13 Jan 2012
WOLF BLITZER, HOST, CNN’S THE SITUATION ROOM: And you’re in the SITUATION ROOM. Happening now – Pervez Musharraf survived four assassination attempts. Now, he’s risking another. I’ll ask the ousted Pakistani president about his dangerous plans for a comeback. BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It could cost him, Wolf. As you know, Pervez Musharraf survived at least four assassination attempts while he was in power. He’s taking a huge risk now, and it may not even pay off, because things are very different now in Pakistan from the time he left. READ TRANSCRIPT of Interview below …
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It could cost him, Wolf. As you know, Pervez Musharraf survived at least four assassination attempts while he was in power. He’s taking a huge risk now, and it may not even pay off, because things are very different now in Pakistan from the time he left.
TODD (voice-over): He’s known as one of America’s most crucial and confounding allies in the war on terror, cracking down willingly and often on militants, but also leaving U.S. officials questioning where his loyalties were. As Pakistan’s president for nearly a decade, Pervez Musharraf survived several assassination attempts. He’s now willing to risk another.
PERVEZ MUSHARRAF, FORMER PAKISTANI PRESIDENT: I can do it if I’m there, lead from the front.
TODD: Musharraf is planning to return to Pakistan later this month from his exile in Dubai, and put together a possible run for parliament. It could lead to an assent back to the top of power in his country.
What’s his real motivation for wanting to go back? What’s his angle?
MICHAEL KUGELMAN, WOODROW WILSON CENTER: Well, I mean, Musharraf, like many politicians in Pakistan is very proud. He’s very confident. He’s very stubborn. And he believes in this narrative very common there that he can essentially be this man that just swoops in and rescues the country.
TODD: Rescues it analyst, Michael Kugelman, says from a civilian government scene by many Pakistanis as inept and corrupt.
(on-camera): But some Pakistani officials say if and when he returns, Musharraf will be promptly arrested for alleged involvement in a conspiracy to assassinate former Prime Minister, Benazir Bhutto. One prosecutor says an arrest warrant has already been issued for Musharraf.
(voice-over) Musharraf and his lawyers said the accusations are baseless. There’s no evidence showing links between Musharraf and Bhutto’s 2007 assassination. A U.N. investigation found Musharraf’s government failed to adequately protect Bhutto, an accusation Musharraf denies.
Analysts say there’s no guarantee Pakistan’s powerful military will support Musharraf this time around, and they say some of the voters who would support Musharraf are now gravitating toward Imran Khan, a glamorous wildly popular former cricket star who’s eyeing a run for top office. Analyst, Christine Fair (ph), doesn’t think Musharraf’s got any shot at a comeback. I asked her if he beats the odds, would he be a better partner for the U.S. than the current government?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He’d have to accept the same positions that Imran Khan is marking out. So, to be very clear, we want an equal relationship with the Americans. So, that’s not going to happen, right, because the two countries are not equal.
TODD (on-camera): Fair says tog et elected, Musharraf also might have to adopt Imran Khan’s position not to continue supporting the U.S. war on terror, a significant turnaround for Musharraf and, of course, one that won’t sit well with the Americans, Wolf.
BLITZER: It’s not guarantee that the Pakistani military will support Musharraf. What’s changed over these past few years, because he rose through the ranks of the military?
TODD: He’s a military guy. Analysts say, look, the military there is always concerned about its image. They know that a lot of his moves while he was in power are still very, very deeply unpopular in Pakistan. For instance, he seemed, as one analyst said, seemed to have rented out the Pakistani army to the Americans.
Still, the military is very cognizant of all that. They say they may provide him with some security when he comes back, but maybe not much support.
BLITZER: Brian Todd, thanks very, very much.
And I spoke exclusively with the former Pakistani president just a little while ago.
BLITZER: Joining us now from Dubai, the former president of Pakistan, General Pervez Musharraf. Mr. President, thanks very much for joining us. Are you still planning on going back to Pakistan at the end of this month?
MUSHARRAF: Yes, indeed I am. Until now, I am planning to go back.
BLITZER: Is there a specific date when you plan on flying to Pakistan? MUSHARRAF: Well, I said I’ll go between 27th and 30th of January. I haven’t fixed the date as yet.
BLITZER: Why are you going back?
MUSHARRAF: Well, because I feel that the country needs me, and I feel that the country is going down so badly in all socioeconomic elements and from all governance point of view, that it is high time that we bring about another political alternative which can produce a government with the majority of the people, with a mandate of the people who can run Pakistan, instead of doing politics only. And I think I have a role to play there.
BLITZER: You know they say, the authorities there, they’re going to arrest you as soon as you walk off that plane? Are you ready to be arrested?
MUSHARRAF: Well, there is a danger of that, yes. Yes, indeed, there’s a possibility of that, absolutely. And when I’ve decided to go back, I have to take that risk.
BLITZER: You know, there’s another risk that’s even worse, if you can imagine, that someone might try to kill you. How worried are you about that?
MUSHARRAF: Well, more than myself, my family and my friends, my well- wishers, are worried about that much more than myself. But I have faced such threats all along since I was the president, and that threat will remain now also.
I need to make proper security arrangements of my own. And also, I expect the government to give me security as authorized to an ex- president of the country.
BLITZER: You know, this reminds me, Mr. President, of a conversation I had with Benazir Bhutto back in 2007, when she told me she was going back to Pakistan. And I told her I thought it was a bad idea.
Listen to this little exchange that I had with her here on CNN. Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: You’re a relatively young woman. How scared are you though? Because as you know, Osama bin Laden and other terrorists, they have attacked you in the past, and they clearly would like to go after you now.
BENAZIR BHUTTO, FMR. PAKISTANI PRIME MINISTER: Yes, of course they would like to go against me. There’s a lot of threats, because under military dictatorship, an anarchic situation has developed which the terrorists and Osama have exploited. They don’t want democracy. They don’t want me back.
BLITZER: Your family has a tragic history, unfortunately, a tragic history of assassination. BHUTTO: I know the past has been tragic, but I’m an optimist by nature. I put my faith in the people of Pakistan, I put my faith in God. I feel that what I am doing is for a good cause, for a right cause, to save Pakistan from extremists and militants and to build regional security.
I know the dangers of it, but I’m prepared to takes those risks.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Are you prepared to take those risks, Mr. President? Because, you know, I’ve known you for many years, I’ve interviewed you on many occasions. And frankly, I’m pretty worried about your security, your safety if you go back to Pakistan.
MUSHARRAF: Well, yes, I am prepared for the risk. I have to be prepared for the risk.
You take security measures as much as you can, but then 100 percent security cannot be guaranteed by anyone. So, therefore, an element of risk is always there. And that’s where I believe in destiny, and that is I believe — where I believe that we have to leave everything to God Almighty, then, once you have taking steps for your security. Whatever then happens is left to destiny.
BLITZER: How worried should we about Husain Haqqani, the former Pakistani ambassador in Washington? I spoke with his wife, Farahnaz Ispahani, a member of parliament, here in Washington a couple of weeks ago. She’s worried about the safety of her husband now that he’s there and he’s not allowed to leave the country.
Is he in serious danger of his life?
MUSHARRAF: I don’t think so. I think, unnecessarily, they are creating a hype and overblowing this, as if everyone is out to kill him or something. That is the not the reality.
I don’t think it is real at all. However, his not leaving the country is a different issue. There’s a case against him in the supreme court regarding the memorandum he sent to Admiral Mullen, and that has to be tried. Therefore, he’s not being allowed to leave the country.
Otherwise, as far as danger to his life is concerned, I don’t think — I don’t think that is a real danger.
BLITZER: The other great U.S. concern right now, Mr. President, is the nuclear arsenal of Pakistan and some loose nukes, if you will, getting into the hands of al Qaeda or other terrorists.
I know that the most senior U.S. officials are worried about your nuclear arsenal. Is that a legitimate concern?
MUSHARRAF: Well, if the country goes down and it gets into the hands of religious extremists as a country from the government, then only it is possible that all the arsenal then belongs to them, because it is the country and they are in charge of the country. But I don’t see that as a possible.
I don’t think any religious party today is capable of winning the elections, so the other way is that they take them through force, use force. I don’t think that’s a possibility, again, with the military guarding it, with the strategic force command of (INAUDIBLE) of 20,000 people manning and guarding all these installations and them being in very secure places and very dispersed. I don’t think it is a possibility.
BLITZER: Is U.S./Pakistani relations right now back at another low? And you remember what it was like before 9/11. You were in power. Is it at that poor level right now?
MUSHARRAF: We’re at a very poor level. I don’t think they were at this level even before 9/11, when I took over.
I don’t think — I had a reasonable amount of respect around if the world even before 9/11. But not they certainly are at their lowest ebb. And it is extremely disturbing to anyone who understands geopolitics. It is very disturbing, and I only wish that Pakistan and the United States mend fences and we move forward on a course which is in the interest of the region, in the interest of Pakistan and Afghanistan, and the United States.
BLITZER: General Musharraf, good luck over there. Be safe. We’ll stay in close touch with you. Thank you very much.
MUSHARRAF: Thank you, Wolf, as always.