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Musharraf seeks forgiveness, says will not flee country

Last updated on: December 20, 2013 13:51 IST

Former Pakistani dictator Pervez Musharraf has sought "forgiveness" for any wrongs he may have committed during his nine-year regime, saying he will face all cases against him and not flee the country like a coward.

"Whatever I did, I did it for the country. It could be wrong but there was no bad intention in it. Even then, if someone thinks that I have committed a mistake, I seek forgiveness," Musharraf said in an interview to ARY News, his first since he was placed under house arrest at his palatial farm house on the outskirts of the capital eight months ago.

As insisted by his close associates earlier, Musharraf said he will not leave the country to run away from the numerous cases registered against him including a high treason case.

"I don't want to runaway cowardly and will face all the trials to makes the thing clear," the former President said. "Let there be 100 trials," he said in the interview aired on Thursday night.

Musharraf has been granted bail in all four major cases against him, including one over the assassination of former premier Benazir Bhutto, but is now facing trial in a special court on the charge of high treason for imposing emergency in 2007.

This is the first time in Pakistan's history that a former military dictator is facing trial for treason. If convicted, Musharraf could face either life imprisonment or the death penalty.

With a shawl around his shoulder, kurta-clad Musharraf sounded emotional at times and termed revival of the economy and tackling extremism and terrorism as the most serious challenges the country is facing.

Asked about the negotiations with the Taliban and other militant groups, he said he supported it but "talks should be held from a position of strength."

The former president said talks are being held from a position of weakness. "I don't agree with begging before them saying please spare us our life...the government says talks and the Taliban says we don't want to talk," he said, adding that there was no respect and the government should exercise its power.

However, Musharraf said the Taliban and others were "our own people" who had gone astray.

Musharraf said terrorism and extremism has to be controlled for economic revival and for foreign investment to come in and setting up of industries. He said the current Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz government was "begging" before the IMF.

There is no respect for beggars in the world. We are begging before IMF. If someone shows a Pakistani passport, there is no respect. Economy has to be set right," Musharraf said, asserting that corruption and mis-governance has to be set right.

"If I get the chance to rule the country in future, I will do whatever is beneficial for Pakistan," he asserted. Musharraf said 90 per cent officials of the time advised him not to liberate the media but he was of the view that Pakistan needed a free media for its progress and prosperity.

"Frankly I shall want to take the credit of making the media free here," he said.

Musharraf pointed out that those who benefited the most from this freedom now spoke against him. He claimed that a well-known anchor of a big channel had been urging him to initiate operation against the Lal Masjid people.

About the supporters who ditched him in the time of need, Musharraf said, "There are always ups and downs in life". Speaking about terrorism, Musharraf alleged there was always a foreign hand behind such acts including unrest in Balochistan and sectarianism.

He said he had introduced real democracy in the country through local governments. "The steps I took empowered women and provided rights to minorities," Musharraf said.

Musharraf came to power in 1999 by toppling a government led by current Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and ruled till 2008, when he was forced to resign after being threatened with impeachment.

He lived in self-exile for about five years and returned to Pakistan in March but was hauled to court in different cases.

Snehesh Alex Philip in Islamabad
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