The Cable

Pervez Musharraf: I’m ba-ack!

Former Pakistani general and leader Pervez Musharraf is running for president again, and he was in Washington on Wednesday to meet with lawmakers and make the case for his return to international politics. In typical Musharraf style, the former president began his long speech on Wednesday at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace — after ...

Alex Wong/Getty Images
Alex Wong/Getty Images

Former Pakistani general and leader Pervez Musharraf is running for president again, and he was in Washington on Wednesday to meet with lawmakers and make the case for his return to international politics.

In typical Musharraf style, the former president began his long speech on Wednesday at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace — after showing up an hour late — by giving a long oral history of how foreign powers were responsible for the radicalization of tribal groups in Pakistan and Afghanistan due to their ham-handed interventions in the region since the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1979.

After arming tribal groups for 10 years to fight the Soviets, the United States abandoned Afghanistan and Pakistan in 1989, causing the various mujahidin groups to coalesce into groups we now know as al Qaeda and the Taliban, he explained.

"Therefore, my deduction, ladies and gentlemen, is that Pakistan is not the perpetrator of terrorism. Until 1979, we were in perfect harmony. All that happened in Pakistan is that we became a victim of circumstances in the region," Musharraf said. "Pakistan wants to be a progressive, enlightened, moderate country. And Talibanization … is not for Pakistan."

Musharraf said there’s no way that Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), Pakistan’s premier spy agency, is pro-Taliban. Senior U.S. officials, including former Joint Chiefs Chairman Adm. Mike Mullen, have claimed that the Taliban-affiliated Haqqani network, based in Pakistan, is a "veritable arm" of the ISI and together the groups are responsible for deadly attacks on Americans.

"The ISI is much maligned today…. Is it possible that strategically, [the ISI] is pro-Taliban, those who are killing us? 35,000 civilians have died. This doesn’t stand up to logic," Musharraf said. "However, I would then like to clarify, what the hell is happening? There is problem with the tactical, the modalities, and the handling of situations."

He added that anyone who alleges that top levels of the ISI or the Pakistani army are aiding the Taliban and contributing to attacks is "divorced from reality." He said that he was sad to hear Mullen’s comments, which he portrayed as suggesting a complete break between the countries — a break that is in the interest of neither. "That means that Pakistan is the enemy, Pakistan is not a friend, Pakistan is not part of the coalition," Musharraf said, describing Mullen’s remarks.

Musharraf said that the fact Osama bin Laden was living for years in Abbottabad, a Pakistani garrison town, was "a case of terrible negligence that ought to be investigated and punished," but added, "I know for a fact that this was not a case of complicity."

He defended Pakistani intervention in Afghanistan by accusing India of trying to turn Afghans against Pakistan.

"India is trying to create an anti-Pakistan Afghanistan," he said. "I know this from intelligence; I know this to be a fact."

Some think that Musharraf, who has been living in London since stepping down from power in 2008, has little chance of actually winning an election to return to the Pakistani presidency. But Musharraf told the Washington crowd that he will return to Pakistan in March of next year, and urged observers not to count him out.

"Certainly there is support…. There is always support. When I resigned from my presidency, many, many people were crying in Pakistan. There were six cameramen who were filming me and four of them were crying right in front of me and it was a great distraction because I was speaking at that time," he said.

 Twitter: @joshrogin

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