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KARACHI: Former president retired General Pervez Musharraf has defended the military coups in Pakistan and lauded the role played by dictators, saying the country made progress only under dictatorial regimes as the civilian governments mostly “let the nation down”.

In an interview with BBC Urdu in Dubai, the former dictator appeared confident and insisted that progress made in the economic and social sectors under military regimes showed that military rule was much better than civilian rule.

The army, he claimed, always took over the reins of government on “the insistence of the people of Pakistan” after failure of the civilian governments.

Blames Bhutto for 1971 debacle and terms Zia’s rule controversial

“Whether it’s democracy, dictatorship, communism, socialism or monarchy — people are least bothered about that,” the chief of All Pakistan Muslim League claimed.

“They only want prosperity and development. They need security and poverty alleviation. They want the country to move forward.

“In this scenario, you can check the record of the civilian governments... then go to the record of military governments. Then you can judge for yourself who has passed and who has failed.”

Answering a question about the opinion among military personnel over democratic governments, Gen Musharraf claimed the army believed in democracy but also questioned its effectiveness when it came to good governance.

“It’s absolutely a wrong perception that military takes over the government without any reason or logic,” he said. “You can analyse the situation [in the country at the time when] martial law was imposed. You can judge whether it was necessary at that time or not.

“There is no constitutional arrangement for checks and balances and bad governance is destroying the country; what should one do?”

The former dictator agreed with the interviewer that armed forces should serve under the civilian governments but insisted that “lack of good governance by elected leaders often invites military intervention”.

“The armed forces should definitely be under the democratic set-up... but with democracy comes great responsibility,” he said.

“The same people [who are elected by the people] look towards army to take over the country. Before I took over in October 1999, I had been the army chief for just one year. In that entire year in office, people used to come to me, requesting [me] to take over the government due to bad governance [of the civilian government].”

The former army chief ruled out any criticism of the armed forces for the fall of Dhaka in 1971 and blamed instead the-then prime minister, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, for the fiasco.

He praised the regime of General Ayub Khan but termed the 11-year-rule of Gen Ziaul Haq controversial.

“Look around Asia and you will find that wherever there is progress there is dictatorship,” he claimed. “Here in Pakistan, people still remember Ayub Khan’s era, when the country made so much progress economically and socially.

“The Zia rule... had been controversial because he promoted religious extremism in the country. But I am quite clear that whatever he did against the Soviet Union, with the help of the US and Taliban, was absolutely right.”

Published in Dawn, August 4th, 2017