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Pakistan's Musharraf defends actions in interview

December 20, 2013
Associated Press

ISLAMABAD (AP) — Pakistan's former military ruler Pervez Musharraf defended himself in his first interview since his house arrest earlier this year, telling a local television station he did his best for the nation.

The interview, recorded several weeks ago, aired just days before a special tribunal that will decide whether Musharraf committed high treason will meet for the first time.

Musharraf returned to Pakistan in March after four years in self-imposed exile, hoping to take part in the country's upcoming election. But authorities swiftly arrested him over a number of cases involving his actions while in power. He has spent much of his time since under house arrest.

His fall from grace has been a stunning role reversal in a country where the military, especially top leaders such as Musharraf, are generally considered above the law.

In an interview aired late Thursday by private broadcaster ARY, Musharraf said his decisions were meant to bring prosperity and move Pakistan forward.

"If someone thinks I did wrong, I apologize for that. But whatever I did, I did for the country and its people," Musharraf said, speaking from his farmhouse in the Islamabad suburbs where he spent his house arrest.

Musharraf, a military general, came to power in a 1999 coup that toppled Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif's government. He ruled for nearly a decade before stepping down in 2008.

Musharraf was freed last month from house arrest after receiving bail but is still barred from leaving Pakistan.

On Tuesday, a three-member court is scheduled to meet for the first time in the high treason case, which stems from his 2007 decision to fire and detain some judges, including the country's chief justice, after declaring a state of emergency and suspending the constitution.

Musharraf justified the state of emergency by citing the growing Taliban insurgency in the country's northwest. But critics say he feared the judges would push back against his re-election as president.

The move backfired as lawyers took to the streets in widespread protests that eventually weakened Musharraf's government so much that he was forced to call new elections and step down.

The head of Musharraf's defense team, Ahmad Raza Qasuri, told The Associated Press that his client was in good spirits and determined to clear his name in the upcoming court proceedings. Qasuri said Musharraf also recorded an interview with a second Pakistani television station that aired late Thursday as well.

The lawyer called the cases against Musharraf a "vendetta" by a judicial community still smarting from Musharraf's treatment of them when he was in office.

"He's expecting justice, free and fair," Qasuri said.

Musharraf did not address the upcoming trial in the interview but called on Pakistanis to support the military and its intelligence wing.

"The army should be utilized ... wherever anyone is creating trouble, working against the integrity of Pakistan," he said.

Musharraf also criticized the current government run by Nawaz Sharif, the man he once deposed in a coup, over its decision to seek a bailout from the International Monetary Fund.

"Beggars have no respect," Musharraf said.



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