NEW YORK: Exiled former Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf, who plans to return home and head a new political party, on Tuesday, brought the case for his political revival to some of the most influential figures in US foreign policy.
Musharraf told the Council on Foreign Relations in New York he believed he had “an even chance” of returning to political power in his country’s 2013 general election and would seek to attract support of those who do not normally vote.
The former military chief, who came to power in a bloodless military coup in 1999, announced last month in London that he had created a new party, the All Pakistan Muslim League. He has lived in self-imposed exile since he stepped down under threat of impeachment in 2008.
Pakistan was facing a leadership crisis and “no political party (there) today can handle the situation,” he said.
“Even getting 25 percent of the non-voters out could break (Pakistan) away from the politics of dynastic rule that brings the country down,” he said in a clear reference to the administration of President Asif Ali Zardari, the widower of assassinated former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto.
In his announcement in London, Musharraf apologized for “wrong decisions” made as president. He became embroiled in a fight with the judiciary and imposed a state of emergency in 2007.
Musharraf stopped short of calling for another military takeover of Islamabad, but indicated that he understood why Pakistanis considered it an option.
“Unfortunately, democracy in Pakistan has not taken root,” he said. “Public opinion against the government is very negative … (Pakistanis) then start talking about the army,
but I’m talking about democracy and constitutional (change).”
Asked to outline his election strategy, Musharraf said he planned to mobilize the 60 percent of the Pakistani electorate — the middle class, women, youth and minorities — who currently stayed away from the polls.
Musharraf suggested that he was already winning some of that support. His Facebook page had attracted 350,000 fans, up to 85 percent of whom were younger Pakistanis under 34, he said.
In addition, a recent three-hour telethon in London raised $3 million.
Musharraf dismissed threats of legal action or personal danger if he returned, saying that his opponents were trying to scare him because they didn’t want him to go back. “No risk, no gain,” he said. “I am prepared to take these risks.”
“It’s certainly a difficult task (to win) … but I see it as better to have tried and failed than never to have tried at all.”
Questioned about the controversial US drone attacks that are estimated to have killed more than 200 people in North and South Waziristan since the start of 2010, Musharraf said he agreed with Washington that these strikes targeted al Qaeda and Taliban militants.
However, Pakistanis were conflicted about them because of indiscriminate collateral damage and because they do not want their sovereignty violated.
His support for the US-led war in Afghanistan was deeply unpopular. – Reuters