SPIEGEL Interview with Pakistan's Former Prime Minister 'The Pro-Democracy Movement Must Evolve into a Major Uprising'
The former prime minister of Pakistan, Nawaz Sharif, was overthrown by General Pervez Musharraf in a coup in 1999. He spoke to SPIEGEL about the unrest in his country, the prospects for a return to democracy, the war on terror and President Musharraf's future.
Former Prime Minister of Pakistan Nawaz Sharif wants to see a major uprising against the "uniformed president."
Nawaz Sharif: Generals have always been a curse upon our country. Every coup has ended in catastrophe. Musharraf has reduced this parliament to a rubber stamp. It has no powers and can be sacked by uniformed generals anytime. He has tampered with the constitution. Now, its the judiciarys turn -- no wonder there is chaos on the streets.
SPIEGEL: But the bloodshed has since spread across the country, particularly to the remote areas bordering Afghanistan.
SPIEGEL: Last year, you and your political rival Benazir Bhutto -- another former prime minister in exile -- agreed to work to restore democracy in Pakistan. Given the situation in the country, has your time come?
Government opponents march in Lahore.
SPIEGEL: But shortly after signing your joint Charter for Democracy, Ms. Bhutto reportedly struck a deal on the side with Musharraf -- one, that envisages her as prime minister and Musharraf as president. Observers who believe that Pakistan has enjoyed greater stability under military rule than under squabbling politicians, are not surprised.
Sharif: She admitted on television that she was in touch with Musharraf but said there was no deal. Our joint Charter clearly says there can be no dialogue with army dictators. I, for my part, have adhered to it.
SPIEGEL: The United States also wants to see democracy restored in Pakistan
Sharif: Sure -- by supporting a uniformed president in Islamabad! Its a joke
SPIEGEL: on the other hand, General Musharraf is Washingtons most important ally in their war against terror in the region. Whether he stays or not, that US-led war will continue. How likely is a democratic government to further support the US war, given that the majority of voters oppose the US presence in Pakistan?
Sharif: I had a good relationship with former President Bill Clinton without offering him any guarantees. I dont need to offer Mr. Bush any either. We will fight others' battles only if we are ideologically committed ourselves. But the US and all foreign powers should note: If you continue to support one individual, you will alienate 160 million Pakistanis thirsting for democracy.
Interview conducted by Padma Rao.