Musharraf Discusses India, Terrorism And His Future
STEVE INSKEEP, host:
Pervez Musharraf is seeking power in Pakistan again. For years he was a familiar face to Americans, the military ruler who took over in a coup and then became a vital U.S. ally after 9/11. He was forced out and left the country in 2008. Now he's making plans to go home.
This week, Musharraf visited our Washington studios with his familiar glasses and center-parted hair, but he wore a suit - not a uniform - and he had a new goal. He wants to build a new career in Pakistan as a democratic politician.
Some people will ask why a former coup leader should be welcomed at all into the democratic process.
Mr. PERVEZ MUSHARRAF (Former President, Pakistan): Because of our performance. Today on the political horizon in Pakistan, one is the government, or People's Party, which is functioning at this moment. The other...
INSKEEP: This is President Asif Ali Zardari.
Mr. MUSHARRAF: Yes. The other alternative is Nawaz Sharif. Now, he has been tested and tried twice before and failed both the times. In '99, when Pakistan was a failed state, a defaulted state and a bankrupt state, it was he who was the prime minister of Pakistan since three years. As far as I'm concerned, we ran Pakistan for nine years. I didn't leave Pakistan because Pakistan was not doing well socioeconomically.
Each and every socioeconomic factor was on an upsurge. So I left because of certain problems of political nature...
INSKEEP: You were forced out of office.
Mr. MUSHARRAF: Yes. And which happened in 2007.
INSKEEP: I just want to mention for people who may not recall that Nawaz Sharif, the former prime minister you mentioned, that was the prime minister you deposed in the coup in 1999. And I want to mention...
Mr. MUSHARRAF: He deposed himself. He fired me when I was in the air and I...
INSKEEP: You were flying back to Pakistan from outside.
Mr. MUSHARRAF: ...gave no orders. He did something very unconstitutional.
INSKEEP: He tried to prevent you from returning to Pakistan.
Mr. MUSHARRAF: Yes. He's forcing my plane, which was a commercial plane, to go out of Pakistan's airspace and forcing me to go to an enemy country, which is India. I'm in the - that was the only...
INSKEEP: You had to land there.
Mr. MUSHARRAF: ...place I could go to.
INSKEEP: I don't want to reargue that entire case, but could you plausibly have taken that complaint to the courts rather than taking over the country in 1999?
Mr. MUSHARRAF: Well, things happened in Pakistan on ground, which was not ordered by me...
INSKEEP: Other people in the military moved.
Mr. MUSHARRAF: Yes. And in any case, the country was defaulted state, almost being declared a failed state. So the people of Pakistan were in a terrible state of mind.
INSKEEP: I want to report to you something that I've heard from some Pakistanis this year when I've been visiting your country. Some have suggested that the reason that Pakistan has so much trouble today is that there has been so much instability in government, so many constant changes of government. There's no example in which a government has been able to simply finish its term and peacefully transfer power. You continually have governments forced out of office, frequently by military coups, then the military ruler is forced out of office, and that creates a great deal of instability, and you have an entire history of military interventions and other kinds of interventions that have simply prevented a cycle of governance from going through.
Mr. MUSHARRAF: First of all, let me correct you that there has been only once that an assembly and a government has completed its tenure, and that was in my time.
INSKEEP: Although people might not accept those as freely elected assemblies. They were parties that were prevented from (unintelligible)...
Mr. MUSHARRAF: ...(unintelligible) I can't do anything about it, because that was absolutely the fairest election in 2002 and the fairest election in 2007. So this was a tenure which was completed.
The other is, why has that been the case in the past? I would like to put it this way: The key element, which has to be achieved for a state by any leader in any government is the progress and development of the state, welfare, well-being of its people. Now, that is the end product that has to be achieved, whatever the form of government.
And if we put it in the opposite way, that we want a democratically elected government and that is all, period, democracy finishes there and they are running the country aground, I don't agree with this kind of attitude towards governance. The important thing for an elected government is to deliver to the people and to the state. If that is not happening, that is the problem in Pakistan.
Unfortunately the civil governments have never performed - and I repeat, never performed. In its history, they have never.
INSKEEP: Let me ask about American involvement in Pakistan today, which as you know runs the gamut from civilian assistance under the Kerry-Lugar law all the way to drone strikes in the far northwest of your country. If you were to return to a position of power in Pakistan, what if anything that the U.S. is doing today would you tell them to stop doing?
Mr. MUSHARRAF: We cannot violate the sovereignty of Pakistan. It is not acceptable to the people of Pakistan in whatever form. No drone attacks are possible because people don't like it.
INSKEEP: You would forbid those.
Mr. MUSHARRAF: There is a confusion here. While the drones do target militants - and that I know - but the negative is that the sovereignty of Pakistan is violated and that is how people take it.
And secondly, the indiscriminate use of drones is leading to a lot of collateral damage. So my suggestions, as always, is give the drones to Pakistan and let Pakistan handle the situation and you handle the situation in Afghanistan.
INSKEEP: Is Pakistan's sovereignty really being violated or are Pakistani officials quietly approving these drone strikes and then publicly complaining about them?
Mr. MUSHARRAF: Well, I don't want to get involved in that.
INSKEEP: What was the case when you were president?
Mr. MUSHARRAF: No, I had not allowed it. I didn't allow any drone attacks, and very few did take place (unintelligible) which I always spoke and I always demanded that we should be given the drones.
INSKEEP: One other thing I'd like to ask. Given that some Pakistanis would want to prosecute you if you were to return to Pakistan, how do you plan to return?
Mr. MUSHARRAF: Well, I will face all charges at the moment. There is no case whatsoever in the courts today. And whatever I did had the validation from the Supreme Court of Pakistan and the National Assembly of Pakistan. At this moment there is no case whatsoever in the courts of Pakistan.
INSKEEP: Are you willing to return without any assurance that there will not be a case?
Mr. MUSHARRAF: Now, certainly in Pakistan we understand the realities on ground - I do - that there will be some political maneuverings. And for political reasons cases may being initiated against me. If that a fact(ph), we'll fight those in the courts. And those who are saying that cases will be initiated, I would like to initiate cases against them, actually, of corruption, which -like Nawaz Sharif, who is saying all this.
INSKEEP: When do you plan to return?
Mr. MUSHARRAF: Before the next election. And I have to create a certain political environment for myself and for my political party before I return.
INSKEEP: Will the military support you if you return?
Mr. MUSHARRAF: Well, one shouldn't expect that from the military and one should actually come through the mandate of the people. I mean it's unfortunate that people want to come on the shoulder of the military. One should come with the mandate of the people. At this moment the requirement in Pakistan really is a person who can combine in talk and action the political forces - that is, the people of Pakistan - the military and the bureaucracy.
INSKEEP: Someone listening to you might recall that you came in on the shoulders of the military and might ask why not just have another military coup if you're not happy with how things are going.
Mr. MUSHARRAF: Well, no, I don't think I came on the shoulder. I was a military chief(ph) itself(ph), so I didn't have to come on the shoulders of the military. I was the military myself.
INSKEEP: President Musharraf, thanks for coming by.
Mr. MUSHARRAF: Thank you very much.
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