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Interview With Pervez Musharraf

Aired February 15, 2010 - 16:47:00   ET



MAX FOSTER, CNN INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR (voice-over): In his own words, he was a general before a politician. But that didn't stop Pervez Musharraf from serving Pakistan as head of the government for nearly nine years, seven of them as president. Considered an ally to the U.S. in the war on terror, Musharraf had a controversial reign. Opponents within the country accused him of censorship and of being a dictator. In 2008, he eventually stepped down amid calls to impeach him. The post was eventually filled by current President Asif Zardari.

In his latest incarnation, Musharraf is an Internet sensation. Currently, the former president has tens of thousands of fans on his Facebook page where he regularly answers questions and writes status updates. From wartime leader to Facebook friend, Pervez Musharraf is our "Connector of the Day."


FOSTER: And Mr. Musharraf has over 127,000 fans on one social- networking site, so we knew he'd be a hit online. Hundreds of you sent in your questions for him on our Web page, My colleague Becky caught up with the former Pakistani president here in London and began by asking him about the response he's getting on Facebook


PERVEZ MUSHARRAF, FORMER PRESIDENT OF PAKISTAN: First of all, let me say that analyzing the outcome of the Facebook, I knew I had a lot of support, but this support was all dispersed all over the world. I always thought that dispersed support is weak support; collective support is strong support. So it is the medium of the Facebook which provided the connectivity to collectivize all the support. I mean, that is how I take it. So therefore, I am very grateful to the Facebook for collectivizing all the support that the -- that I have now.

BECKY ANDERSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: On Facebook itself, you have said that you're a strong believer in freedom of the print and electronic media, and yet, at least the end of your tenure, your time in power was defined by sort of the clamp down -- of the clamp down on the media. So when did you have the change in heart, as it were?

MUSHARRAF: No, I've never -- there's no change of heart at all. I always believe in the freedom of the media. I believe that while they should be free, they should be independent, they should be accountable also. Too, they must show responsibility.

ANDERSON: All right, well, we've got lots of questions from viewers.

Waqas represents what dozens of people have asked on our website, the "CONNECT WORLD" website, is that many of your supporters want your -- to return to Pakistani politics. Do you have any plans to return?

MUSHARRAF: If Pakistan is not doing well, every Pakistani, every patriotic Pakistani feels it in his heart. And I also do, that at this moment, Pakistan is not doing too well. So if I can contribute anything to the -- to the country and if the people of Pakistan want me to contribute, I certainly would like to look into that.

ANDERSON: Would you create your own political party? That's a question from Safi, one of our viewers.

MUSHARRAF: I don't know as of yet. One has to address all of these issues. But one thing is sure, I believe very strongly in a military maxim, never reinforce failure. I wouldn't like to reinforce failure.

ANDERSON: Do you think Pakistan is failing at the moment?

MUSHARRAF: Politically, yes. We haven't succeeded. The politics in Pakistan, democracy in Pakistan has not really ever been very successful. And I mean successful, we expect democratically-elected governments to perform for the country, that the country should be moving forward progressing and the welfare and the well-being of the people being addressed. If that is not being done, I think we need to look into the -- look into ourselves. What is it lacking in the democratic political dispensation in Pakistan?

ANDERSON: How have you thought about using Facebook to better the lives of ordinary Pakistanis, as it were?

MUSHARRAF: Well, I think the only way I mean I could contribute is because of the number of people who have become my fans, and if this number keeps increasing and because they come from all over the world, I could contribute towards their better understanding of issues confronting Pakistan.

ANDERSON: Derrick Chapman asks, can the Afghan strategy of appealing to moderate Taliban succeed, for example?

MUSHARRAF: I have always believed that we have to follow a triple strategy of military, political and socioeconomic. On the political side, right from 2003 -- 2002 and 2003, I've been saying that we need to win away the population, especially of the pashtuns from the al Qaeda and Taliban. We must not all treat all pashtuns to be Taliban, although all Taliban were pashtuns.

So I've been saying -- I've been talking off the majority of pashtuns to be weaned away and these (ph) to be struck with these senior elements in the pashtun who may be have -- don't have any ideological connections with the Taliban. Now, what they really mean by moderate Taliban, I really don't know. So we need to look into the pashtun, which is 50 percent of Afghanistan, to draw the pashtuns form the -- from militancy.

ANDERSON: Couple more of the questions coming into the CONNECT THE WORLD site.

"What would you give up for an India-Pakistan peace process?"

MUSHARRAF: I think it's the most critical thing. India-Pakistan peace is required from international point of view because internationally we are considered a nuclear flashpoint. It is considered -- it is very important from regional point of view because SAR (ph), the regional organization, is important because of the Indo-Pakistan conflict. And it is important from bilateral point of view. There is so much to gain bilaterally by both India and Pakistan through peace, and so much that we are losing because of this confrontationist approach.

ANDERSON: Last one of our viewer questions. Sulav says, what were you better at being, a diplomat or an army chief?

MUSHARRAF: Well, I would like to believe an army chief. I'm a fighter and I love my uniform and I love leading my men. I love them.

ANDERSON: Do you miss the diplomacy at all?

MUSHARRAF: Diplomacy doesn't come very naturally to me. I'm too straight -- I'm a very straight talker and diplomats, I think -- maybe they ought to be talking straight. I'm not cut for diplomacy, I think.


FOSTER: A frank Pervez Musharraf speaking to Becky there.