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Musharraf on Facebook: NRO was a big mistake

December 22, 2009 16:01 IST

Former pakistan president Pervez Musharraf has described as a "mistake" his decision to promulgate the National Reconciliation Ordinance, a graft amnesty that was recently struck down by Pakistan's Supreme Court.

The apex court last week declared the NRO void, sparking the worst political crisis since the Pakistan People's Party came to power in last year's general election. President Asif Ali Zardari and several close aides are among the over 8,000 people who benefited from the graft amnesty.

"The one clarification that I will make is that I committed this mistake on the strong advice of the political leadership at that time, who was now blatantly disowning connections with it."

"My interest was only national, with absolutely no personal bias or agenda," Musharraf wrote on his page on the social networking website Facebook.

Musharraf who has been active on Facebook for the past few weeks and has over 60,000 fans, including hundreds from India was responding to a question.

The former military ruler took time off to respond to three questions from the public, including what compelled him to promulgate the NRO in October 2007. He said he would have to a keep a more detailed response pending for the time being "because of certain political sensitivities".

However, Musharraf promised that he would "take the nation on board at the appropriate time". To a related question about the NRO bringing "corrupt politicians to power" and allowing Zardari to be elected president, Musharraf wrote: "NRO may have allowed Asif Zardari or corrupt politicians to contest elections but it certainly was not the cause of their coming to power. NRO is not responsible for electing the PPP as the majority party or allowing Asif Zardari to win an election.

"NRO is not responsible for corrupt politicians sitting in assemblies, or being appointed as ministers. All this happened through the votes of the people of Pakistan. NRO is not responsible for all parliamentarians of provincial and national assemblies and Senate having overwhelmingly voted for Asif Zardari as president," he said.

"The nation has to learn to cast their votes for the right person and the right party," he added.

Musharraf also defended the military operation against radical elements who had holed up in the Lal Masjid in Islamabad.

"The Lal Masjid operation is a case study of how an appropriately timed, meticulously planned and boldly executed operation launched in the supreme national interest can be distorted by vested interests who want to present it as a disaster," he wrote. He said claims that hundreds of innocent people were killed were an "absolute lie".

Musharraf said: "Firstly, none of those killed were innocent. They were terrorists (including five foreigners) who took the law in their own hands and killed a number of policemen, kidnapped and physically tortured Chinese citizens... "Secondly, the numbers killed were 94 and not a single woman or child was killed. This can be ascertained by digging their graves and counting," he said.

According to Musharraf, the siege of Lal Masjid and its affiliated seminary Jamia Hafsa was started about six months before the operation in July 2007.

"The operation was launched only after all efforts towards a negotiated settlement failed and maximum occupants, including all women and children, were drawn out. The individuals left were all hardened terrorists, including five foreigners, who refused to surrender and decided to fight it out." In response to another question whether there was a way in the post-9/11 era for Pakistan to handle the US and the Taliban, Musharraf wrote: "I think we dealt with both in the best possible manner under the most difficult circumstances.

With regards to the US, the big question after 9/11 was whether to join the coalition or not, Musharraf said.

The Americans had decided they were going to attack Afghanistan, and because of geographic compulsions, the attack was most likely going to come from the east. The positives of joining the coalition far outweighed the negatives of not joining.

"Imagine what would have happened, had we not joined the coalition? The attack would have still taken place using bases provided by our neighbour, jeopardizing our territorial integrity. The flow of Al Qaida and Taliban into Pakistan and the spreading of obscurantist Talibanisation into our country would have happened at a much greater scale. This was certainly not in our own interest," he said.

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