DUBAI (Reuters) - Urgent action is needed to salvage Pakistan’s dire relations with the United States, former president Pervez Musharraf told Reuters on Sunday, after announcing he would return home soon to re-enter politics.
U.S.-Pakistan relations were plunged further into crisis in November when NATO helicopters and fighter jets killed as many as 28 Pakistani troops in attacks on two military outposts in northwest Pakistan.
“Today Pakistan-U.S. relations are at their lowest, this is because of a trust and confidence deficit,” Musharraf told Reuters in an interview in Dubai.
Last May U.S. special forces killed al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden in Pakistan without consulting Islamabad, humiliating its military.
Pakistan, which uneasily allied itself with Washington after the September 11, 2001 attacks on the United States, called the raid a flagrant violation of its sovereignty.
“I believe Pakistan needs to justify and clarify the issue of Osama bin Laden having been found in Pakistan,” said Musharraf.
“At the same time the United States needs to identify what environment they are leaving in 2014 when they quit because that is going to affect directly Pakistan.”
Islamabad’s cooperation with Washington is seen as crucial to helping to stabilize the region before foreign combat troops leave Afghanistan in 2014.
“I believe that inter-state relations are more than half interpersonal relations between the leaders ... if I think about myself, I could anytime pick up the phone to President Bush whenever I got agitated on anything.”
On Sunday, Musharraf addressed a rally via video in Pakistan’s biggest city and commercial hub, Karachi, and announced his plan to return to the country between January 27 and January 30 and participate in a parliamentary election due by 2013.
Some media reports have said Musharraf, who faces the threat of arrest in Pakistan on charges that he failed to provide adequate security to former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto before her assassination in 2007, will seek Saudi help in obtaining guarantees that he will not be detained.
“There are no guarantees that I‘m looking for from anyone, I said many times that my intention is to get the support of the people,” Musharraf told Reuters.
He said however he would hold talks with Saudi officials. Saudi Arabia has considerable influence in Pakistan because of its economic support.
Asked if he had asked any of Pakistan’s military leaders for protection once he returns, Musharraf said it was not the army’s duty provide security to individuals.
“I don’t like to embarrass them, I haven’t asked them,” he said.
“I will ensure my own safety, I know how to keep myself safe ... there are a large group of officers who are in support and I‘m very proud of that.”
Musharraf said he believed that the army would not move to take over power from unpopular President Asif Ali Zardari.
He said he had made a mistake by granting amnesty to politicians and bureaucrats accused of corruption, embezzlement, money laundering, murder, and terrorism between 1986 and 1999.
“The NRO is something I shouldn’t have done. Although I was advised, but the ultimate decision was mine,” he said, referring to the controversial National Reconciliation Ordinance (NRO) which he issued in 2007.
The NRO was declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court of Pakistan in 2009.
Reporting by Amena Bakr; editing by Andrew Roche