Pakistan facing new coup threat: Musharraf

Musharraf

Pakistan's former military ruler Pervez Musharraf warned that the country is at risk of a new coup, as he prepared to launch his own audacious bid for a comeback as a civilian president.

The retired general also said the army should be given a constitutional role in the turbulent politics of the nuclear-armed nation, where the government is struggling to tackle rampant militancy and a crumbling economy.

Musharraf, who came to power in a bloodless coup in 1999 and stood down in 2008, said current army chief Ashfaq Pervez Kayani could be forced to intervene against the unpopular President Asif Ali Zardari.

Following a reported crisis meeting this week between Kayani, Zardari and Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani, Musharraf was asked at a debating forum in London last night whether he thought a new putsch was likely.

"Well, you see the photographs of the meeting with the president and the prime minister and I can assure you they were not discussing the weather," he replied to debate host Christopher Meyer, ex-British ambassador to the United States.

"There was a serious discussion of some kind or other and certainly at this moment all kinds of pressures must be on this army chief," added Musharraf, who hand-picked Kayani as his successor in the post in 2007.

The 67-year-old former president, now living in self-imposed exile in London, said similar "pressures" in his first year as army chief had led him to launch the coup against then-prime minister Nawaz Sharif.

"In that one year Pakistan was going down and a number of people, including politicians, women, men came to me telling me 'Why are you not acting? Are you going to act for Pakistan's good?'" Musharraf told the Intelligence Squared debating forum.

Musharraf said the solution was to give the army a constitutional role in governing the nation of 167 million people, which has spent more than half its existence since independence from Britain in 1947 under military rule.

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