LIANE HANSEN, Host:
Welcome to the program.
HASSAN ABBAS: Thank you.
HANSEN: What role exactly does Pakistan's army play in curbing popular dissent?
ABBAS: So primarily, military's role has been to remain the most dominant political force. And what that all led to is that, today, Pakistan Army is a super political party as well.
HANSEN: You served under President Musharraf in 1999 and 2000. How would you judge his instincts - leaning toward democracy, leaning toward military rule?
ABBAS: He believes that he is the kind of messiah. He believes that he has a very clear idea about Pakistan's national security. But it's - I don't think that he would say that I am a military chief and I'm a military ruler. But he often says, I am a very democratic person. But he has brought himself into such a mold where he's not ready to really think and understand that what has really gone wrong with Pakistan's policies toward society and towards norms of democracy and rule of law.
HANSEN: His declaration of emergency rule, do you think that that has had an effect on the standing of the army as an institution in Pakistan? Has it damaged the army?
ABBAS: By this section on November 3rd, he has put army in a stage where there is increasing criticism of Pakistan Army. And army itself, I think, is now feeling very uncomfortable because they, as an institution, are getting all the blame. I don't think Pakistan Army's institutional and corporate interests will allow that to happen for a very long time.
HANSEN: Twice, generals have asked military rulers in Pakistan to resign when their rule was seen as damaging to the army. Is Pakistan close to that stage?
ABBAS: I think exactly. I think Pakistan is close to a stage where military leadership, the top military leadership can go to Musharraf, tell him in an honorable fashion, in a polite way that, sir, it's all over. And I think that's the only way Musharraf can go for an honorable exit in this scenario. And with all the unrest on the streets, I think he is going there in that direction quite quickly.
HANSEN: You also served under former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto. She's looking to regain power in Pakistan. How does the Pakistani military view her?
ABBAS: Pakistan military has been quite skeptical about Benazir Bhutto and her father. Her father was known to have supported democratic forces and he was the one who had acted against the military's dominance. Military has been looking at Benazir in that context. They continue to think of Benazir - of her potential to be a prime minister - thinking that maybe she's like her father. And there have been many charges from military. Military thinks that Benazir was too close to India. She's also seen as somebody who is very friendly towards United States. So military is skeptical about her. If Benazir gets power, she'll really have to struggle and make alliances and some compromises to put Pakistan back on the track of democracy. But it will be a long struggle.
HANSEN: Thank you so much.
ABBAS: Thank you.
NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.