In an interview with NPR's Michel Martin, Gen. Pervez Musharraf, the former president of Pakistan, says he wants to run for president of the South Asian nation again, adding that he is eligible.
"It's not a rumor. Yes indeed, I have gotten involved in the politics of Pakistan," Musharraf says.
Musharraf took control of Pakistan in a 1999 military coup and became president in 2001. By 2008, he resigned the presidency under threat of impeachment.
Meanwhile, Pakistan's spy chief is in the U.S. to discuss mutual interests and improvements to security in the region, according to reports. The meeting comes after the Obama administration suspended about $800 million in military aid to Pakistan — roughly one-third of the money Pakistan receives from America annually. The suspension lasts until the U.S.-Pakistan relationship improves.
Musharraf says the suspended aid has a negative impact for Pakistan and is disastrous for efforts against global terrorism.
Many people in the U.S. and Pakistan are questioning what exactly is being done with that aid money. News reports indicate that Pakistan's army has relinquished some of its own tribal areas to groups like the Haqanni network that targets U.S. troops in Afghanistan. It's also been widely reported that the Taliban is operating under the Pakistani military's protection.
Musharraf says those statements are by people who do not understand how the country's finances run. He explains that any money coming into Pakistan goes into the state bank.
"There are no separate wallets lying there that [read] 'this is American money; this is Pakistan money; this is money coming from World Bank; this is money coming from IMF.' All that is one pool," Musharraf says.
He says he does not think American money would be spent on maintaining or supporting the Haqanni network.
"There is no doubt in my mind that Pakistan is against al-Qaida and the Taliban," he adds.
Moreover, Pakistan recently expelled U.S. military trainers and reportedly arrested Pakistanis suspected of helping track down Osama bin Laden. Those actions produced concerns that Pakistan's government is more interested in punishing people who helped find bin Laden than working with the U.S. to hunt down alleged terrorists like Aiyman Al Zawahiri, the new Al Qaeda leader whom many believe is in Pakistan.
Musharraf responds, "These are again misperceptions. I don't why anyone has been punished. I did read in a newspaper some doctor has been punished. But I'm very sure the perception that the doctor has been punished [is] because he disclosed about Osama bin Laden. He must have been punished because he did not inform our own intelligence agencies, and he was dealing with a foreign intelligence agency."
Former cricket star and Pakistani politician Imran Khan has argued against Pakistan's acceptance of U.S. aid, believing the money goes to the ruling elite rather than locals.
Musharraf says Khan is wrong. "There are charges of extreme corruption at the government level, but to think that 'this will all be siphoned off and it's useless giving money to Pakistan', I don't agree with this statement."
MICHEL MARTIN, host: And joining us now is the former president of Pakistan, General Pervez Musharraf. Mr. President, thank you so much for joining us.
General PERVEZ MUSHARRAF: It's my pleasure.
MARTIN: In a speech at Rice University in Houston earlier this week you said that suspending the $800 million dollars in U.S. aid to Pakistan would have disastrous consequences. Tell us what you meant by that?
MUSHARRAF: Well, it'll be disastrous against the global war on terror and also our relations have always been very good and they have benefited both the countries especially Pakistan. I would say that will also be have a very negative impact all around on Pakistan as well as the United States, as far as their interest in Afghanistan and the region is concerned.
MARTIN: Well, I'm sure you know though that many people both here in the U.S. and in Pakistan are questioning what exactly is being done with that money. It's been reported that Pakistan's army has given up some of it's own tribal areas to groups like the Haqqani network that target U.S. troops in Afghanistan. It's also been widely reported that the Taliban is operating under the protection of the Pakistani military in some areas.
So, many people are questioning on both in both countries. Why should that money continue to be delivered?
MUSHARRAF: I think these are statements by people who don't understand how a finances of a country runs. If any money comes into Pakistan it goes into exchequer; it goes into the state bank. Now, there are no separate wallets lying there or that this is American money and this is Pakistan money. This is money coming from World Bank, this is money coming from IMF. All that is one pool and money is spent on various issues on various heads and well, I don't think American money would be spent on maintaining or supporting Haqqani network. I don't think--these are very strange accusations.
MARTIN: Well, it's no I don't believe that the accusation is the money is being spent on supporting the Haqqani network. I think rather that it's in ineffectual, given that the results which is in fighting terrorism are not being achieved. I think that that's the argument.
MUSHARRAF: The main thing is (unintelligible) one has to be concerned with the intentions and overall strategic direction of Pakistan. There is no doubt in my mind that Pakistan is against al-Qaida and Taliban. Now, I don't believe at all that they would be supporting Haqqani but if there is ingress through intelligence into the network that is the job of any intelligence agency to have ingress in any and every organization. But that doesn't mean that they support. Though I don't think they would be supporting the Haqqani network.
MARTIN: But Americans see that Pakistan recently expelled U.S. military trainers and reportedly has arrested Pakistani's who are suspected of helping to track down Osama bin Laden. That causes Americans - you can understand I think - why it causes Americans to question whether the government is more interested in punishing people who help find bin Laden, who have helped the Americans than they are in tracking down these terrorists.
MUSHARRAF: No--no, these are again misperceptions. I don't know why anyone has been punished. I did read in a newspaper some doctor had been punished but I'm really sure that the perception that the doctor has been punished because he disclosed about Osama bin Laden. He must have been punished because he did not inform our own intelligence agencies and he was dealing with a foreign intelligence agency. It is just like the Russian intelligence, the KGB, operating in the United States and some United States citizen operating or cooperating with the Russian intelligence, and not cooperating with CIA.
In any country any citizen of a country must cooperate with it's own intelligence and not to any foreign intelligence.
MARTIN: Well, Mr. President I know you've been asked this before most recently by my colleague Steve Inskeep when you spoke with him earlier just soon after the raid, but many Americans still don't understand how it is that Osama bin Laden was caught in the middle of a garrison town. Do you have any further insight on this question? How this could happen?
MUSHARRAF: Yes, it could happen. I mean, they're doubting whether there is complicity involved in this or it was a case of negligence and an intelligence lapse. I personally feel it is a case of intelligence lapse. When you say that he was living in comfort in a garrison town this town is a tourist resort of many maybe almost about one million and this tourist resort is an open - it's not a garrison ward or barbed-wired garrison town. And hotel, education institution or all intermingled together. They live together.
MARTIN: No, I understand what you're saying. I mean Annapolis, for example, where our naval academy is located - is a similar place. It's a lovely town visited by many tourists and so forth. But this is also the largest home in the area and had some very unusual habits. And so I think that raises questions.
MUSHARRAF: No, I think, again, I have read the paper or in the media that this had high walls. Many houses, many, many houses. And the Bataan, or Frontier Province people, live in houses with high walls. I have seen pictures of that house. I haven't visited that place. I don't see anything abnormal in that house.
MARTIN: Two more questions, Mr. President. You've been generous with your time and we certainly appreciate it. Americans aren't the only ones who have become skeptical about ongoing aid. For example, Imran Khan, a former cricket star, now a politician in Pakistan, has also argued against Pakistan continuing to accept foreign aid. His argument being that the money really isn't going to help development of civil society in Pakistan. It really gets siphoned off to the ruling elite. Do you think he's wrong?
MUSHARRAF: Well, I think he's wrong. The issue of whether the money is misused at the government level, I won't like to comment on that. Yes, there are charges of extreme corruption at the government level. But to think that this will all be siphoned off and it's useless giving any money to Pakistan, I don't think agree with this statement.
MARTIN: So you believe that Pakistan is, in fact, being effective in fighting al-Qaida and in fighting the Taliban, you believe that?
MUSHARRAF: I think they are doing a good job. Look at the successes. Look at what they've achieved in South Waziristan and then Bajaur Agency. These are two of the seven tribal agencies. What they achieved in Swat and defeated the Pakistani Taliban in Swat and pushed them out. These are all the pluses. But why we don't count the pluses? And we always think of the negatives. That's why they're not acting against (unintelligible) Haqqani and not Waziristan.
Now, I would say that, yes, if this doubt is there, Pakistan army and intelligence should clarify why they are not doing it. And they must convince Americans that their overall intentions and strategy to act against Taliban remains intact. They are doing that. They are suffering the maximum casualties. They have suffered about 4,000 dead. What more do you want from them? Even ISI has suffered about 300 of its operatives being killed by Taliban. So how are they not operating against Taliban? So there is a misunderstanding involved, which needs to be clarified.
MARTIN: And, finally, Mr. President, there are rumors that you would like to run for president of Pakistan again. Is that true?
MUSHARRAF: It's not a rumor. Yes, indeed, I am going to run. I have gotten involved the politics of Pakistan.
MARTIN: And are you - forgive me for asking this - are you indeed eligible to run?
MUSHARRAF: Yes I am. Absolutely.
MARTIN: Well, thank you for speaking with us.
MUSHARRAF: Thank you.
MARTIN: Pervez Musharraf is the former president of Pakistan. He was kind enough to join us from Dallas. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.