Posted by: Administrator | 1 January, 2005

A Conversation with CFR (Council for Foreign Relations)

9 November 2010 

Speaker: General Pervez Musharraf, Former President of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan
Presider: Deborah S. Amos, Foreign Correspondent, National Public Radio (NPR)

AMOS: Thank you very much for being here.

I would like to start with the meeting in India, which has been quite interesting to watch from here. And President Obama endorsed India’s bid for a permanent seat on the United Nations Security Council. Were you surprised that the president was so up-front with that endorsement?

MUSHARRAF: Well, frankly, I didn’t expect it. And may I say very frankly, people in Pakistan won’t be too happy.

AMOS: And do you think there will be push-back in Washington to that?

MUSHARRAF: I’m sorry?

AMOS: Will there be push-back in Washington to that announcement?

MUSHARRAF: I wouldn’t be able to say that.

AMOS: Okay.

He certainly went further than we’ve heard before in addressing the terrorist threat from Pakistan, and set it, you know, in an Indian setting. And I wondered how that will be viewed in Pakistan, and what you think about the out-front-ness that the president showed when he was in India.

MUSHARRAF: Well, frankly, again, I don’t think it’s going to be taken well in Pakistan. And yes, terrorism is an issue, but its complexity needs to be understood and realized. And Pakistan should not be seen or projected as a — as a perpetrator in a country which does try to project Pakistan as a perpetrator of terrorism and extremism, while in Pakistan people think that we are the victims, and we are the victims of situation, we are the victims of things that have happened over the last 30 years since 1979.

And now there is a situation which needs to be tackled. Yes indeed the center of gravity of terrorism and extremism is Afghanistan and the tribal agencies of Pakistan. There’s no doubt in that. But to fight it, if you are to put Pakistan into a corner and then try to address terrorism and extremism, I don’t think that is very wise.

AMOS: And so, if you had an invitation to the White House, what would you tell the president about those remarks?

MUSHARRAF: Well, I would like to tell everyone in the United States that every country has its sensitivities, every country has its interests. I would like to say here to everyone that you must show understanding of Pakistan’s interests and Pakistan’s sensitivities. If we are to be your partner and a leading partner in the war against terrorism and extremism, well, we ought to be given a bit more importance, and that is to understand our concerns and sensitivities and interests, which at times one feels is not done. That’s what I would like to project here.

AMOS: I want to shift the questions to Afghanistan for a moment. The Afghan leader, Hamid Karzai, is having not-so-secret talks with the Taliban. It’s really hard reading between the lines about who’s bringing them to Kabul, whether it’s NATO or they get there on their own steam.

Do you think that these talks can lead to some resolution in Afghanistan?

MUSHARRAF: Well, we have to take the Pashtuns on board. I mean, I have been saying that since 2002 maybe, that all Taliban are Pashtuns, but all Pashtuns are not Taliban. And I have always been of the view that we have to take Pashtuns — wean the Pashtuns away from the Taliban. Unfortunately, after 9/11, in 9/11 the Taliban were defeated and (all ?) the Taliban (were ?) Pashtuns, with the help of Northern Alliance, which were the minorities, Uzbeks, Tajiks, Hazaras.

Now, after that, we — I personally think that the military had created an environment — the job of the military is to create an environment. I think the military, the coalition forces, the U.S. forces gave a situation in — (inaudible) — that where the al Qaeda and Taliban were all dispersed, they ran into the mountains and cities of Pakistan and there was a total, complete vacuum in Afghanistan, to be filled now with the political instrument, military instrument having succeeded, and in the political instrument, certainly the requirement of Pashtuns being in a dominant position in government in Afghanistan, because they are 50 (percent), 55 percent, and they have always historically ruled in Afghanistan. That is not — that was not done. That hasn’t been done even now.

Today, Afghanistan, the dominant government is — are Panjshiris, who are half (of ?) Tajiks, maybe 8 or 10 percent of Afghanistan. And therefore the Pashtuns have totally been ignored, and Pashtuns have been pushed towards the Taliban. So while in 2002, (200)3, we were in a position of strength and we could have shifted to the political instrument and placed a legitimate government in Afghanistan, now we are from a position of weakness and we are trying to do the same thing, and we are trying to talk to moderate Taliban, whereas I still say there is no moderate Taliban; there is Taliban or Pashtuns. And we are doing the same thing.

Now, winning this battle, how to get the Pashtuns on board to be in the dominant position in government, is the question. Now, are there Pashtuns available who could be other than Taliban, or is it only the so-called moderate Taliban within? One thing is quite clear, the Taliban is not a monolith; it’s not a single-headed — there are — everyone calls themselves Taliban, I think — or Gulbuddin Hekmatyar is a Taliban, the Haqqani is a Taliban, Mullah Omar is a Taliban, and they are not under each other, certainly.

In one case, Gulbuddin Hekmatyar’s people are fighting against the Haqqani group, and hundreds of people have been killed in the process. (Well, I’m talking of recently ?). So therefore there’s not a monolith, which is good. We need to see how we can address the situation and take advantage of this fact.

Now, within that, if — yes if they can get a group which is for peace and resolution of this dispute, I think any political movement is good. The only negative is that we are doing this from a position of weakness, so therefore I wonder whether we’ll succeed.

AMOS: Do you think that the Haqqani group or Mullah Omar should be part of those talks?

MUSHARRAF: At this moment, from this position of weakness, I think we’ll be — there will be a lot to lose if we were to talk to them, unless we can go to a position — militarily from a position of — to a position of strength. Then talking to any one of them would be maybe all right.

AMOS: The Obama administration is up for a(n) Afghan review soon. If you were in the room, would you advise the president to stick to the timetable that he’s laid out and begin withdrawing next summer?

MUSHARRAF: No, not at all. I don’t believe in any timetables. I believe in effect-related withdrawal. They have to be effects-related. You have to create certain effects. Now, without creating those effects, if you fix timetables, I don’t know whether the military can adhere to those timetables and whether we are going to be in a dominant military position, force position and then be able to put a legitimate government in Afghanistan. This is — this is the task. If you can do it by July, by all means start withdrawing. But if you can’t, you must not. Therefore I would say you have to do a task and then you must withdraw. But if you fix a time, irrespective of whether you’ve done the task, I don’t think that is a wise thing to do.

AMOS: Considering how tough the president was on Pakistan in his Indian trip, do you have a sense that he is shifting where he is looking for allies in Afghanistan, to China, perhaps to India; that Pakistan actually is not seen as the first among equal allies?

MUSHARRAF: Yes, unfortunately, whereas actually Pakistan is in the lead role. And that is what hurts the people of Pakistan. And that is seen as negative among the people of Pakistan at every level.

And then as far as India is concerned, India is trying to create — I mean, if I’m allowed to be very, very frank, India’s role in Afghanistan is to create an anti-Pakistan Afghanistan. That is very clear to me. Their consulates in Kandahar and Jalalabad our actually involved in creating trouble in Pakistan. They’ve had no other role.

There is no need of consulates in Kandahar and Jalalabad. Why shouldn’t the consulate be somewhere in the north, facing Uzbekistan or Takijistan? This is just — their intention is quite — very clear.

And we know that — (our ?) terrorist, Pakistan terrorist, sitting in Kabul, goes to India, he is received there by intelligence agents. And I am not saying something which I don’t know. I know it. I’ve seen photographs of it.

So therefore, I think there is a — Pakistan is being wronged by India, and there is a lot of training of terrorists against Pakistan, Baluchi terrorists in Afghanistan, armed, sent into Baluchistan. While this is happening, while we are to fight al Qaeda and Taliban, which certainly is in Pakistan’s interest first and happens to be your interest also and the world’s interest, but then we have to also (defend ?) against people trying to stab us in the back. And that is the ground reality in the area.

AMOS: I want to ask you about Kashmir. In 2007, you were involved in back-channel talks with India. You agreed on broad outlines of a settlement. Why did those talks break down? And was there ever a notion that there would be a plebiscite in Kashmir?

MUSHARRAF: The talks didn’t break down. We were proceeding pretty well. We came to a situation where the two minor disputes, the Siachen and the Sir Creek, were brought to a state where we could have signed an agreement any time. On the Kashmir issue also we agreed on broad parameters and we were in the process of drafting an agreement. So we were moving forward.

But then the delay occurs because I feel — I have always said everywhere — that there are three qualities required on resolution on any dispute between the two opposing groups, the leaders. One is of sincerity, sincerity to actually resolve the dispute. And I have no doubt that Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is a sincere man, and I have tremendous amount of respect for him. Then the flexibility, flexibility to understand each other’s view and accept each other’s view (whenever genuine ?). And again, I think Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has the flexibility. He was keen and he had an open mind.

But the third quality is very important, I think, and that is courage and boldness, because any agreement will mean meeting at mid-ground, at halfway. And that halfway means give and take. It means give.

Now, that “give” part is what troubles leaders, because that “give” part is going to result in agitation in your own backyard, in your own country, by some group or the other. That is applicable to India as well as Pakistan.

But that is where boldness by the leader, that he is doing something which is for the overall good of the region, or for the world, maybe, and certainly for India and Pakistan, so even if there is a risk of some political loss, which I don’t think there is — I think there is all pluses, I think there will be political gain on both sides with the majority. That is where there is hesitation, hesitation of, should we reach this agreement, what will be the impact, the political impact, my own reputation, agitation, the government stability. So all these things then delay processes.

And so in 2007, when there was — a turmoil started in Pakistan against me, that was a time when it was — the ball was in Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s court. He had to visit Pakistan, and I told him that if you visit Pakistan, we have to sign some agreements; otherwise it’ll be a — totally a flat visit and aimless and purposeless.

So therefore, if he had visited, we would have at least, if not Kashmir, (the other two ?) — we ought to have signed an agreement and finished and put it behind. And we can do it yesterday. It’s because all — everything is ready. But then he did not (come ?), so they must be having some good reasons.

AMOS: There have been stories, in particular in The Washington Post, that the Obama administration assumes that the government in Pakistan has another three months, maybe four, to survive.

I wondered if you, in your own mind, have an idea, a thought about how long the present government will be where it is — the present leadership; let’s say that.

MUSHARRAF: Well, if you see public opinion in Pakistan or the world, I think it’s very negative against the government. That may be a wish by the majority, vast majority, but then when you get into the details of how it could happen and how can it happen democratically and constitutionally, then you get stuck. Maybe it’s not that simple, that it will go — and government will go in two or three months. How — what is the method? What is the democratic, constitutional method of doing it? If you ask this to anyone, he wouldn’t be able to give you an answer.

They again start harking back to the army. Well, I’m talking of constitutional and democratically. So why are you running to the army again and asking the army to do something?

AMOS: What would you like your role to be? Do you intend to go back to Pakistan and run for office?

MUSHARRAF: Well, I have — yes, I do intend. I have opened a — I have entered politics, although I am not at all cut (sic) for politics. And I have made a party, a political party. I they’ll launched a political party. Well, that’s the start, but they say a journey of 1,000 miles is — it’s the first step which is difficult, and I have taken the first step. I don’t know how the journey will go, but my intention is that, yes.

AMOS: I’d like to — and this is the perfect place to do so — open the interview to questions from members. If you would state your name and make it a question that actually goes up at the end, and no speeches, please. And we’ll begin here, and then here. Microphone — yeah, please.

QUESTIONER: Hi. Elmira Bayrasli. You — it’s well-known that you’re a student and admirer of the Turkish leader Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, and particularly —

MUSHARRAF: I’m sorry?

QUESTIONER: — of Ataturk, and particularly his — the Turkish leader’s use of the Turkish military to defend Turkey. I am a student and admirer of Ataturk as well, and when I look at what Ataturk has done, it’s very clear that he gave a clear mission and focus to the Turkish military, which is to defend the Turkish secular state. When I look at Pakistan’s military, I’m not really clear what its focus and mission is. Notwithstanding Pakistan’s relations with India, can you — can you talk about what the Pakistan military is trying to defend?

MUSHARRAF: Well, I don’t think we ought to be comparing something which was happening about 70 or 80 years back with what we ought to be doing in 2010. The situations are very different. Kemal Ataturk did something then which was possible then in the Sick Man of Europe, and he saved the country and laid the foundations of a progressive state.

But however, now, with hindsight, having read everything about him and having seen what is — what are the political developments in Turkey, I have come to the conclusion that societies cannot — change on societies cannot be imposed. Societies always transform, and transformation is gradual and over a long period. And that is why what you see in Turkey today, an Islamic government in place, negates what Kemal Ataturk was doing, trying to do.

The same applies to shah of Iran, and he was trying to modernize — he may have modernized Tehran or Mashad, but the rural areas of Iran remained as backward as they were, because, as I said, transformation takes a much longer time. Imposition cannot be done in any state.

Having said that, now you’ve asked about the army, and you are trying to compare Kemal Ataturk — I wouldn’t like to compare with that. Our army has a task, and we have an environment in Pakistan — our environment, a very difficult — different to Turkey’s environment. We have an existential threat, and we have to defend our security, first of all. That is our primary concern. The primary concern of any Pakistani is security of Pakistan, because there’s an existential threat there. So the army is — first of all, the task is to protect the integrity and sovereignty of Pakistan, and that is what is ingrained in every soldier, in every military, right from the beginning. And that is the task.

Now, on the other side, unfortunately democracy in Pakistan has not taken roots, because, unfortunately, whenever we’ve had elected governments, elected democratic governments, they have failed to perform. They haven’t performed well for Pakistan.

So one gets into a conflict whether — is it democracy and elected governments the essential element and all — that is all for the state; or is the end product the development — the progress and development of the state, welfare, well-being of its people? So don’t we expect that a democratic government is not the end-all? It is the welfare of the state, the progress of the state and welfare if the people. That is where the democratically elected governments fail. And therefore, in Pakistan the most organized body is the army, right from the beginning, even now. So therefore the people run to the army, and unfortunately, the army has no constitutional role. So therefore, army comes under pressure.

Now these — this is the environment of Pakistan So the role of the army is a written role of protecting Pakistan’s sovereignty and integrity, and that is what it is involved in. That is what it trains for. That is what the government of Pakistan equips the army with, while at the same time, when the — when the democratic or the political environment or the economic environment of Pakistan goes down, and it’s becoming a failed state or a defaulted state or a bankrupt state, again, the army — people look at the army to deliver from the problems. And that is exactly what is happening today.

So there is a written role of the army. There’s an unwritten role of the army.

AMOS: Sorry. In this row.

QUESTIONER: Lawrence Wright with The New Yorker. Sixty-three years ago, India and Pakistan were one country, and now they’re two and have both gone through very difficult periods of time. But now India seems to be a rising nation, the possibility of being on the Security Council.

In terms that you just used to describe Pakistan — failed state, bankrupt state — what accounts for the difference in the development of those two countries, in your opinion? What is — what are the factors that separate success from failure?

MUSHARRAF: (Mere ?) — well, first of all, yes, India and Pakistan is in trouble today. But if you see Pakistan’s potential, I have no doubt, having run Pakistan for nine years, Pakistan was a failed and defaulted state in a bigger way, in — from many points of view, then, in 1999, than it is today. Our foreign exchange reserves were $300 million, equal to one week’s imports. And all our macroeconomic indicators were so negative, our debt-to-GDP ratio was 103 percent. Our exports — there were no exports, hardly. They were under $8 billion, which is terrible for a country of 170 million people. Our GDP was growing at 2-1/2, 3 (percent), whereas our population itself grows at about 2 percent. So therefore, we were in dire straits.

But then in nine years, I saw that initially, in 2000, if anyone asked me about Pakistan, maybe I thought that Pakistan is not too viable. But in these nine years — so in 2006 we were declared one of the 11 — next 11 countries of the world — economically vibrant, next 11 countries of the world.

Our GDP growth was between 7 (percent) and 8 percent. In 2006, it was 8.4 percent. Our GDP grew from $63 billion to $170 billion. Our exports went from $7.8 billion to $18-1/2 billion. Our GDP went from $63 billion to $170 billion. The per capita income went from $430 to $1,000. Maybe it is higher than India today — even today. So with this (view ?) of indicators, our FDI rose from $400 million to $8.4 billion.

So what I am trying to say is Pakistan has all the potential, sir, maybe — maybe — potential of faster growth than India. I am saying this with my — with my full experience of those eight years. And I can quote figures on anything, any development: poverty alleviation went down from 34 percent to 17 percent. These figures are not (IFIA ?); they are World Bank figures.

QUESTIONER: And the — and the factors that are holding it back are what?

MUSHARRAF: Now, the problem — so, what is the problem? I totally agree with you. The fact of the matter is, now again we are almost a defaulted state or a failed state, yes. And we were the same in 1999. So I — well, that is sad, but this is what democracy gives Pakistan. So therefore, we have to analyze what is happening in Pakistan.

I think it’s a pure failure of leadership. Why is the economy down today? In 2000 — till 2008, sir, our exchange rate: dollar was about 60 rupees. For eight years, it was at 60, 61. In six months, after the changeover, it shot up to 87 rupees. Today it is 87 rupees. That is why the factories have closed down. Fifty percent of our factories are down, shut down. FDI has almost dried up. Why? Because there was a massive flight of capital immediately after the — this government came in. That happened why? Lack of trust and confidence in the government. Why has FDI stopped coming? Lack of trust and confidence in the government. So therefore, it’s a leadership crisis in Pakistan; nothing else.

All the resources are there. All the potential is there. All the human potential is there. This is what — my strong belief and conviction about Pakistan. That is why I went in politics. I went — otherwise, I am very comfortable. I am on my lecture circuits, being managed by Harry Walker Agency. I am very happy. (Laughter.) So you have invited me here, and I’m traveling all over the world, I am going to Nigeria, I went to Hong Kong, then to Stockholm; so what is my problem? I am very comfortable. (Laughter.)

But my problem is Pakistan. Because Pakistan has all the potential, and there’s a leadership vacuum in Pakistan. And nobody — no political party today can handle the situation. Therefore, I am sticking my neck out. And I know it is do-able. That’s my answer.

So therefore, let me — I didn’t want to come — now, I don’t believe in being too India-centric. I know Pakistan can deliver, irrespective of what India is doing. I don’t know, I mean, we are in the world very fond of comparing India is the biggest democracy, biggest secular democracy in the world. Well, they killed 3,000 of Muslims in Gujarat. Nobody said anything. So therefore, this is the projection that is given. They are projected with China. I don’t think there is any comparison between rise of China and India. China is a country where 500 million people have been drawn out of poverty. Has India done that? No, not at all. There is stark poverty in India — stark poverty. People sleep and people are born and die on the footpaths.

But in Pakistan, that doesn’t happen, sir. Nobody is that hungry. Today, yes, because the prices have shot up, inflation is — I don’t know how many percent, and jobs are — joblessness. So therefore, there are problems in Pakistan. And basic, core issue? Leadership crisis.

AMOS: Isobel.

QUESTIONER: Isobel Coleman, the Council on Foreign Relations.

Could you comment in your own view on the effectiveness of the drone attacks? We know that they are very effective at taking out specific targets, but they come with some significant cost. Can you comment, please?

MUSHARRAF: I will have to agree that drone attacks do target militants. That may be the positive of it. We do want to target militants. But the negatives are two: One, indiscriminate, therefore collateral, damage.

Number two, Pakistan does not want any violation of its sovereignty by anybody else, and therefore the negative in the people of Pakistan. The dilemma in Pakistan is, if today you ask a Pakistani — anyone — do they want United States or coalition forces in Afghanistan, do they want them to stay, they’ll say, no, they should go. I think 99 percent will say that. But if they say, do you want to defeat, do you want to have Talibanization or Taliban culture introduced here in Pakistan, do you want them there? Ninety-nine percent will say no. So therefore there is a conflict in the minds of the people of Pakistan, how to defeat al Qaeda and Taliban.

Again, I will say there’s a leadership crisis where public opinion is going in a certain direction and there’s nobody speaking to the public to put this wrong direction of the public thinking onto the correct path, that we have to defeat al Qaeda and Taliban. That is what exactly you want. Therefore, the means of doing that needs to be — the public needs to be educated, needs to be taken on board. And at the same time in the United States they have to realize that our sovereignty is a sensitivity of Pakistan. It becomes more so when things like whatever is happening with India and whatever India is doing in Pakistan and nobody’s showing concern — that exacerbates the situation in the public mind in Pakistan.

So it’s — I don’t know whether I’ve confused the issue more than I’ve answered your problem. They have drone attacks that do target militants, but the problem is this. I’ve always been saying, why don’t you give the drones to Pakistan? Why don’t you give them to us? We’ll use them. So this issue of violation of the sovereignty of Pakistan will not be there.

But then you have your own problems of security, of the transfer of technology, high technology, to fulfill them. Well, this is the situation.

AMOS: Sir.

QUESTIONER: Nick Platt, Asia Society, former ambassador to Pakistan.

MUSHARRAF: Yes, indeed, sir.

QUESTIONER: Welcome back to the council.

MUSHARRAF: Good seeing you, sir.

QUESTIONER: Should I call you Mr. Musharraf, President Musharraf? Maybe not General Musharraf. (Laughter.)

MUSHARRAF: I remain the same (fellow ?) whatever name you call me. I don’t care. (Laughter.)

QUESTIONER: That’s not my question. (Laughter.) My question is, how do you envisage — what do you see as the mechanics of your return to power? How’s that going to be accomplished?

MUSHARRAF: Yes, sir. Certainly an uphill and a difficult task, which I say it’s — there’s an even chance of managing, of accomplishing. So I thought when there’s an even chance, and when I say — see darkness in Pakistan and no political party and no leader capable of delivering, so I thought it’s better that I go down having tried and failed, rather than not having tried at all. So therefore I come into politics.

Now — then I see the environment in Pakistan today. (Inaudible) — in the political side, only 40 percent of Pakistanis vote, generally. The 60 percent who do not vote, who is this 60 percent? This 60 percent surely, according to my analysis, is the middle-class educated, the women, the youth and minorities. They don’t vote because they don’t have much faith in the political — politicians and the — to — if one can get even 20, 25 percent of this 60 percent out, I think that can introduce a new political culture in Pakistan. We can break away from this political culture of dynastic rules, of politics, which takes the country down.

Therefore — now, the other issue is, can we get this 60 percent out? Is the environment such that we may be able to get this 60 percent out? I think it is there.

Today, the people of Pakistan are so despondent, so demoralized. They want to run away from Pakistan, many, those who have resources. They are looking for an alternative which they can go to. The present alternatives are not — they have been tested and tried twice and failed. And the people of Pakistan know this. Therefore, they are looking for change, looking for a new alternative. Therefore, I think they can be brought out.

And my proof of this, evidence of this — I launched a Facebook. My son did — (scattered laughter) — launched my Facebook from Palo Alto. And today, in eight months, I got a fan base of 350,000. And if you see the — the statistics is that 80 percent of them are from Pakistan out of it. And similar, 75 (percent) to 80 percent are youth between 18 and 34. And when I read what they are saying, it is so emotional. They’re asking me to come back: You have to get back; you have to save Pakistan.

This may not be the whole population of Pakistan, I do agree. But it is a rough indication, the rough indication of why largely in this flood which has affected Pakistan, the government is not being supported internationally, unfortunately, and the people of Pakistan have also not — because of some lack of trust maybe.

I launched a telethon for three hours on a Pakistani channel from London. And in three hours, I got $3 million. But more than the money, the telephone calls that were coming, they were not talking of the flood, they were telling me what — you — we — get back and you have to save Pakistan — the same emotionalism on telephone which everyone heard in Pakistan.

And similarly when I launched my party and went to Birmingham and Manchester, Manchester being the center of the opposition — the center — and a lot of people were there. (They don’t go ?) there. There were 4,000 people. And there were only about 30 or 40 people standing outside shouting against me.

So it’s a good indication of what the reality there is. And therefore, I say there’s a good chance of my having entered and turning this support into — into a movement. I’ll give it a try, all right? I may not succeed. I don’t know. I don’t — I can’t be 100 percent sure.

AMOS: Can I just follow up quickly on the mechanics? You do have outstanding court cases. Pakistan can be a dangerous place for returned politicians. How do you navigate that?

MUSHARRAF: Yeah. There is no case against me. This is — what you read is all politically inspired by the opposition.

AMOS: Mm-hmm.

MUSHARRAF: At this moment, they are trying to scare me. They want me to — not to come and not to enter politics.

There is not one case pending in the courts in Pakistan today against me. However, having said that, in Pakistan the political vendetta is very current in Pakistan. And maybe cases get inspired politically, and (there’s many other ?) methods of initiating cases. So I am very conscious of that, that politically inspired cases are a possibility. And as far as whatever I did, the Supreme Court of Pakistan has validated that; the National Assembly of Pakistan has validated everything that I did.

So I am very sure if we were to see the constitutionality and legality of anything and everything, there is nothing that is possible against me. But having said that, yes, politically inspired cases are very possible, but I am prepared to confront that. And they know — they say, no risk, no gain. If I’m looking — if anyone looks for zero risk, then the gain will be zero. Therefore, the gains are, I think, directly related to risks. So the more I take risks, the more I’ll gain. I’m prepared to take those risks.

AMOS: (Off mike.) Over here in the back?

QUESTIONER: In watching the spread of terrorism in the region, from time to time, stories come out that the terrorists were aided by agents of the intelligence service in Pakistan.

My question is, to what extent does the intelligence service and the history of the intelligence service, which has confused many of us watching, stand as an independent force, as a coordinated force, as a controllable or an uncontrollable force, or as a risk to the democracy and the progress in the fight against terror?

MUSHARRAF: I know, sir, that there is a lot — a lot of aspersions on ISI and the intelligence services, but I would like to say that the army has suffered 2,500 dead — more than that, maybe. So the Taliban and al Qaeda is attacking the army, but here you say that the army is colluding with the Taliban.

ISI officials all over the country have been attacked. About 300 people have died — the intelligence operatives, I am talking of, ISI — traveling in buses, in vehicles, their offices bombed, (through/two ?) suicide bombers. Three hundred have died. The Taliban — who’s doing that? Taliban, al Qaeda, but you say that they are colluding with them.

So, isn’t there a confusion which needs to be removed? This is the confusion. I personally believe strongly, first of all, ISI is officered by the military, mostly army, of course, the army being — and the air force and navy. And professional officers are sent there who are interested in their career progression. And in Pakistan, in the military law, the army chief can dismiss a three-star general in one day. A professional who is looking for career progression doing something without the orders from the top is unthinkable. There may be some elements who may be having their own agenda, which are not known, but otherwise the ISI does exactly what the government and the hierarchy instructs them to do.

Now, the confusion has been coming up in the past, even against me. I mean, if we reflect our minds to 2004, ‘5, ‘6, lot of people here — there were many articles against me that I am double crossing, that I am actually in collusion with the Taliban, I meet the Taliban, and yet I’m also with the coalition. Nothing could have been more wrong.

Why did this impression come up? It was because I have had a certain belief. Strategically we were certainly — and Pakistan is certainly — absolutely committed to elimination of al Qaeda and Taliban — not for you, sir — for Pakistan, because Pakistan does not want Talibanization or Taliban. And anyone in Pakistan — today the Pakistan — people of Pakistan are demanding from the army to eliminate these people because they are carrying out bomb blasts in our shrines and mosques.

So we are doing something for ourselves, sir.

Now, I will give you the example of — my example of why I was thought to be double crossing. I said that all Taliban after 9/11, that there was a requirement of a change of policy and strategy, that we need to take Pashtuns on board and give them their rightful place in governance in Afghanistan. We cannot govern with the minorities. In that context, as far as Pakistan is concerned, my strategy — our strategy, the government, (our new ?) strategy, and the intelligence strategy, was we have to wean away the Pashtuns from the Taliban.

Now, how do we do this? How do — if you go into the tribal agencies, everyone is carrying a weapon, everyone has a beard. So you don’t know which one is a Taliban, which one is a Pashtun, you know, what — you don’t know anything.

So what is the mechanism of weaning away Pashtuns from the Taliban? This ought to be the strategy. This should have been the strategy of the United States in Afghanistan because there it was a strategic issue of taking Pashtuns and putting them in governance in Afghanistan. In Pakistan, there was nothing of the sort. We don’t want those Pashtuns to come into governance even in the province, leave aside in the center. So it’s a very tactical issue that we don’t want them to be supporting al Qaeda. That is all.

So how we — and then we — when I thought of leading away the Pashtuns, I thought of the age-old — age-old tradition in the tribal agencies of jirgas. Jirga is a collection of notable elders. Whenever there were — there are tribal feuds, it is the jirga which assembles and pacifies, and peace comes about.

So it is the jirga system which is operating in the tribal agencies, even now. So we started — I give instructions to intelligence and army that we must facilitate jirgas, and in those jirgas tell them that we need to do away with the al Qaeda, and tell them that we cannot be going across the border into Afghanistan, and take them on board.

Now, in those jirgas, certainly there may be some people who are double-crossing. But I always thought that even if we get 50 percent of the jirgas to our side, and we count on the other 50 percent with them, that is a strategy, instead of only army, and army and nothing else — an army which is considered to be Indian because most of it is from Punjab. So therefore that was my strategy, and it is the current strategy. Even now it must be done.

So they started saying that we are dealing with Taliban. I said, I don’t know, there may be some Taliban in the jirgas, but I am not dealing with them. I am dealing with them, but I am not supporting them. I am dealing with people — the Pashtuns, the population. And these are wrong ideas that come up.

And the other thing that I want to say, every blame comes on Pakistan, even that there are Afghan Taliban who cross borders who are given sanctuaries in Pakistan. Yes, that happens. Yes, indeed, they come and have sanctuaries in Pakistan. And Pakistan is trying its best.

But why is the responsibility only on Pakistan, sir? Why is the responsibility of their coming into Pakistan not on Afghan forces and U.S. forces and coalition forces? Why are they being allowed to come this side? So it should be shared at least 50/50. We are at fault; you are also at fault.

We have got about 1,000 posts on the border, sir, and I’m talking of about two years back when was there. Afghan forces had only 94 posts on the border. You should also have 1,000 posts there, and checking infiltration or exfiltration from across the border. So these are things which cast aspersions on ISI, on the army, on the government, that there are people who are going along with the Taliban.

And then this issue of drones also comes into play, the people who are against the sovereignty being violated. So in its whole complexity, here the projection is as if ISI as an organization is dealing with the Taliban.

Then your decision to maybe quit in 2011 does not contribute to any improvement of the situation, sir. Quite obviously, anyone in government or anyone in power will be thinking what happens beyond 2011, what will be the situation left in 2011, and how should we deal with that situation. That ought to be in the forefront on planning in Pakistan.

And also may I say that when you are dealing with such situations, you have to be pragmatic. You have to start thinking of your own. And when the people — when they — as far as the people of Pakistan is concerned, they partly fought a war together in — for 10 years from ’79 to ’89. We were your strategic partner from ’47 to ’89, for 42 years. And what happened in those 12 years from ’89 to 9/11, to — 12 years, 2001? We were absolutely abandoned, left high and dry. And the people of Pakistan always asked me in — after 9/11, when I joined the coalition, everywhere I was asked, what gives you the — “Well, what is the proof that United States will not betray us again, having used us?”

So now we are together. We are being used again. And if you lose, the subsequent government will again have to answer that, again, we have been used and betrayed without stabilizing in Afghanistan. So these are critical issues which we must take note of and help Pakistan deal with the situation on the Pakistan side.

Do not, please, micromanage. See intentions. That is the important part. See Pakistan’s intentions. Leave the micromanagement to them. You might micromanage on the Afghan side. That will be the cleanest thing to do. And please also make sure that we are not being stabbed in the back.

AMOS: We have time for one more short question. I’m going to go all the way in the back. Last row.

Wait for the microphone, and —


AMOS: — say your name.

QUESTIONER: Jack Devine, the Arkin Group.

Mr. President, do you believe bin Laden is in the northwest frontier? And if so, after nine years, why is he still on the loose?

MUSHARRAF: My guess will be as bad as your guess. (Laughter.) I don’t know, and that’s the honest fact. And I never knew in those eight years.

Why don’t I know, now? Well, yes, you could ask me why don’t we know, and why haven’t we — but this is a treacherous country. That area has mountains, anything between 10,000 and go up to 18,000 feet. And there is no communication infrastructure. There are very few roads. The area was left as a buffer between Soviet Union and India, this area, and therefore it was not developed at all by the British. And therefore it was converted into tribal agencies, the seven tribal agencies, and Pakistan unfortunately maintained it in that way.

They are living at 2 (percent) or 3 percent of literacy. This is the condition of the tribal agency. And also with the 10 years of warfare against the Soviets where we brought mujaheddin from the entire world, launched a jihad — ordered a jihad; we, the United States and Pakistan — you also were in.

And then we sent Taliban from this area, from the mountains, from the frontier province, armed them and trained them, and sent them into Afghanistan for 10 years, sir. So this had an impact all over this area. These people, the al Qaeda, because you abandoned the place in ’89, it is the same mujaheddin who coalesced became al Qaeda, sir. Osama bin Laden and Zawahiri are — well, they — you know, they came in ’80s to fight the Soviets, and now they are al Qaeda.

So there is public sympathy there for them. And in tribal culture, a guest, you protect your guest with your life. This is the tribal culture. I mean, I can tell you, I operated in Baluchistan and the tribal culture is similar. We were told — the orders were back when — I was a major then, and the orders were that you had to travel with escorts in the front and behind with machine guns and all that. There was a tribal elder who invited me for food to his place. (Inaudible) — (cold wind ?) in the mountains. I, in my chivalry, thought that I should go in alone in a — in a Jeep. And I went alone.

But when I went alone, all the mountains were covered by this man. No harm could come to his guest. I was his guest. So that is the chivalry of the — of the tribals. Unfortunately, they harbor these people because they thought that they are their guests. And they are — and moreover, let me also tell you these — many of these people who came in the ’80s are married and they have children there. As you know, it’s a complex issue.

Now, Osama bin Laden exists in such an environment. After all, Che Guevera existed for — I don’t know — donkey’s years. Nobody could get him. How was it that this lone man couldn’t be caught for many years? So also Osama bin Laden.

Intelligence is doing its best. And when I say intelligence, intelligence is human intelligence, which ISI has in abundance. It is technical intelligence, which you have in abundance in there, in that area, in Pakistan. And then it is aerial surveillance, which is — only you have. We know that. If it’s a failure of ISI, sir, it’s a failure of CIA also. So — but I don’t call it a failure. The military, the CIA, all intelligence is doing their best. Yeah, I’m able to get it.

And I don’t know whether he is dead or alive, and whether he is in Pakistan or in Afghanistan, or maybe he’s gone somewhere. I don’t know. I can’t say.

AMOS: Mr. President, thank you very, very much. It was an enjoyable hour. (Applause.)

MUSHARRAF: Thank you. Thank you. Thank you very much. Thank you. (Applause.)




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