from Chitral. “I am a national politician,” he clarified, adding “I do not want to stand from Karachi only.”

Looking back at his rule, the former president said he regretted introducing the National Reconciliation Ordinance and sending the reference against the chief justice because of the repercussions it caused. These decisions made him unpopular with a number of people. “These were my two mistakes if you can call them that,” he said, adding “but I did nothing illegal.”

On the controversy that has arisen over Wikileaks, Musharraf said that he is not mentioned in any cable as sharing information with the US Ambassador. “It is sad that some people discussed national security matters with the US envoy. I can only condemn it.” But he did not comment on the contents of the cables and said those who were mentioned should reply for themselves. At the same time, he said, some of the statements and assumptions of the US envoy were ridiculous.

Musharraf said he missed friends in Pakistan and socialising with people.  Playing bridge, tennis and golf as well as meeting friends and family is what he says he misses most. The former army chief also said he missed his prizewinning dogs “Che” and “Lara,” two German shepherds. Talking about his house, he said that he had not made a single penny illegally “and I challenge people to prove otherwise.” As president, he said, “I paid for the entertainment of my guests through my own pocket.”

On a more somber note, Musharraf warned against the rising intolerance and extremism in present day Pakistan. “Today Barelvi is fighting Deobandi. They are tearing each other apart.” He said that things have gone from bad to worse but the government was ignoring the situation.

He recalled how one day the DG ISI came out of Sultan Masjid in Karachi’s DHA and caught a young boy distributing hate literature while the police looked the other way. “The police need to be trained to look for extremism and its manifestations. This has not happened.”

Source: Published in The Express Tribune, December 7th, 2010.

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