Former president Pervez Musharraf on Tuesday declared that he is the greatest supporter of proscribed militant group Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT).
The declaration of support for LeT, Jamaatud Dawa and its chief Hafiz Saeed, who was recently released from house arrest, was made during a discussion pertaining to Musharraf's recently announced 23-party 'grand alliance' on ARY News programme 11th Hour.
During the talk show, the host pointed out that it will be "an interesting visual" to see Musharraf ─ "enlightened moderation, liberal outlook" ─ sitting next to leaders of parties such as Majlis-i-Wahdatul Muslimeen, Sunni Itehad Council and Pakistan Sunni Tehreek ─ "parties with religious colours."
"You are describing me as a liberal [...] Yes, I am. These are my thoughts," the former president said. "That does not mean I am against all religious parties."
"I am the greatest supporter of LeT and I know they [LeT and JuD] are fond of me," he said.
When asked if he "liked" JuD chief Hafiz Seed, the former president said that he does and that he has met with him.
"Because I have always been in favour of action in Kashmir and I have always been in favour of pressuring the Indian army in Kashmir. This is the biggest force and they have been declared terrorists by India and the US jointly," Musharraf said, explaining his stance.
The former president went on to deny that LeT was involved in the 2008 terrorist attacks in Mumbai ─ an allegation leveled by India and supported by Washington.
During the interview, the former president said that Washington's statement following Saeed's release last week was an "insult to Pakistan's sovereignty."
Following his release, the US had asked Pakistan to re-arrest Saeed, who has been designated a terrorist by the US Justice Department.
“The Pakistani government should make sure that he is arrested and charged for his crimes,” the State Department said in its statement.
Washington had said that the JuD chief's release sends a "deeply troubling message about Pakistan's commitment to combating international terrorism."
Washington had gone on to warn that if Saeed is not charged for his crimes, "Pakistan's inaction will have repercussions for bilateral relations and Pakistan's global reputation."
"This language is offensive and insults Pakistan's sovereignty... I would never accept this," Musharraf said
"Please do not dictate to us; we have to decide on who is the head of [and] whether he has to be tried or punished," the former president added.
The former president went on to say that democracy in Pakistan is not under threat but requires "tailoring" in keeping with the country's requirements.
"We need [to make] amendments to the system, political restructuring, electoral reforms and checks balances."
"We need to tailor democracy and the parliamentary system to Pakistan's requirements and in this the most important matter is the army [...] the army plays a role," Musharraf said.
"The army needs to be included in the checks and balances."