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Pakistan's Ex-President Musharraf Launches New Political Party

Exiled former Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf addresses a press conference in London on October 1 to unveil his new party.

Exiled former Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf addresses a press conference in London on October 1 to unveil his new party.

Pakistan's former President Pervez Musharraf has announced his return to politics with the launch of a new political party.

Speaking at a packed press conference in London, the retired general said the All Pakistan Muslim League would be a party of "national salvation."

"I have decided to join politics," Musharraf said. "This decision of mine is based on realization that today the political alternatives visible in Pakistan do not show any signs of light in the darkness that prevails in Pakistan. I think I can give that light."

Cheered on by dozens of supporters, Musharraf said his party would tackle corruption, revive the sagging economy, and step up the fight against Islamist militants.

The 67-year-old retired general came to power in Pakistan in a bloodless coup in 1999.

He suffered a dramatic loss of popularity in 2007 after firing the chief justice and calling a subsequent state of emergency that the Supreme Court ruled unconstitutional.

Musharraf quit in August 2008 after months of protests and the threat of impeachment by a new government led by the party of assassinated former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto.

He was eventually replaced by Bhutto's widower, President Asif Ali Zardari, whose government he has criticized for being plagued by corruption and nepotism. He has also accused the government of failing to adequately respond to Islamic radicalism and this summer's devastating floods.

In London, the former president apologized for making mistakes during his last term in office.

"There were a few decisions in the last year, the ninth year of the nine years [in power] which was not seen positively, which made the people of Pakistan unhappy," Musharraf said. "There is a long story behind each one of these events, each one of those decisions, and I do intend disclosing the long stories behind every decision I took, with confidence."

Musharraf added, however, that the majority of his tenure as head of Pakistan is "proof of our capabilities, the achievements that we made, and the performance that we showed."

Part of the former president's new platform is to promote an increased role for the country's military.

Speaking on September 29 at London's Intelligence Squared debating forum, Musharraf said that the armed forces must play a larger role in the country's governance, and if they don't, the military could be forced to take matters into their own hands.

While Musharraf was head of Pakistan's military when he came to power, he will be contesting the elections in 2013 as a civilian.

Speaking to Reuters, Pakistani political commentator Najam Sethi predicted that the former president would not have an easy task ahead of him.

"Musharraf does have a constituency but since the two mainstream parties, the media and the judiciary are against him, the short-term prospects don't look good," Sethi said.

But Musharraf appears determined in his new course.

When asked when he would leave London -- where he has lived for two years in self-imposed exile -- he said, "Whatever the dangers, whatever the pitfalls, I will be in Pakistan before the next election."

"When I see what is happening in Pakistan I think there is a bigger cause, and when there is a bigger cause you have to take risks," Musharraf said.

based on agency reports