Aziz scared to come back: Musharraf

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Islamabad, Jun 19: Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf has said former prime minister Shaukat Aziz refused three invitations to come back to the country and defend his much-criticised economic policies, saying he feared for his life.

Speaking to columnists and editors here at the Presidential Camp Office yesterday, the President disclosed Mr Aziz had refused his offer and said he would not return until he was given concrete guarantee regarding his security and he feared that his life would be threatened if he returned. The former premier thought that the incumbent Pakistan Peoples' Party government might put his name on the exit control list after which he would be 'dumped' in Pakistan, The News quoted Mr Musharraf as saying.

The President said Mr Aziz also feared for his life as his political opponents were linking his name to the Lal Masjid saga and the Balochistan operation. "Mr Aziz feels that when he was the Prime Minister, a lot of law enforcement agencies were responsible for ensuring his protection but now when he will return, the government will not provide him any security cover," he added.

The President said the former prime minister should return and defend his policies as lot of fingers were pointing at him and he should not be scared and have trust in Allah, who is the protector of all.

However, Mr Musharraf refused to comment when asked if Mr Aziz could be summoned back forcibly.

About the government providing the former prime minister a security cover, he said, ''Why not. Also, when the tenure of his government ended, Mr Aziz remained in Karachi for a while without any such cover and nothing happened to him. No attacks were made and I don't think now anything will happen to him either, so there is no harm in coming back.'' The President said he was not responsible for the economic crisis confronting the country, adding that the previous government might be held responsible for the economic downturn.

''My policies and steps should be viewed in the backdrop of the circumstances that existed in the country at a critical point in time in the past,'' Mr Musharraf maintained. He strongly rejected allegations of a conspiracy against democracy being carried out in the presidency and said he was a strong supporter of democracy.

The President said he has worked for the promotion and development of democracy and embraced the people's mandate when he was Army chief. However, he ruled out any notions of quitting the office of President. He said Parliament, which was the real forum, had elected him as President. ''If I am impeached in Parliament, then it is the right of parliamentarians,'' he said.

Defending the imposition of democracy on November 3 last year, he said if it was not imposed at that time, democracy would have been derailed, adding that he had no personal vengeance against anybody. Mr Musharraf said the country was passing through a very critical time and he was performing his constitutional role to pull it out of the crises.

In response to a question regarding judges' reinstatement, he said the situation was not yet clear enough for any comments or actions.

UNI

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