World News

Pakistan's Musharraf says ready for early polls

DUBAI (Reuters) - Exiled former Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf said his newly formed party was prepared for possible early elections as the government in Islamabad scrambles to save its ruling coalition.

Musharraf, who launched the All Pakistan Muslim League (APML) in October, said he will return to Pakistan “before the next election.”

“We are ready to contest elections,” Musharraf told reporters at his apartment in Dubai.

“A little more time would be useful, as we are a new party. However, we will definitely try if the elections come early.”

Pakistan’s Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani’s government lost its parliamentary majority Sunday when the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) announced it would go into opposition over fuel price policies.

The opposition has not yet sought a no-confidence vote against Gilani in parliament but analysts say that is the biggest worry for the government.

The next election is not due until 2013.

“For the government to survive, the PML-N or the PML-Q (parties outside the coalition) have to support them. Such support will have a lot of consequences,” Musharraf said.

The former military chief, who came to power in a bloodless coup in 1999, has lived in self-imposed exile since he stepped down under threat of impeachment in 2008. He spends most of his time in London and Dubai.

Musharraf said: “I must return (to Pakistan) well before the next elections, whenever that may be. I strongly believe the real momentum for my party will start once I reach Pakistan. So we are trying to create an environment for me to reach there.”

Musharraf said he did not rule out alliances with other political parties in the future.

“Many parties want to be with us. But I want my party to get a simple majority in the next elections so that we do not have to rely on others.”

He said he had made “mistakes,” including actions against the judiciary and imposing a state of emergency, but dismissed the possibility of another military takeover, saying he wanted to come to power with “the mandate of the public.”

The United States has increased pressure on Pakistan to go after Islamist militant groups to help it turn around the war in Afghanistan.

Gilani said earlier the former president had agreed for the United States to conduct drone flights in Pakistan’s tribal areas, seen as one of the main reasons for the increasing influence of militant groups.

Musharraf rejected claims he had succumbed to pressure from the United States and said there were few drone attacks during his tenure.

“Between 2003 and 2007 there were just nine drone attacks,” he said, saying there were more than 100 in 2010.