Musharraf Seeks to be Pakistan's PM

Washington, May 21 (IANS) Former Pakistani president Pervez Musharraf plans to return home to re-enter politics and has indicated that he wants to be the prime minister.

In an interview to CNN Thursday, he also discounted the findings of a UN probe that laxity on his government's part had resulted in the December 2007 assassination of former prime minister Benazir Bhutto in a gun and bomb attack in the garrison town of Rawalpindi.

Musharraf initially declined to say whether he was eying a particular office, telling CNN's Wolf Blitzer: "The question... of whether I am running for president or prime minister will be seen later."

But his subsequent remarks clearly implied he wants to be the prime minister.

"We run a parliamentary system there" Musharraf said, adding: "So you have to -- your party has to win in the election. Then only do you decide to run."

"Basically, you are heading the party, you are running for the prime ministership," he said.

"Because in Pakistan, the chief executive is the prime minister, not the president."

Musharraf resigned as president under pressure in 2008 and left the country about a year ago. Since then, he has been on a lecture tour of the US, Britain and Europe. He said he was unsure about the exact timing of his return.

"It is related to the elections in Pakistan," he said, adding: "I am very sure of one thing, that whether it's end-term elections or midterm elections, I will be there before those elections."

Mid-term elections could come next year, Musharraf said.

He also said that security concerns would shape his decision on when to announce his return.

"Maybe my wife and my family (are) more worried than I am," he said. "But there are security issues which one needs to take into consideration. And that is why I'm not laying down any dates for my return."

"But," he added, "I do intend launching and declaring my intentions formally sooner rather than later."

Asked about the UN probe report on Bhutto's killing, Musharraf said: "It was me who warned her about the threat to her. It was I who stopped her from going to that venue once before, to which a lot of political aspersions were cast on me that her movements are being restricted. But she decided to go again."

"All the security, wherever possible... by the police was provided to her," he maintained.

Musharraf was also critical of the use of US drones against militants in Pakistan's northwest, saying their "indiscriminate use" is "having a negative impact in the public because of the collateral damage".

The attacks could be radicalizing Pakistanis, he said in a reference to Faisal Shahzad, the Pakistani American charged with the failed May 1 Times Square bombing.

"I wonder whether this Faisal Shahzad incident... has he been affected by indiscriminate bombing by the drones," he said.

Musharraf also supported the Pakistani government's decision to block social networking site Facebook after an online group called on people to draw caricatures of Prophet Mohammed.

"You cannot have photographs of the Prophet Mohammed -- leave aside going for cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed," Musharraf said.

"It's most unfortunate. We must understand, these are sensitive issues. And for the sake of independence of media, liberty of speech, we cannot hurt sensitivities of millions of people."


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