Pakistan's former military ruler Pervez Musharraf on Friday announced his much-anticipated return to mainstream politics with an apology for the "political mistakes" of the last years of his regime and promised to start his career with a "clean slate".
Launching his new banner -- the All Pakistan Muslim League -- thousands of miles away from Pakistan, the former president said he would return to his country and contest the 2013 general elections.
"On this occasion, I apologise to the people of the country," Musharraf, who is on self-imposed exile since the general election of 2009, said. The 67-year-old also said his party would strive for friendly and peaceful relations with India, but after peaceful resolution of all issues.
"I acknowledge that during the last years of my regime, there were some decisions, which I can term as political mistakes," he said at a crowded press conference in central London. "... I promise not to commit them again. I start my political career with clean slate," he added.
Musharraf, who toppled Nawaz Sharif's elected government in 1999 in a bloodless military coup, was at the helm of affairs in Pakistan for eight years, before he paved the way for the return of democracy. He said he took the decision to return to active politics as "I don't see any political alternative who could show ray of light to Pakistanis. I think I can be that ray of light".
The commando-turned-politician said Pakistan had made significant gains under his rule, and expressed dismay that the achievements of his years are being wasted by the present government. He said the majority of Pakistan's 170 million people were living in poverty, while the few rich and powerful manipulate the law to their own benefit. His party, he said, would launch a "jihad against poverty and hunger".
Musharraf said its time to reignite the fire of the All India Muslim League -- the movement that had succeeded in carving out an independent Pakistan in 1947. "Its time to strive for the dream and vision of Quaid-e-Azam... Its time for all patriotic Pakistanis to united under a common flag," he said.
"I believe this common flag can be the flag of All Pakistan Muslim League which will strive for the Pakistan of Quaid-e-Azam's (Mohammad Ali Jinnah) vision," he said. Pakistan, Musharraf said, was established because the Muslims of the subcontinent believed they would not be able to enjoy freedom under Hindu rule in India.
"We got an independent country... we became a free nation, but look at the condition of the common people. They are yet to be freed from poverty, a majority of them are illiterate. "Was this the Pakistan for which we had struggled?" he asked. "An unhappy country is like a graveyard," he said.
Musharraf, earlier told the BBC that the army must be involved in lifting Pakistan from its current economic woes and political infighting in addition to Pakistan People's Party government's failure to provide effective relief to victims of recent floods.
Musharraf said "There is a growing sense of despondency spreading in Pakistan and that the threat of terrorism and a dysfunctional government are causing a crisis." "The situation in Pakistan can only be solved when the military has some role," he said.
"If you want stability, checks and balances in the democratic structure of Pakistan, the military ought to have some sort of role." Musharraf claimed that the circumstances that forced him to launch a coup against the civilian government in 1999 had re-emerged.