Pakistan's former military ruler Pervez Musharraf on Thursday vowed to face justice and not flee the country in his first interview since being placed under house arrest eight months ago.
Musharraf has faced a range of criminal cases dating back to his 1999-2008 rule after returning to Pakistan from self-imposed exile in March, including the murder of former prime minister Benazir Bhutto.
He has been granted bail in the four main cases against him but remains under guard at his farmhouse on the edge of the capital Islamabad because of threats by Taliban insurgents to his life.
“I will face all cases... I will not run away,” he told Pakistan's private ARY television in an interview.
There have been persistent rumours that a deal would be struck to allow Musharraf to leave the country without standing trial to avoid a clash between the government and the all-powerful military.
But aides to the former commando have said he wants to stay and clear his name of all the charges against him.
So far the cases have proceeded slowly, edging from adjournment to adjournment with little clear progress apart from the granting of bail.
In November the government announced it would put the 70-year-old on trial for high treason and he has been ordered to appear before a special court on December 24.
It will be the first time in Pakistan's history that a former military ruler will face trial for treason.
Musharraf said on Thursday that he was ready to face the trial.
“These are all fraud (fraudulent) cases which lack any substantial evidence,” he said.
The treason accusation relates to Musharraf's decision in 2007 to impose emergency rule shortly before the Supreme Court was due to decide on the legality of his re-election as president a month earlier, while he was still army chief.
“I will inshallah (God willing) get out of this pressure because I am pretty sure I did not commit any wrong thing... whatever I did was for the betterment and welfare of Pakistan and its people.”
When asked if he thinks the present government will complete its tenure, Musharraf said: “My good wishes are with them if they promote good governance. I will support (Prime Minister) Nawaz Sharif if he does any good for the country.”
Musharraf overthrew the government of Sharif - elected to power again in May this year - in a bloodless military coup in October 1999, but a year later the Supreme Court validated the takeover.
During the interview, the former general said that he supported the policy of holding peace talks with the Taliban but only from a “position of strength and not weakness”.
As president he had ordered several military operations against the insurgents in the troubled north-west.
“Whether it is Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) or its chief Maulana Fazalullah, they are our own people who have got distracted.
“But they should not be begged for any talks... they should know that the state is always very powerful and that they should not challenge the state,” Musharraf said.
Sharif came to power in May partly on a pledge to hold talks to try to end the TTP's bloody insurgency, which has fuelled instability in Pakistan.
Musharraf was put under house arrest in April, an unprecedented move against a former army chief in a country where the military has huge power. He was formally freed last month after a court granted him bail in the last criminal case against him. - Sapa-AFP