Fiery Musharraf Slams U.S. Assessment of Pakistan

Former coup leader and president wants to get back in Pakistani politics.

October 9, 2010, 6:33 PM

Oct. 9, 2010— -- Pervez Musharraf, the former Pakistani president and general who came to power in coup in 1999 and resigned in 2008, slammed harsh U.S. assessments of Pakistan's fight against militants in an exclusive interview with "This Week" anchor Christiane Amanpour.

"[F]rankly, I have been -- Pakistan has always been accused of not doing enough," he said, but he insisted that "Pakistan is doing enough."

Musharraf strongly rejected a recent White House report, which said "the Pakistani military continued to avoid military engagements that would put it in direct conflict with Afghan Taliban or al-Qa'ida forces in North Waziristan. This is as much a political choice as it is a reflection of an under-resourced military prioritizing its targets."

"I totally disagree with this statement," Musharraf, speaking from London, told Amanpour.

Amanpour asked the former president about criticism by the Obama administration that the ISI, the Pakistani spy agency, still supports the Taliban.

"I take very strong exception to these statements which have been going on maybe since 2004, because of a misunderstanding of ground realities," he said.

"After defeating the Taliban ... I always was of the view that we need to change strategy. We need to go in for deals," he said. "So my strategy always was to strike a deal, strike a deal to win away Pashtun from the Taliban."

Musharraf said his views were vindicated by the fact that there is now widespread discussion of Afghan authorities coming to some kind of accommodation with elements of the Taliban.

He admitted that there was still extremism in Pakistan, but pressed for seeing terrorism as a reaction.

"There are problems that Pakistan is facing. There is no doubt, and nobody should deny that, that we have extremism in our society. We have al Qaeda and Taliban," he said. "But what we need -- we are not understanding -- are what are the causes behind terrorism is always a symptom. We should know that."

Musharraf announced in London on Oct. 2 that he was starting a new political party, the All Pakistan Muslim League. Amanpour asked him about his aspirations to return to his country.

"You decided to form a political party. And you say to go and contest the elections back in 2013. A lot of the military are basically saying that they don't want you back. And a lot of people are saying that your time is past. You were yesterday's man," Amanpour said, asking why he would return now.

"Well, I see the condition of Pakistan," he said. "And I see that Pakistan is suffering. And in this darkness that prevails in Pakistan, I don't see any political party which can show the light.

"I don't take views from others that I am a past man or anything," he said. "I understand better what is a ground reality instead of listening to people from abroad who don't know Pakistan."

The former president faces logistical difficulties, however, in his quest to return to Islamabad. He faces legal charges in Pakistan and said he will remain in the United Kingdom for the time being.

"There are some problems," he admitted. "I can't go buy an air ticket and land with one suitcase in Pakistan at this moment. There are certain problems, which everyone knows, and I do understand. I have to create an environment of popularity, of political clout, and then I will go."

But, he insisted, "I will be there before the elections."