Out of Pakistan: Former President Musharraf leaves three years after he returned in bid to regain power

Special to WorldTribune.com

Pervez Musharraf, Pakistan’s former president who is facing a litany of charges including high-treason, left the country on March 18 three years after returning from exile and vowing to regain power.

Musharraf, who took power in a 1999 coup and a staunch U.S. ally after the 9/11 attacks, was removed from the country’s “exit control list” on March 17. The Islamabad government is said to have allowed the ex-president to leave after he vowed to face all charges against him and “promised to return in four to six weeks.”

Ex-president Pervez Musharraf’s lawyer said he would return after having surgery on his back.
Pervez Musharraf’s lawyer said the former president would return to Pakistan after having surgery on his back.

Pakistani Interior Minister Nisar Ali Khan said the government would not prevent Musharraf from leaving on a Dubai-bound flight in order to seek medical attention overseas.

Musharraf’s long-time ban from international travel was widely seen as a sign of the determination of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to defy opposition from the army’s high command and prosecute the man who ousted him in the 1999 coup.

Shaukat Qadir, a retired army officer, said the two sides appeared to have reached an accommodation.

“It is quite fair to think that a deal has been struck finally that perhaps the army wanted some time back,” he said. “Frankly I don’t think army chiefs should be exempt from anything but considering the circumstances hopefully he has now learned his lesson and won’t be coming back.”

[Pakistan’s Ambassador to the United States Maleeha Lodhi (representing Musharraf) had canceled an interview at The Washington Times on 9/12 because of emergency consultations with White House officials. Pakistan military leaders like Musharraf had been reliable U.S. security allies with the U.S. during the Cold War and the subsequent war on terrorism but have been accused of rights violations by the U.S. State Department and domestic opposition. They have also been accused of complicity with the proliferation efforts of “Father” of Pakistan’s nuke, A.Q. Khan.]

Meanwhile, Musharraf has conceded that he agreed on “some” of the seven-point conditions set by the United States hours after the 9/11 attacks to “be on the side of countries fighting terrorism”, but also claimed to have “rejected others.”

In an interview with SouthAsia Magazine, Musharraf said reports that he had surrendered to the U.S. after a phone call from Colin Powell were fabricated and that he was only briefed by the then U.S. secretary of state on the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center and asked if Pakistan would be on the side of countries fighting terrorism.

“I went to Islamabad two days later where the U.S. ambassador to Pakistan met me and gave me a seven-point agenda,” Musharraf said.

“Let me make it clear that we had not given any answer to the U.S. by that time. We got back to them some three days later after going through the agenda. We agreed on some conditions and rejected others.”

Musharraf also said that reports that he officially gave the U.S. permission to conduct drone strikes were entirely false.

“My protest (against drone strikes) was so strong that many people advised me to tone it down.”

Musharraf also claimed that his government was Pakistan’s most democratic.

“Our government (2002-07), a duly elected government, was as democratic as many a government in the world,” he said. “We were democratic in the true sense. Democracy is all about empowering the people and we delegated power to the people by introducing the local government institutions. We gave freedom to the media.”