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.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn evocation of the conflict through the eyes of those who lived through it
Life and Style
techCould new invention save millions in healthcare bills?
Sport
David Moyes gets soaked
sport Moyes becomes latest manager to take part in the ALS challenge
Voices
A meteor streaks across the sky during the Perseid Meteor Shower at a wind farm near Bogdanci, south of Skopje, Macedonia, in the early hours of 13 August
voicesHagel and Dempsey were pure Hollywood. They only needed Tom Cruise, says Robert Fisk
News
peopleEnglishman managed quintessential Hollywood restaurant Chasen's
Life and Style
food + drinkHarrods launches gourmet food qualification for staff
Arts and Entertainment
Michael Flatley prepares to bid farewell to the West End stage
danceMichael Flatley hits West End for last time alongside Team GB World champion Alice Upcott
Life and Style
Horst P Horst mid-fashion shoot in New York, 1949
fashionFar-reaching retrospective to celebrate Horst P Horst's six decades of creativity
News
Members and supporters of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (LGBT) community walk with a rainbow flag during a rally in July
i100
Life and Style
Black Ivory Coffee is made using beans plucked from elephants' waste after ingested by the animals
food + drinkFirm says it has created the "rarest" coffee in the world
Arts and Entertainment
Jamie T plays live in 2007 before going on hiatus from 2010
arts + entsSinger-songwriter will perform on the Festival Republic Stage
Life and Style
food + drinkThese simple recipes will have you refreshed within minutes
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

SQL Developer (TSQL, SSRS, SSAS) Fund Manager - London

£45000 - £50000 per annum + Benefits: Harrington Starr: SQL Developer (TSQL, S...

Software Developer (JavaScript, TDD, Jasmine, Angular.JS)

Negotiable: Harrington Starr: Software Developer (JavaScript, TDD, Jasmine, An...

Front-End UI/UX Developer (HTML5, CSS, JavaScript, jQuery, Ang

£45000 - £50000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: Front-End UI/U...

C#.NET Server Side Developer (C#, XML, WCF, Unit Testing,SQL)

£30000 - £40000 per annum + benefits+bonus+package: Harrington Starr: C#.NET ...

Day In a Page

All this talk of an ‘apocalyptic’ threat is simply childish

Robert Fisk: All this talk of an ‘apocalyptic’ threat is simply childish

Chuck Hagel and Martin Dempsey were pure Hollywood. They only needed Tom Cruise
Mafia Dons: is the Camorra in control of the Granite City?

Mafia Dons: is the Camorra in control of the Granite City?

So claims an EU report which points to the Italian Mob’s alleged grip on everything from public works to property
Emmys look set to overhaul the Oscars as Hollywood’s prize draw

Emmys look set to overhaul the Oscars as Hollywood’s prize draw

Once the poor relation, the awards show now has the top stars and boasts the best drama
What happens to African migrants once they land in Italy during the summer?

What happens to migrants once they land in Italy?

Memphis Barker follows their trail through southern Europe
French connection: After 1,300 years, there’s a bridge to Mont Saint-Michel

French connection: After 1,300 years, there’s a bridge to Mont Saint-Michel

The ugly causeway is being dismantled, an elegant connection erected in its place. So everyone’s happy, right?
Frank Mugisha: Uganda's most outspoken gay rights activist on changing people's attitudes, coming out, and the threat of being attacked

Frank Mugisha: 'Coming out was a gradual process '

Uganda's most outspoken gay rights activist on changing people's attitudes, coming out, and the threat of being attacked
Radio 1 to hire 'YouTube-famous' vloggers to broadcast online

Radio 1’s new top ten

The ‘vloggers’ signed up to find twentysomething audience
David Abraham: Big ideas for the small screen

David Abraham: Big ideas for the small screen

A blistering attack on US influence on British television has lifted the savvy head of Channel 4 out of the shadows
Florence Knight's perfect picnic: Make the most of summer's last Bank Holiday weekend

Florence Knight's perfect picnic

Polpetto's head chef shares her favourite recipes from Iced Earl Grey tea to baked peaches, mascarpone & brown sugar meringues...
Horst P Horst: The fashion photography genius who inspired Madonna comes to the V&A

Horst P Horst comes to the V&A

The London's museum has delved into its archives to stage a far-reaching retrospective celebrating the photographer's six decades of creativity
Mark Hix recipes: Try our chef's summery soups for a real seasonal refresher

Mark Hix's summery soups

Soup isn’t just about comforting broths and steaming hot bowls...
Tim Sherwood column: 'It started as a three-horse race but turned into the Grand National'

Tim Sherwood column

I would have taken the Crystal Palace job if I’d been offered it soon after my interview... but the whole process dragged on so I had to pull out
Eden Hazard: Young, gifted... not yet perfect

Eden Hazard: Young, gifted... not yet perfect

Eden Hazard admits he is still below the level of Ronaldo and Messi but, after a breakthrough season, is ready to thrill Chelsea’s fans
Tim Howard: I’m an old dog. I don’t get too excited

Tim Howard: I’m an old dog. I don’t get too excited

The Everton and US goalkeeper was such a star at the World Cup that the President phoned to congratulate him... not that he knows what the fuss is all about
Match of the Day at 50: Show reminds us that even the most revered BBC institution may have a finite lifespan – thanks to the opposition

Tom Peck on Match of the Day at 50

The show reminds us that even the most revered BBC institution may have a finite lifespan – thanks to the opposition