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Musharraf's Return Fuels Chaos In Pakistan


This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Rachel Martin.

This week, Pakistan's former president Pervez Musharraf is set to be indicted in the murder of opposition leader Benazir Bhutto. She was killed at a political rally in 2007. Musharraf's return to Pakistan after years of exile has only added to the continuing political chaos there.

LIEUTENANT GENERAL HUMEED GUL: I think political parties have failed people of Pakistan. They have not been able to meet the requirement of their voters.

MARTIN: That's Hameed Gul, a former military general who also served as the director general of the ISI. That's Pakistan's intelligence service. He has been a vocal critic of Pakistan's new Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif. Sharif met with Secretary of State John Kerry in Pakistan this past week. I began my interview with General Gul by asking about those charges against Musharraf, whether Pakistanis believe he is responsible for Benazir Bhutto's death.

GUL: No, not on this side. I don't think people think that he was actually directly involved in the murder of Benazir Bhutto. But I think his biggest crime is that he laid off a judiciary all by an order which was issued by the army chief, which he was at that time, and that he did not even use his presidential power. He simply said that as army chief. And that, of course, is high treason.

MARTIN: You have been quite critical of Musharraf in the past. You mentioned the charges of corruption. How does he stack up when it comes to the current Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif on corruption issues?

GUL: Well, Nawaz Sharif, obviously, he's a businessman and any businessman is prone to amass money, and he has done a lot of it. And he collects cronies. And look at his team that he's collected, the Dream Team. I don't think it can pull Pakistan out of its present state of predicament.

MARTIN: Pakistan's political situation has been a bit chaotic. But as you referenced, the economy is in real turmoil, the country is near bankruptcy. Nawaz Sharif is a former businessman. Is he taking the right steps to improve the country's fiscal situation?

GUL: So far he hasn't because he is leaning towards China and China can bail him out, but only to a very limited extent. I think economic conditions would have collapsed by now if there were to be no (unintelligible) economy in the shape of smuggling (unintelligible) is now really afflicted by very large scale of smuggling from Afghanistan and elsewhere. So I think this is what is saving grace for Pakistan at the moment.

MARTIN: As we mentioned, Secretary of State John Kerry was in Pakistan this past week meeting with the new Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif. The issue of U.S. drone strikes came up. I wonder if you could talk a little bit about Pakistan's tolerance for those strikes at this point. I mean, there is an understanding in the United States that Pakistan has been a sort of silent partner to some degree, when it comes to the strikes against the Taliban, against insurgents. Is there a growing movement within Pakistan, within the Pakistani government, to now put an end to those strikes?

GUL: There is a consensus in Pakistan; I think 99 percent Pakistanis want the drone attacks to end. And Pakistan is being torn between the American dictates and the aspirations of the people of Pakistan and their wishes. And this is not a good thing to have. You are cooperating. Your security and your sovereignty is being violated every day. People in Pakistan are very, very unhappy and I feel that the systems are collapsing in Pakistan.

MARTIN: General Hameed Gul, he joined us from Islamabad, Pakistan. Thank you so much, General Gul.

GUL: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.