Pervez Musharraf was on the verge of a major accord with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh before things turned sour for him at home in 2007. He says the Indian Premier shouldn’t now visit his country without the assurance of a resolution to pending disputes.
The General hasn’t changed much since his hey days. But he promises not to repeat the mistakes he made if given a chance to govern again. Excerpts from an interview with Vinod Sharma and Jayanth Jacob:
Q) Let us talk now to Pervez Musharraf, the politician. You said you would be back in Pakistan to join politics. How soon? Before elections next year?
Certainly before elections. I’m leading a political party that will take part in elections. I will go when parameters of next elections are roughly in place. I go there at the right moment.
Q) Are you sure the establishment there will not create hurdles in pursuance of cases against you?
There are certain politicians who wouldn’t like me returning. They will try to create as many hurdles as possible. But I can manage that with the mandate of the people.
Q) The current judiciary is the one with whom you had confrontation. Do you hope to get justice from them?
I know there are many cases against me but they have no legs to stand. No judiciary can give unjust orders.
Q) You said some politicians wouldn’t like you to return to Pakistan, that they are scared of you? Would you like to name them?
I wouldn’t like to name anybody. I believe in conciliatory politics, not politics of vendetta.
Q) Certain decisions you took as army chief and President are topics of intense debate in Pakistan. For example the drone strikes by the US forces. Imran Khan is making a huge issue out of it?
My detractors keep blaming me for allowing drone strikes. I have never agreed for them. Drone attacks did take place during my time. But there were only nine attacks in four years. Now there are as many attacks every month. So I can’t be blamed. What Imran or anyone else says should be seen in the context of Pakistan-US relationship and the coalition forces in Afghanistan. Individual bravado is fine. It cannot come from the leader of a State. Don’t forget that it can lead you into a lot of trouble. Things aren’t that simple as far as drone attacks are concerned. There are ways to address this issue. What Imran’s suggesting is a military solution that’s least feasible. He suggested it without thinking about its implications.
Q) Looking back, what are the two things you wouldn’t do again if you were to come to power? Like the attempt to tame the judiciary and the media. You were the creator and destroyer of press freedom during your tenure.
I’m the creator (of press freedom) not the destroyer. They became independent. But independence should come with responsibility. I’m a great believer in independence of the media. What I’ve done for press freedom is unimaginable. The action I took against the chief justice (of Pakistan) in 2007 was a right one. It was within the scope of the Constitution. But the lesson I have learnt is that even when you take right decisions, the fallout can be negative.
Q) So you should have been cautious?
Yes on both (with regard to the judiciary and media). But the two things I always kept in mind were welfare of the people and the State. The decisions we discussed didn’t affect welfare of the people or the State.
Q) Which of the three political parties—Pakistan People’s Party, Pakistan Muslim League (N) and Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (of Imran Khan) do you prefer as an aspiring politician ?
The PPP and PML (N) have been tested thrice and have failed. From that point of view, PTI is not tried and tested. I have been telling Imran that running Pakistan is not like running an 11-member cricket team. In comparison, I would like to test someone who is not tested rather than going for those who were tested and have failed.
Q) Is there a possibility of an alliance between your and Imran Khan?
Let’s see. We have to break the political status quo in Pakistan. If for that there is need of an alliance with anyone, I will be inclined.
Q) What’s your advice to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh? Should he visit Pakistan?
Your PM was to visit Pakistan in 2007 but he did not. Maybe because of our internal problems at that time. But had he come, there could have been agreements on issues. He should visit only if there is going to be a solution to disputes. Otherwise the visit will be flat and unproductive. It will be a mere protocol visit.
Q) How does it feel being a fugitive from your own country?
Certainly I miss my country. I am sad for my country. It has the great potential to do well. Potential that was ascendant during my time is on a decline now.
Q) Will you apologise for the mistakes you made on your return to Pakistan?
Yes I will. I’ve already done that. I apologized for the National Reconciliation Ordinance (giving amnesty to politicians with corruption charges including Benazir Bhutto and Asif Zardari). It was a bad decision.