Former Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf Image Credit: AFP

London: Pakistan's former military ruler Pervez Musharraf vowed to return to politics in a bid to restore the country's self-confidence and thinks he could become president again.

The retired army general told the BBC he would form a new political party and stand for parliament at the next general election in 2013.

The ex-president said he would return to Pakistan before then and acknowledged that doing so would be risking his life.

The 67-year-old said he was not scared of possible legal cases against him and insisted that he had to try to lift Pakistan out of its "pathetic situation".

He admitted his popularity had waned but said it was still strong among the majority of Pakistanis who do not vote.

"Two hundred per cent I will participate in the next election. Standing for myself. Standing for a party that I'll create," Musharraf said on Friday in London, where he lives in exile.

"I do intend creating a new party because I think the time has come in Pakistan when we need to introduce a new political culture: a culture which can take Pakistan forward on a correct democratic path, not on an artificial, make-believe democratic path."
Musharraf said he would launch the new party "in the very near future" but would not return home for the moment.

"I have to create a certain environment in Pakistan before I go back. The only certainty is that I will go back before the next elections," he said.

Asked if he was confident of becoming the next president of Pakistan, the former army chief replied: "No I can't be assured, I can't be confident, but I believe there is a good chance of my winning on the political scene.

"I haven't decided whether I'm going to be president or anything, but however, winning first of all in the next election is the issue.

"I can't be sure of that also but as I said, there is a good chance and I believe very strongly that it's better to try and fail rather than not try and go down without trying, because at this moment we see darkness all over in Pakistan.

"We have to show light, we have to show an alternative or viable alternative where people see light and gain some confidence, because there is total breakdown of self-confidence of the people of Pakistan. They have lost hope in Pakistan. It's a pathetic situation."

Musharraf ousted former prime minister Nawaz Sharif in a bloodless coup in 1999. He was president from 2001 and has mostly lived in London since resigning in 2008.

Pakistan's prime ministers are elected by the national assembly; its presidents by an electoral college of the senate, national and provincial assemblies.

"So first of all you should have a party which wins in the elections," Musharraf said on his chances of returning to high office.

"I did very well for Pakistan, I know that. I can challenge anybody on any point as far as Pakistan as a state and the people of Pakistan are concerned.

"We did wonders for them in those seven years, which should be compared with the 50 years of the past."

Musharraf said possible legal cases against him were not putting him off a swift return.

"Legally, I am absolutely on a safe wicket," he said. "I am not that bothered at all about legal. We will go and face the music, we'll answer every allegation. There is no allegation I know. It's more the other elements."

He said security issues played a part.
"One is not scared, really, for oneself but still, one shouldn't be foolhardy," he said, though he acknowledged there was a risk of him being "killed".

"I have fought wars, I have faced dangers and I'm a lucky man. I'll try my luck again and I'm not scared of that," he said.

"There's a bigger cause. Bigger than myself. The cause is Pakistan at this moment and I feel it's incumbent on any Pakistani to come forward if he or she can contribute."

Musharraf was asked about fears that money donated to Pakistan following the worst floods in its history might end up getting lost in corruption. "There is corruption in Pakistan, there is no doubt about it, it is heartbreaking how people are not bothered about the country. They have a lot of money and yet they are corrupt," he said.

"The advice I would like to give is they ought to be careful on who they are giving the money to."