During the time President Musharraf ruled Pakistan, the GDP doubled, the exports tripled, poverty was reduced by 50%, and the per capita increased by 100%. Phone density shot up from 3% to over 90%. New universities were opened, and the media was revolutionized which enabled 80 TV channels to be operational in Pakistan. These are undeniable facts.
The WSJ says that this growth “coincided” with global prosperity. We are not so sure. We think that bad governance, and corruption have impeded the growth of Pakistan measured by the IMF and the World Bank.
NEW YORK—Former President Pervez Musharraf underlined his ambitions to return to Pakistan to contest elections in 2013, casting himself as a tested politician who can turn around the country’s dire economic problems.
In an interview with WSJ’s Rebecca Blumenstein, Pervez Musharraf insists that Pakistan is a reliable partner in the war against al Qaeda and the Taliban, despite concerns in the U.S. He also makes the case for his return to Pakistani politics.
Mr. Musharraf, a former army chief, took power in a 1999 coup. His decade in government largely coincided with a period of solid economic growth.
Three months after he resigned in August 2008, the country called in the International Monetary Fund to bail it out of a balance-of-payments crisis.
Since then, the country has been unable to get a hold on its growing budget deficit, forcing it to ramp up International Monetary Fund borrowing to $11 billion. And other indicators, such as inflation and joblessness, have also worsened as economic growth has slowed.
Some economists say Mr. Musharraf was the beneficiary of a vibrant global economy while in power. Others say the balance-of-payments crisis in 2008, in part caused by rising costs of imported fuel oil, were a legacy of his administration’s failure to implement structural reforms.
Nevertheless, Mr. Musharraf is betting his administration’s economic record, and declining ratings for President Asif Ali Zardari‘s administration amid the economic crisis, will help propel him back to power.
“Now that Pakistan is in turmoil, the people of Pakistan remember what they had,” Mr. Musharraf said in an interview with The Wall Street Journal. “They want a viable alternative.”
Mr. Musharraf last month formally launched a new political party, the All Pakistan Muslim League, which he plans to use as a vehicle to contest the 2013 general elections.
The challenges that await him at home are stiff. Many of Pakistan’s political elite are set against Mr. Musharraf, who they claim usurped power and then held on to it through constitutional changes that eroded democracy.
Mr. Sharif was unseated after Mr. Musharraf took power in the 1999 coup. Mr. Zardari, who became president after democratic elections in 2008, is also opposed to his return.
For now, Mr. Musharraf is in self-imposed exile in London, biding his time for a comeback. “I’m prepared to go back,” he said. “When I’ve created a certain environment—and before the next election—I will go back.”
He points out there is no legal case against him and that both the country’s Supreme Court and National Assembly backed his constitutional changes at the time. “They don’t want me to come back and enter politics. But I know that there’s no case.”
Part of his strategy is to hit the campaign trail in the U.S. and the U.K., where there is a large Pakistani diaspora. On his current U.S. trip, Mr. Musharraf says he has visited seven cities.
In doing so, he resembles Thaksin Shinawatra, Thailand’s former prime minister, who lives in self-imposed exile in London and Dubai and regularly holds meetings around the world with supporters.
Whereas Mr. Thaksin clearly has a strong following among poor, rural Thais, the appeal of Mr. Musharraf among voters, having never contested an election, is less certain. “There’s an even chance of me succeeding,” he says.
Mr. Musharraf points toward his 350,000 “fans” on the social-networking portal Facebook as testimony to his popularity among young voters. Likewise, his ability to raise $3 million for the victims of this summer’s flooding in Pakistan speaks to his reach, Mr. Musharraf claims.
On Pakistan’s troubles with Islamist militancy, Mr. Musharraf takes a mainstream line, similar to Mr. Zardari’s government: The rise of militancy is a consequence of the war in Afghanistan, stretching back to the Soviet invasion three decades ago, and Pakistan is a victim.
Mr. Musharraf said that 2,500 Pakistani soldiers have died fighting the Pakistan Taliban, including 300 officers from the Inter-Services Intelligence Directorate, the military spy agency which the U.S. has blamed for supporting elements of the Taliban. The U.S. believes Pakistan views some Taliban factions as a useful hedge in Afghanistan to counter the influence of its rival India there once U.S. troops begin to pull out, as President Barrack Obama has indicated they will do from July 2011.
“I don’t think Pakistan is the problem. Pakistan is the victim of whatever has been happening over the past 30 years,” he said. “Pakistan is fighting against the Taliban and al Qaeda in its own interests.”
Mr. Musharraf won plaudits from the U.S. for arresting senior al Qaeda leaders, including Sept. 11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, during his time in power. But he also was criticized for cutting peace deals with the Taliban, allowing them to dig a toehold in the tribal regions that border Afghanistan.
He said dealing with some parts of the Taliban, who draw their fighters largely from ethnic Pashtun who live on either side of the border, is a necessity to achieve peace.
Mr. Musharraf pointed out that the U.S. has recently backed peace talks between the Taliban and Afghan President Hamid Karzai’s government.
But he termed Mr. Obama’s decision to set a deadline for starting a troop drawdown in Afghanistan “a mistake.”
First, the U.S. needs to be in a dominant military position. And the U.S. also needs to ensure that Pashtuns, the largest ethnic group in Afghanistan, have a fair stake in Mr. Karzai’s government, which is not the case now, he said.
On U.S. drone strikes, Mr. Musharraf acknowledged they had killed senior militants in the tribal regions. But he called them a “double-edged weapon” because they also cause civilian deaths and are resented by many Pakistanis. Musharraf Casts Himself as ‘Viable Alternative’ By TOM WRIGHT. Write to Tom Wright at email@example.com
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