You are planning a return to Pakistan to run again for President, a job you left in 2008. Why?
For the sake of Pakistan. I am very comfortable. I go around the world lecturing, and they pay me well. But there is a cause bigger than the self. I governed the country for nine years successfully. So I don’t have to reinvent the wheel. And I know Pakistan is suffering. I know there is a vacuum of leadership. Therefore the cause of Pakistan pulls me toward my destiny. Maybe it’s a call of destiny much more for the nation than for myself.
You stepped down at the behest of the people. We’ve also seen Tunisia’s Zine el Abidine Ben Ali and Egypt’s Hosni Mubarak step down at the people’s demand. How would you advise Muammar Gaddafi?
I would like to seriously object to the comparison. I left peacefully through my own volition. So please don’t compare me to those two. However, you have spoken about Gaddafi. The will of the people should reign supreme. It’s almost a civil war there. A political situation must be found.
Do you see any good leadership in Pakistan that will shift the country from the grip of religious extremists?
That is why I want to go back.
So how do you combat the rise of the religious right?
You have two choices: succumb to circumstances or do something. I know the people of Pakistan are moderate. It’s unfortunate when the government itself and the leadership appease the religious groups and extremists by turning a blind eye.
Which is more of a threat to Pakistan extremism or India?
At the moment, it’s extremism and terrorism. But you can’t compare. Let’s not think this is a permanent situation. The orientation of 90% of Indian troops is against Pakistan. We cannot ever ignore India, which poses an existential threat to Pakistan.
Is Pakistan the most dangerous country in the world?
It is very dangerous, yes, I will have to admit. But the most dangerous is Afghanistan.
But Afghanistan doesn’t have nuclear weapons.
Yes, we have nuclear weapons, and we are proud of it. Nuclear weapons are the pride of every man, woman and child walking in the streets of Pakistan. Why are we nuclear? Because of India.