Pakistan's general in exile plots an unlikely return to power

Former ruler Pervez Musharraf says he can lead country again, despite past blunders

Pakistan's former dictator Pervez Musharraf yesterday launched his bid for an unlikely return to power from exile in Britain with an apology to his nation for mistakes made before stepping down under the threat of impeachment after eight-and-a-half years in power.

Mr Musharraf, 67, said that he made mistakes during his final year in power that had "adverse impacts" on the nation but told several hundred cheering supporters that he was the man to lead his country out of the "darkness that prevails in Pakistan".

He did not say what those mistakes were, but the fact that he was launching his new political party in London highlighted his disconnection with the country that he ruled after seizing power in a bloodless coup in 1999.

Since 2009, he has been living in London, communicating with his supporters through Facebook, and carrying out a series of speaking engagements.

Yesterday, in the grand surroundings of a book-lined Whitehall club in central London, he spoke of launching a "jihad against poverty, hunger and illiteracy" but also admitted to having made decisions while in power that "resulted in negative political repercussions".

"I take this opportunity to sincerely apologise to the whole nation for those wrong decisions," he said.

"Only God is infallible. Human beings make mistakes and I did make those few mistakes at the end for which I have apologised. I have learned my lessons and I am very sure I will not repeat them again."

His current standing in Pakistan means that he is unlikely to have the opportunity. Pakistan's High Commissioner in Britain, Wajid Shamsul Hasan, said bluntly that Mr Musharraf was "yesterday's man" and without the clout that he used to wield.

Mr Musharraf yesterday readily admitted that his popularity plunged during his final year in power when he imposed emergency rule across Pakistan, tussled with the judges and courts and sent troops into television stations.

However, earlier this week he said that he had no regrets about the security given to Benazir Bhutto for the political rally in 2007 where she was killed three months after returning to the country to fight an election campaign. A damning UN report said that her assassination could have been prevented and blamed his security forces for failings.

Despite his apology yesterday, it is unclear when he will be able to return to Pakistan as he faces a potential trial for treason over his seizure of power. He has said that he will return before elections in 2013 but his influence over the military, his former powerbase, is unclear, as many of his allies have retired. "There is no case against me in the courts of Pakistan today," he said. "Whatever cases there have been, have been motivated politically. ... I am prepared to face anything. I am not afraid."

Earlier, he said the only way to tackle Pakistan's problems was further to bolster the army's role. He also spoke about the importance of boosting agriculture and bringing more investment to the impoverished nation of about 175 million. He also talked of the need to keep tackling terror, but gave no specifics. "There will be zero tolerance for extremism," he said.

The launch of the new party, the All Pakistan Muslim League, comes amid turmoil in Pakistan. The civilian government has come under intense criticism over its handling of the devastating floods this year, in sharp contrast to the response of the powerful military which mobilised to move people and take supplies to some of the millions who were affected.

Powerful landowners with connections to the ruling party were accused of diverting floodwaters to protect their own lands and submerging villagers.

The party launch yesterday played on the weakness of the current government of President Asif Ali Zardari with a big-screen presentation of his claimed achievements while in power including the building of dams and his address to the nation after the floods with a pledge from his personal fortune.

To chanting from his supporters – overwhelmingly British-resident Pakistanis – the film trumpeted his economic record – including the opening of the first "seven-star hotel in Pakistan". But critics have accused Mr Musharraf doing too little to improve the country's stagnant economy while in power.

Mr Musharraf was Pakistan's leader when Islamist militants began attacking the state in earnest and was a key ally of the Bush administration's so-called war on terror after the September 11 terror attacks in 2001.

While in power, Mr Musharraf launched several offensives against militants in the north-west, but struck deals with insurgents when it became clear the army could not win by sheer force. Pakistan's army and the current government, however, arguably have been more forceful and successful in flushing out al-Qa'ida operatives and Taliban supporters.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
A survey carried out by Sainsbury's Finance found 20% of new university students have never washed their own clothes, while 14% cannot even boil an egg
science...and the results are not as pointless as that sounds
politicsIs David Cameron trying to prove he's down with the kids?
Dominique Alderweireld, also known as Dodo de Saumure, is the owner of a string of brothels in Belgium
newsPhilip Sweeney gets the inside track on France's trial of the year
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Cumberbatch was speaking on US television when he made the comment (Getty)
Life and Style
Arts and Entertainment
Tom DeLonge, Travis Barker and Mark Hoppus of Blink-182 pictured in 2011.
musicBassist Mark Hoppus and drummer Travis Barker say Tom Delonge is 'disrespectful and ungrateful'
Arts and Entertainment
Olivia Colman and David Tennant star in 'Broadchurch'
tvBroadchurch series 2, episode 4, review - contains spoilers
cyclingDisgraced cycling star says people will soon forgive his actions
Britain's Prince Philip attends a Garden Party at Buckingham Palace in London
Arts and Entertainment
Ed Sheeran will play three sell-out gigs at Wembley Stadium in July
Lena Dunham posing for an official portrait at Sundance 2015
Arts and Entertainment
Under the skin: Sarah Kane in May 1998
theatreThe story behind a new season of Sarah Kane plays
Arts and Entertainment
Preening: Johnny Depp in 'Mortdecai'
filmMortdecai becomes actor's fifth consecutive box office bomb
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Sales Representative

£18000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: To promote and sell the Company...

Recruitment Genius: Project Engineer

£30000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An exciting opportunity has ari...

Recruitment Genius: Project Manager - Civil Engineering

£35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The Business: This company is going thro...

Tradewind Recruitment: KS1 & KS2 Teachers Required

Negotiable: Tradewind Recruitment: Tradewind Recruitment are currently working...

Day In a Page

Woman who was sent to three Nazi death camps describes how she escaped the gas chamber

Auschwitz liberation 70th anniversary

Woman sent to three Nazi death camps describes surviving gas chamber
DSK, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel

The inside track on France's trial of the year

Dominique Strauss-Kahn, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel:
As provocative now as they ever were

Sarah Kane season

Why her plays are as provocative now as when they were written
Murder of Japanese hostage has grim echoes of a killing in Iraq 11 years ago

Murder of Japanese hostage has grim echoes of another killing

Japanese mood was against what was seen as irresponsible trips to a vicious war zone
Syria crisis: Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more refugees as one young mother tells of torture by Assad regime

Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more Syrian refugees

One young mother tells of torture by Assad regime
The enemy within: People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back – with promising results

The enemy within

People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back
'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

Survivors of the Nazi concentration camp remember its horror, 70 years on
Autumn/winter menswear 2015: The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore

Autumn/winter menswear 2015

The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore
'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

Army general planning to come out
Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

What the six wise men told Tony Blair

Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

25 years of The Independent on Sunday

The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

Homeless Veterans appeal

As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

Smash hit go under the hammer

It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

The geeks who rocked the world

A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea