Former Pakistan President and military dictator General (retd.) Pervez Musharraf told a private TV channel in an exclusive interview that he had the courage of conviction that he had not done anything wrong in his tenure and whatever he did was for the country and its people.

Speaking to ARY on Thursday, he said that this same conviction had given him the confidence to face all the charges against him. He did not comment on the coming trial for high treason, saying it was sub judice but he said he went by the Constitution. When the situation in the country was deteriorating and people are suffering, he said he would try and save his people.

Referring to his training as a Special Services Group (SSG) commando, he said it didn’t teach him to run away but stay and fight. He was willing to give up his life for the country, he said, quoting his military academy oath.

At the end he was contrite and said that he wanted to say sorry if he had done something wrong but he had done nothing deliberately. He said people can conduct a hundred trials against him but how much can they prove? He said the cases were trumped up without any evidence or witnesses. Let the courts decide, he proclaimed, adding that under Article 5 of the Constitution it was a duty to protect the state. He has secured bail in four cases including the assassination of Benazir Bhutto and is living under high security in a farmhouse on the outskirts of the capital.

Gen. Musharraf said he could have easily run away at a time of crisis but he decided to stay and defended his imposition of emergency as the right thing to do. He said he would do it again if it was to protect his people. Referring to his return earlier this year to contest elections, he said while people told him not to court danger by coming back, he said he was not an ordinary citizen who just buys a ticket, picks up his bags and travels. He was not saying this with pride and pointed out that humility was his main trait. The way he was made, he thought of the country and its people, he said.

In his nine years of power he had shown that there was no need to beg for money and the country had enough resources. He had taken the country to such heights and now it had plummeted. The question he asked himself before he came back was whether Pakistan was ready for a change in power or did it want a status quo of two parties. He felt that people specially the youth wanted change and the country was ready.

The motto of the SSG was kill or be killed and “it was not as if I was wearing bangles,” Gen. Musharraf said. People thought he was foolhardy but he decided to take a calculated risk and come back since he thought it was possible to take the country forward.

He also clarified that while in power he did not sign any agreement for drone attacks and there were only seven or eight in his time. The U.S. only took photographs and prepared maps and there was a special operation task force (SOTF) equipped with helicopters and night vision capability which engaged the targets. There was an intelligence agreement and the SOTF acted on U.S. information. However, he said, things were under his control but now drone strikes were an embarrassment.

He said the government cannot say they don’t know where the militants are. Negotiations with the Taliban must be done from a position of strength and there was no point in telling them please don’t kill us.

He said the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan and others were “our people” and the government should negotiate with them but it should not give the impression that it was begging them to lay down arms.

Referring to his mother whom he wants to visit, he said she would be 96 in March and she remembered him a lot since she had lived most of her life with him. He also said he wasn’t planning on going anywhere since his family friends and relatives were all here and Pakistan was his home.

His only regret was that he thought he would oversee a stage of democratic transition from 2007 onwards. “I would have been a civilian president and provided guidance from behind the scene,” he said. He took the credit for a free media and it was all his doing and not a result of any agitation. He asked the media to compare his tenure and the situation now. Instead people were being misled on the issue of democracy and dictatorship, he said, adding that his tenure was the most democratic with empowerment for women, local government bodies, media and minorities.

He said terrorism had to be tackled, otherwise there would be no growth or investment. He also said terrorism and sectarian violence must be fought and there were outside elements fomenting trouble in Balochistan and other places. He felt the army must be used to tackle the situation and the people must support it.