- by General (R) Pervez Musharraf

Why did I return to Pakistan? This is a question that many friends, well-wishers and even opponents have been debating from the time I landed in Karachi and still are till now.

Many thought I was removed from reality, living in a make-believe world. Others showed sympathy towards me. There were still others who attributed positive connotations of a correct decision taken, showing courage and boldness. The least I owe towards clearing the confusion that my action created is to honestly pen down my thoughts.

The first reality is that I am no average citizen. Allah bestowed His blessings on me, plucked me out of a middle class background and elevated me to the positions of Chief of the Army Staff, then at the same time Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee and thereby Chief of all the armed forces of Pakistan, then Prime Minister as Chief Executive of Pakistan and finally President of Pakistan.  Allah guided me to take Pakistan to progress and prosperity and improve the livelihood of the toiling masses. I say all this in total humility, certainly not in conceit or arrogance. I believe that humility is still my strong virtue. I say this because such comprehension is needed by people to understand my thought processes. I cannot be compared to a common traveler who takes a casual decision in favour of visiting a place or not. I had transcended far above that station, above self, into the realm of larger issues of State and people. 

The second reality that also needs to be comprehended is that experience in these high offices had developed a certain inner confidence in me and in the people of Pakistan. As a result of all the years of very successful practical governance a strong faith was created in my ability to deliver for my country and my people on the one side and on the other in the leashed potential of the people of Pakistan to rise on their own if they are unleashed or break their chains. Together, we could do it again. Such was the deep impulse for the critical decision I took. 

On the negative side, what stared at me squarely was that over the past five years – 2008-13 – of abject misgovernance I could see Pakistan sliding and falling into an abyss. This could perhaps be accepted by gullible people many of whom lack an inner understanding of Pakistan’s realities, but for me who had seen Pakistan inside out from the vantage point of the helm of affairs it was painful.  It was heartbreaking more so because I knew with surety that the country had the resources and the capability of emerging as a progressive, dynamic, vibrant Islamic Welfare State. What it had continuously failed to achieve, and needed most, was correct leadership. The people of Pakistan deserve better than what they have been suffering at the hands of each and every ostensibly democratically elected government and leader. 

There is no doubt that correct leadership has to emerge through the democratic political process in order to be acceptable and sustainable domestically and internationally. The question that aroused my thoughts was whether the people of Pakistan were ready and prepared for a political change, breaking the political status quo and going for a third political alternative? Were they ready to discard the old, tried, tested and failed political parties (the People’s Party and the Nawaz League or PML (N) and recognise incompetent political leaders? I thought, yes, they were. They had suffered enough miseries over the last five years of total maladministration and misgovernance. People at the grassroots were nostalgically missing the progressive period they enjoyed during my tenure. I felt that the youth and women were absolutely prepared for mobilisation for change. I believe they still are. I have not been able to play my full part yet because the government made my mobility near impossible through false, fabricated and tendentious politically motivated cases against me. But God willing I will do whatever I can when I can to save our country, the only country we have.  

Were the people prepared to break away from conventional shackles of what is called ‘Zaat Biradri’ or parochial clansmanship and tribalism in which resistance to change is inherent? Answer: Yes they were. They had suffered enough deprivation, poverty, joblessness, insecurity and injustice. Awakening and yearning for change – especially in the youth and women – could be sensed all over in the air. They wanted to break the shackles of old norms and ways and win full freedom. We remember the example of the Seventies when people broke away from the yoke of parochialism-feudalism-tribalism and rallied behind Zulfikar Ali Bhutto and his PPP, rejecting old, hackneyed political stalwarts in favour of unknown or less known figures. How and why did this happen at that time? It happened because a sense of mass demoralisation and hopelessness had set in like a dark cloud all over Pakistan and acted as a catalyst for change. The conditions right now were and remain quite similar and can be harnessed for change, though the reasons for hopelessness are different. This was exactly the reason why people rallied massively on the call of Imran Khan and Tahir ul Qadri. Both displayed a different kind of leadership and gave people of all social strata hope for change for the better. They showed light in the darkness, they threw a lifeline to a drowning people who were clutching at straws. All this was reason enough to motivate me to return to Pakistan and join hands with those who wanted change even to the peril of my life. I saw an opportunity available, the opportunity to deliver on the oath I took at my passing out parade from the Pakistan Military Academy: “I will go by land, air or sea, wherever ordered even to the peril of my life”, obviously to save Pakistan. This oath remains with a soldier all his life. It has entered my bloodstream and my psyche. It required no thinking or analysis on my part to realise that the implementation of my oath was incumbent upon me and I must enter the political race in the coming elections and contribute towards bringing about a political and democratic reformation in Pakistan. That was the foremost reason for my return home against all odds: Pakistan and its people. 

But then there were personal reasons too. The first personal driving factor was fighting the several politically instigated judicial cases pending and being fanned against me by vested interests. I was maliciously and baselessly declared an absconder, proclaimed offender and arrest warrants issued against me. My property and bank accounts in Pakistan were sealed. The mala fide of this political and judicial activism against me was evident from the fact that I remained in Pakistan as an ordinary citizen for over eight months after my resignation as President and not one case was instituted against me. In spite of the fact that all foreign governments thankfully saw through this politico-judicial intrigue going on against me and gave me all the respect and protocol wherever I went, there was always a nagging thought in my mind. Am I to remain abroad as a ‘fugitive’ my entire life, unable to return to my country, my people, my family and my friends, my own home?  The cases against me were there, despite the fact that they were not based on reality and therefore challenging them was an imperative upon me. I had to fight them in different courts of Pakistan in different provinces with all the prevalent distortions in our judicial environment. I could not wish them away. I had to take the plunge into this vortex and swim across clear for the sake of my own mental peace. 

Yet another element that I had to cope with were the serious threats to my life posed by all and sundry religious terrorist groups. Al Qaida, the Taliban and fanatic religious gangs are my sworn enemies for having taken the post 9/11 decision of siding with the US, not realising that it was actually a decision to side with the whole world for united action against the Afghan Taliban government and Al Qaeda in Afghanistan. They have already proven their intentions by making about ten attempts on my life when I was President. The later eruption of TTP or Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan and what is pejoratively called the Punjabi Taliban who also assassinated Benazir Bhutto are also out for my blood for the misperception that I allowed drone attacks and used the military against them. The Kashmir-oriented Mujahideen who have developed a nexus with the Taliban are another suspicious group. The religious fanatics of Lal Masjid have their own axe to grind blaming me for the operation against them when it is they who took up arms against the State and declared a state-within-a-state in the mosque and initiated their own courts, apart from collecting a lot of arms and ammunition, rocket launchers, suicide vests, food and water and held thousands of schoolgirls hostage as human shields. Some Baloch tribes are also  gunning for me after Jamil Bugti, the disinherited son of Akbar Bugti, started playing his own politics and announced a reward of Rs 10 million to anyone who killed me for supposedly having his father killed. To top all this, the several hardened terrorists who were either exonerated by the courts or had escaped after jailbreaks are openly sworn to attack me. These are no empty threats. Such elements have had the audacity of releasing televised statements of their resolve to eliminate me. These are facts which could not be ignored and neither could one hide from them. These threats have existed ever after 9/11. Would they disappear any time soon?  Not likely in the foreseeable future. They may even increase after the drawdown of Coalition Forces from Afghanistan. So, if I were to be unduly scared of them I should not have returned to Pakistan ever. Over time I have developed a strong sense of destiny. I have resigned to whatever fate has in store for me. If I maintain high ideals and pursue an exalted cause I have to accept risks. 

Before returning to Pakistan I had boosted my security arrangements to the maximum possible. I increased my personal security detail of SSG personnel. These included the four specially trained guards who resigned from service to continue serving me when I left the presidency. These devoted, loyal commandos have acquired specialist training in dignitary protection from the USA. The perimeter wall of my Chak Shehzad farm and house was reinforced with another barrier of Hesco to protect it against any bomb blasts from the outside.  Cameras and a laser beam system were installed around the perimeter for detection and early warning of any intrusion. Thanks to some sincere, generous friends abroad I also obtained bombproof vehicles and jammers for travel security. Over and above all this I expected the government to provide additional security cover to me in accordance with laid down rules. My Chief Security Officer, Colonel Ilyas, is a trained intelligence operative and has been looking after my security for the last over 10 years. 

At a personal level let it be known to all my terrorist enemies that I take pride in being a commando myself. I have served eight years in the elite Special Service Group whose motto is “Ghazi ya Shaheed” – ‘Victor or Martyr’. The first lesson taught to us while operating behind enemy lines was “kill or be killed.” We certainly did not want to be killed so therefore we got trained to kill first. Maybe I have outlived that level of aggressive commando training but traces of it still run deep in my blood. The weapons I possess would be the envy of any enthusiastic weapons collector. I also happen to know how to use them and use them fast. This, I thought, is the maximum possible I could do for my security. While people still thought I was being foolhardy, I thought I was taking a calculated risk. In any case one has to understand that a hundred percent security can never be possible. 

It is difficult to understand these inner feelings of head and heart by anyone who has not suffered them. It is also difficult to comprehend by those who are not bold enough to face realities and courageous enough to risk all for their inner convictions and thoughts. My upbringing, my career and indeed my whole life have trained me to stand and fight for right, to face dangers, not to blink under threat and love my country and my people. Over time I have developed higher ideals where even life takes a secondary position. 

My heart and mind were and still are convinced of these notions. I did not need anybody’s crutches, anybody’s prior guarantees or anybody’s security. I did not ask for any.  I took the plunge myself.  I do not repent it. I never will. 

They say the taste of the pudding lies in its eating.  Now that I have come I have the advantage of hindsight to further analyse whether I did the right or the wrong thing in taking this daring plunge.  What did I gain and what did I lose? 

I emerged a major gainer on the legal side.  I am no more an absconder or a proclaimed offender and there are no arrest warrants against me pending in the courts of Pakistan. The trial of each and every case has exposed their hollowness and in some cases the malicious biases of the presiding judges in the eyes of the public at large and even the media – especially the social media. I have obtained bail in all the cases and am a confidently free man to resume my lecture circuit, to travel anywhere in the world and to come and go from Pakistan as I please once I am taken off the Exit Control List on which I have been maliciously placed.  The trial in each case will continue routinely at their own petty pace with no witnesses available in one, the prosecutor not appearing in another and even the petitioner absconding in yet another. They will all be dismissed or put in cold storage sooner or later. My sealed property has been unsealed and my bank accounts that were frozen have been unfrozen. 

Politically, I have lost my confidence that we can bring a ‘change’ in Pakistan that easily, a new political order, and a fresh progressive democratic culture backed by the people of Pakistan. This is the great damage done by the judiciary that obstructed my politics and the self-centered political variety of politics of Imran Khan.  But what I have gained in the process is who to trust and who the hypocrites and betrayers are in case a further opportunity presents itself in Pakistan. 

Morally I stand much stronger than I did. Some people thought I had run away and that I would never return to Pakistan to face the adversities threatening me. Much to their shock and surprise, I did, and I feel very glad that I proved them wrong. My courage and boldness have got reinforced. My slogan, ‘Pakistan First’, has been vindicated and I have proved to my motherland that I will never flinch even from risking my life for Pakistan. 

Some detractors might think that the courts, judges and prosecutors have humiliated me. Instead, I have shown how principles are upheld. I have contributed to the supremacy of law and the judiciary as an institution while exposing those individuals within it who tarnish its image. 

Last but not the least I have clearly assessed my standing within the armed forces, the Rangers and even the Police.  I feel pride at the esteem, respect and honour in which they hold me. I have shown to everyone that a true army general never hides from danger and hardship. He faces them boldly. Pakistan Zindabad.