Former president Pervez Musharraf vowed on Thursday that if he ever rose to power again he would not do things differently but would repeat all that he had done before.
“Whatever I did, I need to repeat it if I am back in power,” he told participants at the Woodrow Wilson International Centre for Scholars.
However, Musharraf confessed that he did have one regret. “The only regret I have was on cutting a deal with Benazir Bhutto and implementing the National Reconciliation Ordinance,” he said. Benazir, according to him, violated her agreement with him to not return before the elections.
When quizzed about whether he knew about Osama bin Laden’s presence in Abbottabad since he was also army chief at the time that OBL allegedly moved there, Musharraf said that he was not aware, “whether anyone believes it or not”. Musharraf also took the opportunity to explain his actions in 2005. “I was trying to wean the Pakhtuns away from the Taliban, we were trying to organise local jirgas.” Musharraf said that he was accused of playing a double game, whereas he was trying to wean away those who did not want to support the Taliban.
Musharraf said that he regretted missing the fleeting opportunity of achieving an agreement on issues with Kashmir. He said that they were close to an agreement on Sir Creek, Siachen and Kashmir, but that fleeting moment passed. He pointed out that this was a missed opportunity by the US, calling it their “great blunder”.
On his return to Pakistan
Speaking to this correspondent after the event, the former president said that he would be returning to Pakistan on 23rd March 2012. Dubbing the charges against him in the Benazir Bhutto murder case as politically motivated, Musharraf said he was willing to face it, including more political cases that he expected to come up once he returned. He said that there was a leadership vacuum in Pakistan and that his party would gain momentum once he returned.
US women protest address
A day earlier, three American women protested with the Asia director of the Woodrow Wilson Centre for International Scholars over hosting the talk of Pervez Musharraf. Calling Musharraf a despot and a fugitive from justice, they asked him to cancel the address. One of the three women, Laurie Deamer, warned that “Musharraf’s talk will deeply offend the Baloch because they will perceive Americans as welcoming a leader who failed to protect their friends’ and family members’ lives”. “This will serve only to rub salt into the wounds of the Baloch who must live here, because it is too dangerous for them to remain in Balochistan,” Deamer wrote to Robert Hathaway, the centre’s Asia director.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 22nd, 2011.