Musharraf says half of Imran’s cabinet are ‘his people’

Published February 24, 2019
Rules out possibility of a nuclear war, calls for establishing relations with Israel.— AP/File
Rules out possibility of a nuclear war, calls for establishing relations with Israel.— AP/File

ISLAMABAD: Chief of the All-Pakistan Muslim League (APML) and former military ruler retired Gen Pervez Musharraf sees “political environment” in Pakistan “favourable” for his return though he has no immediate plan to come back to the motherland.

Speaking at a news conference in Dubai (the UAE) on Friday evening, the former president while responding to a question said several members in the cabinet of Prime Minister Imran Khan were his people, but it would be “unusual” to expect and ask the government “to plead” his case before the courts.

Take a look: Musharraf suffering from amyloidosis, has difficulty standing and walking: APML leader

“In my opinion, political environment is good and favourable. Half of the [present] ministers are mine. [The] law minister and the (incumbent) attorney general were my lawyers,” responded a visibly frail Musharraf, telling the reporter that he was expecting this question.

“Pakistan is my country. My roots are there. My relatives and friends are there. I will definitely go there,” the APML chief said. But immediately, he said, he could not “jump like fools” and would do it under a strategy.

Rules out possibility of a nuclear war, calls for establishing relations with Israel, opposition parties react to Tel Aviv remarks

Gen Musharraf, who has been living in self-exile in Dubai, also hit out at the country’s two major political parties — the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) and the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) — and termed both Nawaz Sharif and Asif Zardari as “plunderers”.

He particularly attacked Mr Zardari and alleged that he had been involved in a number of cases of “murder and extortion”. He alleged that the former president had forcefully acquired some 40 houses around Bilawal House in Karachi at a very low price. He advised the media to work against both Mr Zardari and Mr Sharif who, according to him, had “destroyed the country”.

During the news conference, Mr Musharraf introduced his party’s chairman Hidayatullah Kheshgi who he said would reorganise the APML.

He said there were talks about his illness and the people had started saying that the APML had finished. He said his health condition was improving and he was also busy with a South African trainer at a gym on a regular basis.

According to Mr Musharraf, who had ruled the country for nearly nine years after throwing out the elected government of Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz in a military coup as then Chief of the Army Staff in 1999, said that the main purpose of his party was “to keep Asif Zardari and Nawaz Sharif out of politics”. He said: “The APML will do whatever possible to keep both of them out of politics.”

The former military ruler said his party would continue to support the government of the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) that emerged as the third “political force” in the country. He said if any attempt was made to dislodge the present government, his party would extend its support to the PTI.

Relations with Israel

During the news conference, the former president called for establishing relations with Israel. He said there was a need to break the alliance between India and Israel, and Pakistan could do it very easily. He said Hindu and Jewish lobby was very strong in the media and unfortunately, India had a greater say in the international community.

Gen Musharraf claimed that Israel wanted to establish relations with Pakistan.

Mentioning that both Pakistan and Israel were facing “existential threat”, he recalled his efforts to build relations with Israel when he was in power. He said he had addressed the American Jewish Congress in New York. He said it was due to his efforts that the then foreign minister Khursheed Kasuri had a meeting with his Israeli counterpart in Turkey.

Pakistan-India ties

He said tension between the neighbouring nuclear powers, India and Pakistan, had again reached a “dangerous level”. A similar situation had developed in 2002 when India had deployed its army, navy and air force along Pakistan’s border for 10 months, he said. However, he added, India did not find the courage to do any adventure and had to withdraw the forces after seeing Pakistan’s readiness.

The former army chief said India had advantage in some areas in Kashmir and it could launch a surgical strike, but Pakistan also had advantage in many other areas. He suggested to Pakistan Army to keep a plan prepared before time to deal with any possible Indian move.

In response to a question, Gen Musharraf termed the talks about any nuclear attack rubbish and said if Pakistan would attack India with one atomic bomb, then the neighbouring country could “finish us by attacking with 20 bombs”.

“The only solution is that we should first attack them with 50 atom bombs so that they cannot hit us with 20 bombs. Are you ready to first launch an attack with 50 bombs?” he remarked in response to a question about the possibility of any nuclear war between the two countries.

“It is not so simple. Do not talk like this. There is always a military strategy,” he added.

He said if India launched any attack in Kashmir, Pakistan could respond in other areas in Sindh and Punjab and could teach them a lesson.

‘Civil war’ in Afghanistan

The former president was of the opinion that if the US would withdraw its troops from Afghanistan, then there would be a “civil war” in Kabul. He presented three possible scenarios after the US withdrawal. He said either a civil war would start in the country among Afghan, Uzbek and Tajik warlords or the Taliban would dominate the country or Northern Alliance with the support of India could take control of some of the areas. In this scenario, he said Pakistan and India could also indulge in a proxy war in Afghanistan.

Reaction to Tel Aviv remarks

Interestingly, both the PPP and the PML-N strongly reacted to Gen Musharraf’s remarks about Israel, but ignored his criticism against their leadership.

PPP parliamentary leader in Senate Sherry Rehman in a statement said the entire country was shell-shocked over Pervez Musharraf’s pro-Israel statements. “Israel cannot tolerate Palestinian Muslims, how would it ever tolerate a nuclear power like Pakistan?” she asked.

Ms Rehman said such statements gave credence to the controversy over Israeli journalist’s tweet that an Israeli jet had flown from Tel Aviv to Islamabad in October 2018.

“The government must immediately respond and clarify Pakistan’s stance,” she demanded.

Former foreign minister and PML-N leader Khawaja Asif posted on Twitter a TV grab of his comments about Israel and stated: “Gen Musharraf has been out of power for 11 years, but it seemed he was still intoxicated with power.”

Published in Dawn, February 24th, 2019

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