26 May 2011
PIERS MORGAN: Pakistan is one of the United States’ most crucial allies in the war on terror. But now there are tough questions on both sides about that relationship. Joining me now, the one time, perhaps future president of Pakistan, General Pervez Musharraf. Mr. President, thank you for joining me.
PERVEZ MUSHARRAF, FORMER PRESIDENT OF PAKISTAN: Thank you.
MORGAN: Quite clearly, there is a problem in the relationship between America and Pakistan right now. A lot of it centers around the discovery that Osama bin Laden was living right in the middle of what appeared to be a intelligence compound for all this time. How would you describe the relationship as it stands?
MUSHARRAF: There certainly is a trust deficit, but it has been persisting since the last one year. Not because of OBL alone — Osama alone. There were incidents of mistrust in the past. Therefore, the final culmination was this, that there was total mistrust, and therefore Pakistan was not even told. And as people take it, there was a violation of Pakistan’s sovereignty. Therefore, it has led to a lot of more misunderstanding. I think — which is extremely detrimental to the cause of fighting against terror.
MORGAN: I mean, there’s no doubt that most world leaders now say that Pakistan has become the center for world terror. Do you accept that?
MUSHARRAF: To an extent, yes. But the real fight is in Afghanistan. If we can win in Afghanistan, we will win in Pakistan also. It is not vice versa. If we win in Pakistan, Afghanistan still stays.
So I don’t believe that. There is no doubt that the situation in Pakistan is more complicated, in that there is al Qaeda, there is Taliban. And Taliban spreading Talibanization into settled district. And then there’s extremists in our society.
And then there are Mujahadeen who are involved with Kashmir in India, all of them developing a nexus. So the situation is more complicated in Pakistan, all right.
MORGAN: Is it — but there is obvious frustration and concern in America, not least because, of course, Was Pakistan has a reputed — at least 100 nuclear weapons. If the country continues to deteriorate in terms of stability, this becomes a very dangerous situation for the world.
MUSHARRAF: If Pakistan disintegrates, then it can be dangerous. Otherwise, if Pakistan’s integrity is there, and which I’m sure it will be there as long as the armed forces of Pakistan are there, there is no danger of the nuclear assets or strategic assets falling in any terrorist hands.
MORGAN: We talked about disintegration, it is all relative, isn’t it? I mean, 35,000 Pakistani people have been killed in terror related incidents since 9/11. There are suicide bombings every week now in Pakistan. To a neutral observer, it does appear that you country, Pakistan, is going through a form of disintegration.
MUSHARRAF: I wouldn’t call it disintegration. As I said, the armed forces of Pakistan keep the unity and the — and the four provinces of Pakistan certainly are not looking for separation. But, therefore, there’s no doubt in my mind that disintegration will not be possible.
And therefore, any — outside world, I would like to say also — understands that disintegration of Pakistan already harmed the integrity of Pakistan, will really be extremely dangerous for — for the world — for the region and world.
MORGAN: You understand why President Obama and his administration feel pretty angry when they discover that the most wanted terrorist in American history is living right in the heart of Pakistan, right next to a military base? I mean, it defies credibility. I’m not saying that you knew anything, but certainly that nobody at any high level in Pakistan had any idea that Osama bin Laden was there.
MUSHARRAF: I don’t think anyone had an idea. I don’t think so.
MORGAN: You worked — you worked in that compound. You worked in the base, next to the compound in Abbottabad for two and a half years.
MORGAN: Is it credible that no one else in that base, in all this time, would have had any idea?
MUSHARRAF: Well, that’s a very — when you say I worked there — no, I was trained there. I was a cadet when I got in the army.
MORGAN: That means you know it very well.
MORGAN: You know where that house is. You know the proximity.
MORGAN: I’m not suggesting that you knew for a moment. What I’m suggesting is does it seem likely to you, with all these military intelligence people around this compound, that nobody knew anything?
MUSHARRAF: There’s normal. All the military intelligence people, there must have been a detachment, headed by a major or a lieutenant colonel and a few people, about eight ten, people. That is the detachment anywhere, all over Pakistan.
It is not that there was swarming with intelligence people around. Not at all. And the — the issue — yes, indeed. It is a terrible mishap. It’s a terrible failure. But to think that there was complicity at the strategic level, at the government level, is — is certainly not there.
The people around, thousands of them living around this house, they also didn’t know that Osama bin Laden is inside. So I really — I have certain reservations on this issue, whether he was there for five years. I can’t imagine that.
But if we were there, well, again, it was a great failure, failure of the intelligence detachments over there who should have known.
MORGAN: Hold that thought, Mr. President. Coming up, more on the relationship between the U.S. and Pakistan.
MORGAN: Back now with General Pervez Musharraf, the former president of Pakistan. If you had been the president of Pakistan when this raid took place, would you have been entirely comfortable with what the Americans did, in terms of dropping Navy SEALS into the compound, killing Osama bin Laden on the sovereign soil, not telling anybody in the Pakistani government? Would you have been happy about that?
MUSHARRAF: No, not at all. Not at all. Not the least. In fact, in my time, it was very, very clear that we don’t want anybody to intrude across cross borders, no force. We decided on intelligence cooperation. All the dozens of al Qaeda people that we got, all the important ones, were intelligence cooperation. Locate them, identify them.
But the action was invariably by Pakistan forces. Never did any outside –
MORGAN: How would you have reacted if you had been Pakistan’s president?
MUSHARRAF: Well, I would have certainly reacted, very angrily. This is a violation of our sovereignty.
MORGAN: Is it, therefore, illegal what the Americans did?
MUSHARRAF: It is absolutely illegal, yes.
MORGAN: So it was an unlawful assassination?
MUSHARRAF: Now you are getting into the legality of — he was a world class risk. He has caused –
MORGAN: I’m referring to the mission itself. If, as you say, it was an illegal raid on sovereign territory, therefore it becomes an illegal, unlawful assassination. It can’t be anything else.
MUSHARRAF: Well, I think that — I — I don’t want to get involved in these legalities of the issue.
MORGAN: You did say — that’s why I asked you if you thought it was illegal. If it is illegal, then the killing of bin Laden becomes an unlawful assassination.
MUSHARRAF: — killing. I will agree.
So what would you have done if you had been president? You have this unlawful assassination, as you see it, on your sovereign soil. What could Pakistan — what should Pakistan have done?
MUSHARRAF: Well, I don’t think I would have looked at it from international law point of view or legalities or jurisprudence points of view. Here is a terrorist who needed to be death with. There’s no doubt he should have been dealt with.
The modality used was wrong. It should have been Pakistan forces to deal with it. U.S. forces violated our sovereignty. And certainly it would have — it would certainly have brought a very bad name. My reputation within my own people would have gone down.
Therefore, any leader in Pakistan allowing this — his own reputation is at stake, and rightly so. Therefore, I would have — wouldn’t have liked it, objected. But I would not have objected to the killing of Osama bin Laden, whether it was violation of any law or –
MORGAN: What you would have liked is the American administration to have informed you.
MORGAN: And possibly included Pakistani forces in the raid. Is that what you are saying?
MUSHARRAF: No. I would have certainly insisted that it be Pakistan’s special forces going to deal with it.
MORGAN: Here is the problem. You are President Obama; you know there has been a breakdown in trust between Pakistan and America at a high level. The trust is not what it used to be. There are good reasons for that.
You get intelligence that Osama bin Laden is in this compound. And you have to make a choice: either we tell the authorities, the government of a country that currently we do not trust, and who we may think — we may suspect know that Osama bin Laden is there, that some of them knew this.
Why, if you are President Obama, could you possibly take the risk under those circumstances of not acting unilaterally?
MUSHARRAF: Well, no Pakistani and no leader in Pakistan will allow this as a justification for any intrusion into Pakistan. Nobody can do that. No country’s leader — would America allow such an action by Mexico or somebody? I mean, let’s treat all countries with sovereign equality.
MORGAN: President Obama said this week on British television for his state visit to Britain that if the same event arose again, he would do the same. If it happens in the future with other known terrorists in al Qaeda, he would take the same action. We have a clear flash point between Pakistan and America.
MUSHARRAF: Yes. I think this is putting the Pakistan leadership and government on the dock. I think it is — it is not a very responsible statement.
MORGAN: You think it is irresponsible for President Obama to say that.
MUSHARRAF: Yes, indeed.
MORGAN: Because it basically implies that America has rights in terms of taking action on this sovereign soil, as in Pakistan, we saw with bin Laden, that it has a right to deal do that, when you say it has no right to do that.
MUSHARRAF: Certainly no country has a right to intrude into any other country. Actually — I mean, if technically or legally you see it, it is an act of war. Therefore, I think it is an irresponsible statement. And I think such arrogance should not be shown publicly to the world.
MORGAN: You think he was arrogant?
MUSHARRAF: I think so. I think it is arrogance that we don’t care. We don’t care for your national opinion. We don’t care for your people. We will come in and do the same thing. This is — this is arrogance.
MORGAN: When you say an act of war, that’s pretty serious language. Would you see another raid by the Americans to get rid of another al Qaeda terrorist in exactly the same circumstances, without informing the Pakistani government — would that be an act of war?
MUSHARRAF: Theoretically, technically, yes, indeed. It is an act of war. Any violation by forces of a country’s sovereignty is an act of war, theoretically. Now how to deal with it is the question. I leave it to the government there how they want to deal with it, diplomatically, through dealing, through protests, or through physical military action and military response.
It could be a serious situation. We must all understand that. The world should understand it. President Obama should understand it.
MORGAN: We will take a short break now. When we come back, I want to talk about your political future and the rumors that you may well launch a new bid to become president again of Pakistan.
MORGAN: Back now with General Perez Musharraf, the former president of Pakistan.
Mr. President, there is a growing clamor in Pakistan for you to possibly return in the next election in 2013. Will you consider doing that?
MUSHARRAF: Yes, I have already taken a decision. I did consider the situation in Pakistan. And I saw that there is a requirement of creating another political option. Otherwise, Pakistan is going in the wrong direction.
Therefore, I have made my — formed my own party. And I do intend absolutely to return to Pakistan. I have set the date of 23rd March, 2012, well before the election in 2013. I will.
MORGAN: Do you believe you can win?
MUSHARRAF: Well, I have entered into politics because I do believe I can win. As far as going back as president, that’s an issue. We’ve got a parliamentary form of government. The party has to win. And then if my party wins and has a majority, then one has to decide whether one becomes a prime minister or a president.
MORGAN: You’ve been in this interview quite outspoken about President Obama, called him arrogant, in terms of what happened in the raid on bin Laden. You say it would be an act of war if it happens again. In fact, it already has been.
If you become president, you will know that Pakistan is very reliant at the moment on American aid. Three billion dollars a year is a lot of money. Are you worried that if you ramp up the rhetoric over the search for the terrorists in Pakistan against the Americans, they might respond and say, we’re yanking our money?
MUSHARRAF: Well, first of all, I didn’t say act of war. Yes, technically and theoretically, it is. Any intrusion — I was talking theoretically — it is an act of war. Anybody intruding with force in any other country is an act of war, theoretically.
But I didn’t say that one would like to declare it as an act of war. I think it has very serious repercussions.
MORGAN: The point I was making is obviously, if you create to much of a rift with America, with President Obama, if you go back into power, they won’t forget that. And Pakistan is reliant on this aid money. It’s a lot of money every year.
MUSHARRAF: Money is coming. It is there. It assists Pakistan. There’s no doubt about that. But that doesn’t mean that Pakistan can give up its sovereignty, its national interests.
Now this has to be dealt with in a diplomatic manner. We have to reduce this trust deficit. We have to restore trust. It was there for six or seven years when I was there. We had good trust. And we were taking action. And we were very frank and straight and direct.
MORGAN: Have you always personally been 100 percent honest with America?
:MUSHARRAF: Five hundred percent honest. I don’t believe in dishonesty. I believe in telling a person right straight, because then that is how trust is developed. The moment you are hiding or telling — distorting facts, that is when the trust deficit starts.
MORGAN: Do you believe the current Pakistani administration has been 100% honest?
MUSHARRAF: I don’t know. I don’t know. I can’t comment on that. Certainly, the mistrust is that Pakistan army or the ISI assists the Taliban. And the bone of contention lies in North Waziristan not being attacked and Afghani, who is one of the leaders of this Taliban is not being dealt with.
Now, I don’t know what discussions take place. But if I was there, I would certainly — there has to be a reason why it is not being done, a strategic reason, or maybe it will be done a little later. But whatever it is, the concerns of the United States and the coalition must be given straight and clearly through the United States.
What is the reason that this is not happening? And they must devolve whatever concerns of Pakistan is, absolutely, directly. That is what diplomacy is, really. And we must do that. We will — Pakistan I know will want to address this issue against al Qaeda and Taliban.
All that is happening. Isn’t there a disconnect that while everyone accuses the ISI and the army that we are involved with the Taliban, and look at what they are doing. Look at what happened in this base, the naval base. And look at what has been happening all around.
But yet we are being blamed that we are with the Taliban. And the Taliban are doing this to the army. They have attacked our general headquarters. Isn’t there some disconnect? Isn’t there something wrong in this logic?
Obviously, there is something wrong in the logic. The problem is that there’s maybe — maybe I’m saying people are not talking straight and up front.
MORGAN: The problem in the logic comes when you discover that Osama bin Laden is in the middle of Pakistan, because clearly to the Americans, a lot of them will be thinking this is not a coincidence. He’s either been harbored there or somebody knew he was there. Otherwise it doesn’t make any sense.
So I think the problem with the Taliban relationship with Pakistan is it becomes suspicious. MUSHARRAF: No, if this was the case, it doesn’t stand with logic. If there was complicity, and he’s there for five years, I get directly involved. That means I was complicit. I would like to give a logical –
MORGAN: Had you been president –
MUSHARRAF: Let me complete this. Now, if that was the case, I would like — I would have wanted to take leverage out of it. When I was at the receiving end in the 2007, I should have done something with this Osama bin Laden card and gained advantage.
So obviously it is illogical. It is not the case. May I also add –
MORGAN: You mean you would have traded the information that you had bin Laden?
MUSHARRAF: I would have done something to turn the tables in my favor.
MORGAN: You wouldn’t have just handed him over to the Americans?
MUSHARRAF: I don’t know.
MORGAN: Wouldn’t that be the responsible thing to do?
MUSHARRAF: I would have used this card to my favor. That is what I’m saying. I wouldn’t have left it to the next government. You hand him over to the next government.
MORGAN: Can I just question the ethics of that for a moment? If you’re a layman like me, and you say you would have used the existence of bin Laden in Pakistan to your advantage –
MUSHARRAF: You must understand my logic. I’m saying if I was complicit, if I knew, I would have done that. If I was being analytical that I knew and I’m harboring and hiding him, I would have done this maybe.
MORGAN: If you had known for a fact where bin Laden was, would you have handed him over to America?
MUSHARRAF: Let’s not get into the details of something which didn’t happen. Obviously –
MORGAN: Well, it might happen again. That’s why I’m asking.
MUSHARRAF: I can’t answer you right away. It’s not a simple question/answer issue. It’s a very serious issue.
MORGAN: Let me make it simple. Bin laden is dead. If you go back into power and you become president again, and you discover that a senior member of al Qaeda, who has without any doubt been committing atrocities, is living in another compound near Karachi or somewhere, would you tell the Americans? MUSHARRAF: I would like to take action. Why should I tell the Americans? However, there is intelligence cooperation. Even finding that man out, in my time, it was always — intelligence had always been cooperating.
Technical intelligence has — are more with the United States. So to locate a person, it was always been in ISI and CIA together.
So they would know already. And if they don’t know, yes, indeed, I would like to inform them, but take action myself,
MORGAN: Mr. President, thank you very much indeed.
*** END OF INTERVIEW ***