The former Pakistani president General Pervez Musharraf said last night that he had “no regrets” about the security provided to Benazir Bhutto on the day of her assassination, as he prepared to officially launch his political comeback.
Bhutto, a former Pakistan prime minister was killed at a political rally in Rawalpindi in December 2007. A UN report into her death, published in April, said her death could have been prevented and criticised the Pakistani intelligence services, police and government, led by Musharraf, for security failures.
In the aftermath of the report Musharraf left his aides to comment but last night, when asked about the UN’s conclusions, he insisted he had “no regrets”.
“There was adequate security provided but security in our environment [Pakistan] is, I would say, never adequate,” he said.
In comments that will anger members of her Pakistan People’s Party, he went on to effectively blame Bhutto for putting herself at risk by standing up through the sunroof of her vehicle. She was shot and a suicide bomb was detonated shortly afterwards.
Musharraf was being interviewed by the former British ambassador to the US, Christopher Meyer, in London, where the former military ruler has lived since he stood down as president in 2008 amid widespread protests after nine years in power.
Tomorrow he will launch the All Pakistan Muslim League as he attempts an unlikely comeback into Pakistani politics, this time as a civilian.
He acknowledged that he would be a likely target for extremists but said he was “prepared to take risks for Pakistan”.
His solidarity with the US after the 9/11 attacks made him unpopular in Pakistan and a target for the Pakistani Taliban and other extremists. But Musharraf insisted the US and its allies should finish the job in Afghanistan, urging them not to negotiate with “moderate Taliban” as the Afghan government is attempting to do with the backing of the US and Nato commander in the country, General David Petraeus.”There is no moderate Taliban,” he said. “Show resolve, the message that ought to go to the Taliban is we will finish you, instead of a message … we have to get our boys back. This is a weak message.”
He strongly rebuffed the widespread belief that Pakistan supports the Taliban in Afghanistan saying they were “the ones that tried to kill me”. But Musharraf condemned US drone strikes as a “complete violation of the sovereignty of Pakistan”. However, Pakistani leaders have long been suspected of tacitly approving the strategy but then speaking out about them in the face of public opposition.
Musharraf who took power in a bloodless coup in 1999 said the Pakistani military should have a defined role in the constitution, although it should not be given the power to overthrow governments. “If you want stability, if you want checks and balances in the democratic structures of Pakistan … the military ought to have some kind of role,” he said. “Democracy has to be tailored for it’s environment.”
This article is written by Haroon Siddique and was published in The Guardian.