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Ex-Pakistan chief hits Obama’s visit to India

WASHINGTON — Former Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf, plotting a return to power in one of the world’s most dangerous countries, warned Wednesday against fraying relations between the United States and Pakistan.

Musharraf stopped short of saying President Obama insulted Pakistan by visiting rival India during his 10-day Asia trip. Musharraf noted his country sacrificed much to the war against extremists in Afghanistan and suffered mightily from lethal flooding this summer. Obama, he said, should have been more “sensitive.”

“He must (have had) some reasons. He should have visited,” Musharraf said at an Ethics and Public Policy Institute lecture on Capitol Hill sponsored by former Republican Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania.

Facing possible treason charges for declaring emergency rule in 2007 and removing the country’s chief justice, Musharraf has lived in London since leaving office in 2008. He said he’s plotting a return to power in Pakistan. A former general who took control of nuclear-armed Pakistan in a bloodless coup in 1999, he is using Twitter and has a Facebook page with 350,000 friends.

“I have decided to try to create a possible viable political alternative which can show the light to the people of Pakistan and the United States,” Musharraf said. President Asif Ali Zardari’s leadership left Pakistanis with little faith in government, Musharraf said.

Though Pakistan is a key ally in the war against al-Qaida, distrust is casting doubt on the U.S. war effort in Afghanistan. Obama administration officials have said Pakistan must do more to combat terrorists hiding in areas bordering Afghanistan.

Members of Pakistan’s intelligence agency reportedly are collaborating with the Taliban, an assertion Musharraf did not deny but sought to discredit by noting that insurgents set off bombs within Pakistan. “Three hundred (Pakistani intelligence) operatives have died, but we think they are cooperating?” he said.

Pakistanis believe they were abandoned by the United States after helping the mujahedeen defeat the Soviet Union in the 1980s and worry they’ll again be left to deal with religious radicals alone if U.S. troops pull out of the region, Musharraf said.

When he allied with President George W. Bush after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, “everywhere I went, I was asked, ‘What makes you sure the U.S. won’t abandon you again?’ ” Musharraf said.

Stoking those fears is America’s relationship with India, against which Pakistan fought several wars since the two countries split in 1947. Obama’s visit to India, the world’s most populous democracy, included an endorsement of India’s bid to become a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council, something that infuriated many Pakistanis.

“If that trust is not there, there is a defect,” Musharraf said. Without that trust, “we are not strategic partners.”

He offered no solution for winning in Afghanistan but cautioned against abandoning the war. It’s the “center of gravity” for regional problems that can spread around the world, he said.


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