The army has often played a prominent role in the governance of Pakistan as democracy has not been tailored to its environment, the country’s former president Gen (retd) Pervez Musharraf has said.
“Army has always had a role since our independence. It has played a very prominent role in the governance of Pakistan, mainly because of misgovernance by all the so-called democratically-elected governments,” Musharraf said in an interview at the Washington Ideas Forum here on Thursday.
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He said the “inherent weakness” of Pakistan is that democracy in the country has not been tailored in accordance with the dictates of the environment. “There are no checks and balances within the system. The constitution doesn’t provide those checks and balances.”
“Therefore, the military is forced and pulled, sucked into the political environment, especially when misgovernance is going on and Pakistan is going down in all socioeconomic indicators. The public and the people massively run towards the army chief, and that is how the army gets involved,” Musharraf said, justifying the frequent military coups in the country.
He said this was the reason for Pakistan having military governments and the army enjoying high stature.
“The people of Pakistan love the army and demand a lot from it. So I’m very proud of the fact that army has backed me because I’ve been with them for over 40 years. I fought wars with them, I’ve fought two wars and I’ve fought a number of actions with them. So I know they are my constituency,” he said in response to a question.
“So, therefore, we have to maybe tailor the political structure in accordance with the dictates of Pakistan, introduce checks and balances so that misgovernance does not take place and the army does not have to come into politics,” Musharraf said.
He also alleged that the United States has used his country at its convenience and ditched it.
Musharraf said he has plans to return to his country. “I know that the trial is all politicised. One has to face it. And no risk, no gain, as they say,” he said, adding that he would not go back if the government in Pakistan was performing well.
“I have no such ambition of going back and ruling again. I just want people to run Pakistan well, because Pakistan is my passion,” he said.
However, the former president put forth conditions for his return.
“I’m not that foolhardy. So therefore, I would like to see the correct environment where a political change, the third political force is a possibility. I would like to see that the cases are to a degree at a level where my movements are not restricted, the cases can continue, I’ll face them,” he said.
“I want my movement not to be restricted because I realise that unless I lead from the front, I wouldn’t be able to generate the public support that I would require to create the third front,” he argued.
Claiming that he did not knew that Osama bin Laden was living in Pakistan, Musharraf objected to his hideout being called a palace.
Constructing a wall outside one home, he said, is a “normal thing” in that part of his country, so bin Laden living in a house fenced with a high wall was nothing that could have been thought of as unusual.
Musharraf said he had doubts whether bin Laden had indeed lived at his Abbottabad house for five years.
“Maybe he was going and coming, I still believe that. And if he was there in one of the — in one of the public gatherings where I was being grilled on this aspect, I finally said that the man living for five years in one room with three wives and 18 children, I think he must have rang up CIA himself and declared that he’s there,” he said, drawing laughter from the audience.
Musharraf also said that if he was in power, he would be “counter-threatening” India in the wake of the recent surgical strikes in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir.
“…they are threatening us that they are going to strike us at the time and place of their choosing. Now, this has been said by nobody less than Prime Minister, defence minister and the director general of military operations. This is a very serious matter,” he said.
“I think the war hysteria that is being created in India, I repeat, India, not in Pakistan, is an issue. They do that always. This is not the only time. Every time they do that,” Musharraf said.