NEW YORK - Former President Pervez Musharraf Satuday highlighted some of the achievements during his 9-year dictatorial rule, saying he improved Pakistan's economy and introduced "an essence of democracy" to the nation. "This gives me pride to say, that although I was a military man - a man in uniform - I did believe in real essence of democracy," Nusharraf told a near-capacity crowd at at Augustana College In Sioux Falls (North Dakota). "I take pride in declaring that I introduced the essence of democracy in Pakistan," he was quoted as saying at the college's Elmen Centre by USA Today newspaper. He did this, he said, by empowering citizens. Women, he said, gained political power and were given more seats in the local and national levels of government - a comment that drew a standing ovation from the crowd. Turning to subjects, Musharraf said al-Qaeda needs to be eliminated from the country by force, but dealing with the Taliban requires a military, political and socio-economic approach. The Taliban, he said, are not a monolith, but rather a spread out organisation with no single commander who could be removed for the command structure to be destroyed. Musharraf, a strong Washington supporter of the war on terror, is on an extensive lecture tour of the US. He said the United States and Pakistan were closing in on Osama bin Laden about five years ago, but suddenly lost his trail. "I don't know whether he's dead or alive," Musharraf said. "It was some five years back when there was some intelligence that got picked up of a broad location," he said. "Then suddenly, we lost track. The comments were in response to a question from a student during the final portion of Friday night's Boe Forum, which has hosted several world leaders over the years. "It was a failure of Pakistan and a failure of US intelligence also," he said of the search for Osama bin Laden. On Tuesday, Musharraf met with some members of Congress in Washington to discuss Afghanistan. "Musharraf provided his personal and candid insights on Afghanistan and Pakistan and shared his perspective for strategies to stabilise the region," according to a statement from Congressman Steve Buyer, a Republican. "Former President Musharraf's thoughts will be very helpful to us as Congress works with the administration in crafting a successful way forward in Afghanistan."