"Military rule has always brought the country back on track, whereas civilian governments have always derailed it," former president General (retd) Pervez Musharraf said in an interview with BBC Urdu on Wednesday, during which he lauded former military dictators.

"Dictators set the country right, whereas civilian governments brought it to ruins," he said, claiming that "military rule always brought progress to Pakistan".

The former president added that whenever a martial law was declared in Pakistan, "it was the need of the hour".

"All Asian countries have seen progress because of dictators," he said, adding that it makes no difference to the population of Pakistan whether the country is being governed by an elected government or by an autocrat, as long as there is progress and prosperity.

"What is the point of holding elections and giving liberty [to the population], if the country does not see progress?" he was quoted as saying.

During the interview, Musharraf lauded the rules of former military dictators Field Marshal Ayub Khan and Gen Ziaul Haq.

Holding the Bhutto era responsible for "breaking the country", he said Ayub Khan had "set a record of progress in the country."

Commenting on the rule of Gen Zia, Musharraf — while accepting that it was "controversial" — maintained that the former dictator's decision to help America and the mujahideen against the Soviet Union at the time of the Afghanistan invasion was a correct move.

Musharraf also spoke about his 1999 coup d'état in which he seized power from the democratically-elected government of former prime minister Nawaz Sharif.

He said, "The coup was staged because it was the demand of the country's people".

Musharraf added that Pakistan's citizens should have the option of to remove a civilian government and there should be "checks and balances in the Constitution" to this effect.

"The people come running to the army to be saved; people come to me asking to be saved," he said.

"We cannot ruin the country in order to save the Constitution. We can disregard the Constitution to save the people," he said.

Musharraf further criticised former prime minister Nawaz Sharif's India policy, saying it was a "total sell-out policy".

"India is involved in Balochistan. Whoever works actively against the welfare of Pakistan is against the country and should be killed," he said.

"I have served as the head of the army and the army will always protect my welfare," he said in response to a question about his self-imposed exile.

Despite pending court cases against him, the former dictator left Pakistan in March 2016, saying he would return "in a few weeks" after medical treatment.

Musharraf is facing a treason trial for clamping emergency in the country on Nov 3, 2007.

During the last hearing of the case, Musharraf's lawyer, Akhtar Shah, had told the court that the government needs to ensure adequate security for Musharraf before the former president can return to the country.

Last week, after the Supreme Court disqualified Nawaz, Musharraf was slammed on social media for posting a video in which he hailed the verdict in the Panamagate case as "historic".

"I want to heartily congratulate the Supreme Court bench especially because it is a brave decision which is in accordance with the principles of justice and fairness," Musharraf said in the video.

His comments were criticised by many as being arrogant and hypocritical.



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