Posted by: Administrator | 18 July, 2006

President’s interview to Indian Daily ‘The Hindu’

President Musharraf’s interview to the Indian Daily ‘The Hindu’

1 April 2002

Malini Parthasarathy. You have been seen as being so creative in tackling terrorism here internally and setting Pakistan on a new path in terms of fighting fundamentalism but why is it that the same creativity does not seem to apply to the relationship with India which is still held hostage by old issues and old themes? Is it possible at all for you to make any new gesture that can break the stalemate given that both sides have taken hard positions? Given the intractability of positions on both sides, at this moment do you see yourself being able to make any new move that can break the stalemate?

General Pervez Musharraf. Well, I would like you to see the history of what happened after my visit to Agra. I would like to say that between my visit to Agra which was July last year and now… I went there with an open mind and am glad to say that I saw a very open and flexible mind from the Indian side also, from the Prime Minister’s side and the Foreign Minister’s side. I saw a very positive response from the media, I saw a very positive response from the intelligentsia, I saw a very positive stance from the people — who welcomed me — and I think the dialogue went very well right up to the third day when we were about to sign a Declaration. The text was even agreed till it got fouled… let us not get into the reasons but I am very clear that it was not from my side. An agreed text of the Declaration was fouled up by somebody from that end behind the scene…

Yes, of course, the official reason given to me by no less than the Prime Minister of India was that the Cabinet did not approve it. It is up to you to judge whether the Cabinet was there or not there in Agra. In two hours when an agreed text was there and it was said that the Cabinet did not approve it and it was rejected. We agreed to another text again in about three-four hours, I cancelled my visit to Ajmer Sharif. We accepted that text again which was very good, accepting that the centrality of Kashmir was the main stumbling block. Again we accepted. Again the official version was, after one hour, when we were ready for the signing ceremony that again the Cabinet has not accepted it and rejected it. Now we know what the Cabinet was. So now whatever the reason, okay it was rejected. Unfortunately. We went in a very open manner. Now we come back. Now what has happened since then, since that time and now? I would ask you a counter question:  What has Pakistan done in the meantime? What has Pakistan done to foul the relationship?                

Malini.  May I tell you what it seems on the other side… in fact, that was the question I had in mind for you – when you came back from Agra, there was some sort of basis to believe that the dialogue could go on. But after September 11, both Governments tended to have an element of opportunism in their approach to what happened subsequently. In India, it was said that this was the time to tackle terrorism in Pakistan. In your speech on September 19, you said that you saw India as taking opportunistic advantage of the whole thing and therefore you had to take that course. By then, both India and Pakistan seemed to have reacted in a zero-sum game sort of fashion.

Musharraf. Yes, that happened but again if I did say anything, if I said anything it was always in response to something that was coming from the other side. It was always in response to the Indian side, the Defence Minister, the Home Minister and the Prime Minister, saying that they are going to punish us, they are going to come across the border, they will remove cross-border terrorism, they are going to attack us… this is what was happening. And because after 11th September they clearly started blaming that there is terrorism here in Pakistan and that we are going to join the coalition, United States and India, and here is Pakistan, which is a terrorist state, and we have to sort them out. This is the kind of talk that was going on. Between July and September nothing happened. I was very quiet. In fact, I was on the contrary, let me tell you, in all my interviews so guarded. On this aspect, I did not want to malign either the Foreign Minister or the Prime Minister and I was so respectful towards them and so positive towards them in the interviews, because some people were saying all kinds of bad things, because they said why was the declaration not there, and this and that, and they were not being respectful towards them, and I used to correct them, and I used to tell them that you are talking of leaders in a country and you can’t be that rude, so I was very polite… very good. Then comes 11th September and here suddenly a change takes place, where we are accused of terrorism, we are accused that whatever is happening in Afghanistan is because of Pakistan, because of what our policies have been and if they are terrorists, and if there is terrorism and Islamic or religious extremism there, we are the source of that, and that a similar kind of environment is there in Pakistan. 

This is the kind of talk that started from across. The obvious defence was, obviously it was a big challenge for us. Because United States… all this had subsequently happened in Afghanistan. So we had to take certain actions. Now imagine the tension here, on one side there is Afghanistan, on the other   side United States’ desire to attack them and they have a military operation there and certain demands being placed on us. And here is India on the other side, who is threatening us from the east. Now look at my predicament. What kind of a predicament I am in? There is threat all around. There is vulnerability in the west, the whole world is joining and ready to attack them and then this threatening noise from the east, our internal problems, I mean, I was in a fix. So I think the Indian leadership, I must say, with all my sincerity, it was most unfair on their part to have taken advantage, to have tried to take advantage of a political situation after September 11. They tried to take advantage because they thought if they join the coalition with the United States and we kept obstinately on the other side with al-Qaeda and Afghanistan, that we are going to be sorted out and that would be to their advantage. Unfortunately that did not happen. And now they continued with this rhetoric… yes I had to respond. Sometimes my military urge does come in. If you see any statement of Mr. George Fernandes, Mr. Advani, these two specially, they were so offensive and they were so insulting… I wouldn’t say the same about the Foreign Minister. He is diplomatic, he is a diplomat and he ought to be diplomatic…

Malini.  But you know the suggestion, the implication especially since Agra, that there is a distinction being made by Pakistan portraying Mr. Vajpayee and Mr. Jaswant Singh as being the doves and Mr. Advani and the others as hawks… this is seen in India as trying to divide… implying that there is a division within the establishment…

Musharraf.  Yes, indeed, I really think so because I have no doubts. I mean, is there a doubt in that? Look at what I have seen with my own eyes… This is not an information to me. It is my first-hand information. Now I sat with Prime Minister Vajpayee and for two days we thrashed out a Declaration. The language of it, the paragraphing of it, was discussed between me and Prime Minister Vajpayee. We then included Mr. Jaswant Singh and Mr. Sattar and the four of us agreed to a text including the wordings, including the wordings, I repeat.

Malini.  What was the main issue?

Musharraf.  The main issue was that centrality of Kashmir. My concern was that we must somehow accept that we have to discuss the Kashmir issue, not a dispute, they didn’t want to call it a dispute, I said okay, call it an issue, in order to improve the relations between India and Pakistan. This was accepted by both of us.

Malini.  But they said that you didn’t agree to elevate terrorism and cross-border terrorism to the top of the agenda… 

Musharraf.  No, certainly not and they did not let me.

Malini.  Did not let you?

Musharraf.  I wouldn’t comment on that.

Malini.  You should please tell us…

Musharraf.  No, they did not. They did it initially for a minute, or I think, once this issue of cross-border terrorism was raised and I did say — Mr. Prime Minister, you don’t expect me to accept cross-border terrorism. This is wrong. There is nothing going on across the border and it is not a border, it is a Line of Control and also there is no terrorism, there is a freedom struggle going on there. So what I would say is that after that, there was no word of cross-border terrorism but there was certainly that all issues will be discussed. Now they keep blaming me that I was uni-focal. I had accepted, yes all issues will be discussed.

Malini.  All issues with their implications?

Musharraf.  We would discuss all issues but the focus is on Kashmir. There were two or three sentences in one of the paras where the centrality of Kashmir was accepted. Terrorism was included in the second last paragraph… we had said that we will together resolve all issues, the first one was the issue of Kashmir, the issue of Jammu and Kashmir and terrorism, not cross-border terrorism.

Malini.  That was flexible enough to accommodate different perspectives…

Musharraf.  Yes, of course. So we had accepted. So the text was totally accepted. I went to change and come back for the signing ceremony because I was to fly off to Ajmer Shari. So I am very clear that these two, which is the Prime Minister and the Foreign Minister, accepted and there was no difference of opinion between me and them. We accepted this. Now what more can I say now? So therefore I am very clear that, whether you call them moderates or doves or whatever you may call them, I don’t know what you would like to call them, but I would like to call them very realistic and very pragmatic and then there is somebody behind the scene whoever it is, and I personally think it was Mr. Advani.

Malini.  Can I come now to the present?

Musharraf.  I was trying to tell you that what I did was after that. I did respond sometimes offensively but that was because I was extremely agitated and disgusted and disappointed with this attitude that came about in spite of our positive response and in spite of their having wronged the whole thing in Agra and yet they are blaming me and Pakistan and trying to malign us. So there were some negative responses from my side also in retaliation to what they were saying. Then comes this incident of Parliament attack December 13.

Now that was most unfortunate. Now if anyone thinks that the Government of Pakistan is involved in that, I think he is talking nonsense. Obviously we are not involved. Now we regret that this took place.                                           

Malini.  May I just ask here… initially I think you condemned it. Then I think General Rushed Suresh here was the one who kind of dismissed it, he said that Indian intelligence agencies may have been at work. So I think the public opinion in India became a little alienated by that. There is also a genuine fear of citizens, I am talking of ordinary people who feel that there is an unsympathetic attitude on your part towards the problem of terrorism…

Musharraf.  (Gesturing towards General Qureshi seated across…) Whatever he said was actually… when somebody starts saying that it is Pakistan to blame and the ISI to blame then what would be the response? Then the response is to say ‘no,’ probably it is the RAW which has got it done. ISI would be mad to do it in that environment when all that is happening. Do you think the ISI is going to carry out this stupid Parliament attack? I must say it is most inefficient of ISI to have done such a stupid kind of terrorist attack where all five got killed without achieving anything.

Malini.  Even assuming most people didn’t believe that, most people didn’t suggest that, the real difficulty in convincing public opinion is in regard to issues like the list of 20 wanted terrorists handed over to you… you’ve said what you think about it but suppose you want to make a gesture of goodwill towards India… a political gesture rather than a legal approach… hand over some of the more visible offenders on that list… Dawood Ibrahim… the hijackers of IC 814, for instance? Responding to India’s request politically, not necessarily legally.

Musharraf.  Now the issue is – whenever we traded these verbal attacks with each other, after this Parliament attack, the question is: is it rational to raise it to the level of what we have got on the borders now? That you move your entire Army, Navy and Air Force against Pakistani borders. Is that the kind of response from a balanced leadership? So this is what has happened. Now, over and above that, the issue was a list of 20. Now do you think you can humiliate Pakistan, and you think you can rub our nose on the ground to submission and we are going to accept? Even if we are weaker than what we are, we will never accept it. I am never going to accept it. What kind of list? Rubbish. I will say straight and I am not going to accept it. So this kind of offensive attitude, treating another country like dirt, like as if we are some kind of scum, a very weak country which cannot handle itself. This is not the case. Neither are we Afghanistan nor should India think it is the United States. This is not the situation at all. So let that be very clear. I keep saying we have our honour and dignity to guard.

We do accept India as a country which is very strong, which is a very big country. We do. Who doesn’t accept it? But please don’t push it down our throat. We do accept it. So this list of 20 came in as a sort of a sword hanging on our head where you give this list of 20, you say – we are on your borders, and we will sort you out, we will do this and we will do that – we are going to attack you. So what kind of language is that? Look at the response from this side now. The obvious response from the people of Pakistan, every individual of Pakistan, from the entire armed forces of Pakistan: now let us teach them a lesson. Believe me, I have gone to the borders and they say let them come, let us have it out with them once for all. This is the response from the Pakistan armed forces. I have been telling them, okay, war is not the answer. Let us stay calm.

Malini.  But some of the people on that List of 20, the hijackers of the Indian Airlines plane for instance, can there not be a political gesture… even if not legally possible?

Musharraf.  Now the issue is… purely on that list… there is a list of 20… first of all, when we are talking of the attack on Parliament none of them is linked with that.

Malini. Masood Azhar has been named as the person who organised the attack… his name is on the list.

Musharraf.  Masood Azhar has been named as the person who organised, okay? Now, Masood Azhar is the head of the Jaish-e-Mohammad. Right? Now we say we want evidence against him. Now what have we done against Masood Azhar? He is behind bars. His party is banned. His accounts are frozen. Their offices are locked. What more do you want? Should I go and shoot him? What more do you want? And then when I am saying — give evidence, it would be in my interest to try him here. I am not going to give him before trying him here… But no evidence whatsoever. Zero evidence. So what are you talking? We have done everything against Masood Azhar.

The rest – there are people who are Pakistanis and some non-Pakistanis. Now, nothing to do with the Parliament. Pakistanis, we will never give any Pakistani. We have our law. We will try them here. Now the question is on non-Pakistanis. None of them is here. And we need evidence. We need proof. Wherever they are, we would like to take action against them. But, however, I would go to the extent of saying – now why are we digging into the past? The past has not been good between the two countries and I don’t want to elaborate on this. If we are talking of terrorists, people who are involved in terrorist activities in India, we know that the terrorist acts being carried out here in Pakistan are by RAW, by Indian intelligence. Now if we start digging into the past, a lot of bad, a lot of wrong has been done by both countries against each other and I know it for sure and I am being very frank about it. This is not one-sided. Both have been doing a lot of damage to each other and I want to close it at this. Whoever is doing it, intelligence agencies or whatever but a lot of wrong has been done by both countries.  Let’s not dig into the past. Let us look to the future. For heaven’s sake, are we going to keep living in the past? Why can’t we look forward? Why can’t we think about the future?

You talk of Kargil, I will talk about Siachen, I will talk of East Pakistan. So where do we end up? So let us not talk about that. The problem is India, in its, I would like to call it, arrogance of their strength, wants to dictate terms to us. You are talking of Kargil, why the hell should I talk of Kargil, okay I would like to talk about Siachen. So there is no end to this. We have fought wars and damaged each other. We are fighting on Siachen every day and it is the soldiers who are being killed there and I know it is more Indian soldiers dying there. I know that.

Malini.  Since December, have we ever really been very close to real war? How close have we been to war?

Musharraf.  Even now, I see closeness to war from two points, you have to gauge the intention and the capability of any opponent. When you are talking rhetoric, you have the intention but if the force is not there to convert that intention into practical action, one is safe. The moment you bring in force, you deploy forces, you develop a capability. And when the intention and capability both are there, then it is extremely explosive.

Malini.  Did you come that close this time?

Musharraf.  Yes, it was on the Indian side, I must say, when the entire Air Force’s entire hi-tech aircraft of the Indian Air Force, was massed on our borders, major part of the Army including forces from the Eastern Command, coming all the way from the Bangladesh-Assam area – coming all the way here and spending that kind of money, may I say, without much purpose. They had come here against us. So this is the capability being developed.

Malini.  Was there ever a point when you or Mr. Vajpayee could have picked up the phone to speak to each other to defuse the situation?

Musharraf.  No, I didn’t, but there is a background. Of course, the mediatory role was being played by Mr. Colin Powell. Now you keep saying – we don’t want any mediation, we don’t want facilitation. Let us not be hypocrites. Everyday Mr. Powell was speaking to Prime Minister Mr. Vajpayee or Jaswant Singh, one of them, I know that. And almost everyday or every second day he was talking to me. So what kind of hypocrisy is this? We don’t want facilitation! Okay, then. Then pick up the phone and let us talk. I am willing to talk but they don’t talk. They don’t want facilitation. Yet they are talking to Mr. Colin Powell. I really don’t understand. There is too much of confusion. I don’t understand. I am confused myself. What do they want? They don’t want facilitation but yet they are doing it. They don’t want to go to war but the troops are there. I really do not know.

Now, getting back to the capability, there was a stage when the intention was there and the capability was also there. That was a critical time, which was there for a number of days, I would say may be some weeks even. 

Malini. Was it before your January 12 speech?

Musharraf.  Yes I think before the January 12 speech. That was the period of maximum tension but then we saw that there was a gradual mellowing in the rhetoric. So one could see a gradual reduction in intention but the capability remained, and the capability still remains, so, therefore, though the tension is slightly lesser because the intention seems to have gone down; but the capability is there. But more dangerous is that the intention can develop even tomorrow. In one hour you can change your intention. So the more dangerous part is the capability and that still remains. Capability of anything is there on both sides. Our forces are ready to meet any contingency. Therefore, the situation is explosive.

Malini.  There is the feeling that since September 11, you seem so visibly empathetic to the United States’ concern of going after terrorists, going after all people involved in terrorist activities but yet you continue to insist that Kashmir ought to be treated differently, that freedom fighters are not terrorists. On January 12, you changed slightly to say that even for the cause of Kashmir, terrorism cannot be used. But it continues to bother the Indian people that you seem to have double standards on terrorism.

Musharraf.  Now let us take a look at what we did. We hadn’t done anything. Everything that happened after September 11, and now, the tension, the escalation, everything has been done by India. Now the issue is what have we done? My speech of 12th January, now I was analysing our internal environment and I wanted to bring harmony.

I wanted to crush this extremism here, I wanted to eliminate this environment of intolerance from our society. This I had started long time back. In fact, I had banned two organisations, I think in July last year much before 11th September. But now on the 12th of January, in our own national interest, let me say that whatever I have done is in our national interest.

But luckily, very fortunately, I would say this national interest of ours also coincides in certain forms with whatever Indian desires are. Now, if you see, that we thought Jaish-e-Mohammed is an organisation, which is bringing a bad name to us, which is involved in extremism, I told you we have banned them. We have banned Lashkar-e-Taiba. We have banned two political parties. Now all this and we have taken so much action in our internal environment to curb extremism. This was enough reason, much more than enough reason for any leadership in India to have decided to de-escalate.

But unfortunately they are so slow in their response. Either there is disharmony within, again, and that is why I say there is probably some disharmony within their ranks because it is a coalition and I don’t know. But because of that disharmony they are unable to take concrete action fast, fast enough… and these are fleeting opportunities which come about. If you don’t take advantage of that, the opportunity is gone and now they again want that I should take some action which gives them an excuse to de-escalate. Now I am saying why should I keep giving this kind of excuse and why don’t they create it themselves. And why is Pakistan required to be taking actions to give them a reason to de-escalate? I would say the reason to de-escalate is enough, we have had enough, let us start going back. I think we should start talking, that is all. I think one should be strong enough to say that.

Malini.  The United States seems to agree that action from you in terms of containing infiltration from across the border is necessary. Their officials have made statements… they seem to be suspending judgment as to whether the levels of infiltration from across the LoC have come down…

Musharraf.  Now very clearly, Americans know it and I know that. They may be saying anything. I know that they know that this is indigenous – whatever is going on. Now I have been telling everyone frankly, that what India is trying to do is, there is a genuine freedom struggle going on there, there is a genuine demand by the people of Kashmir against all the atrocities that they are suffering, there are 70,000 dead, we know that there are graveyards full of them. And no NGO is allowed, no international human rights organizations are allowed. No media is allowed to go into Kashmir. So what is the secrecy?

Malini. The media is allowed.

Musharraf.  Foreign media does not go there. Let foreign media go there. Open Kashmir up and let anyone see whether it is indigenous or not. Now what are they trying? They are trying to convert an indigenous freedom struggle into an issue of cross-border terrorism. This is what they are trying. And let me, with full confidence, having now interacted with all world leaders, tell you, everyone knows that there is an indigenous freedom struggle going on. I am fully confident that everyone knows it. All countries of the world know it. Now if there is anything across the border happening, it is not being encouraged by us at all.

But I, at the same time keep saying, that there is sympathy for Kashmir, in all whatever is happening there because there is an Azad Kashmir here and there are Kashmiris here. There are Kashmiris all over Pakistan. There are Kashmiris all over the world, in U.K. All of them have sympathies.

Malini.  But there is this other consideration. If India is making some attempt at political reconciliation in Kashmir, attempting an electoral process, there are people in Pakistan such as the Hizb-ul-Mujahideen who have made threats from Lahore to the Hurriyat leaders warning them that if they participate in elections, they will be dead. Is that not encouraging terrorist intimidation in Kashmir?

Musharraf.  Now, India is trying to be clever. What kind of election? They don’t want elections. They want elections to decide whether they want to be with India or not. How can you have elections in a disputed territory? Kashmir is a disputed territory. The people of Kashmir don’t want to stay with India.

Malini.  But should you allow terrorist organisations here to intimidate potential interlocutors such as the Hurriyat leaders, saying that if you participate in elections, you will die?

Musharraf.  Well, nobody intends intimidating them. As I said there is a moral, political, emotional involvement from this side with the Kashmiris on that side. So anything that is going on, any change or interaction is going on between them is in line with this. So I know that the people of Kashmir themselves – we call it Indian Held Kashmir – they don’t want to participate in the elections. It was clear in the last elections, there was no turnout. And we know that Army and other forces were used to make them come and force them to vote. You take the Army out, not one man will come and vote.

Malini.  On Kashmir, it is a dispute but not like Palestine… the origin of the Kashmir problem is not like Palestine where the indigenous people have been displaced. Kashmir is more a question of Partition’s unfinished legacy.

Musharraf.  There are lots of similarities. Both are United Nations Security Council-recognised disputes. So is Kashmir. Kashmir is a dispute recognized by the United Nations Security Council. So we have to sit down and talk. We have to sit down and talk. There are no two ways about it. And if there is any clever manipulation, that instead of sitting down and talking, we are talking of – okay you stop cross-border terrorism and thank you very much, that is all, the whole thing is over. No, that is not over because there is that indigenous struggle that is going on. It will continue.

Malini.  No, but given that Pakistan has a certain position, India has a certain position on Kashmir, and the gap is very intractable, there have been rounds and rounds and rounds trying to bridge the gap… is there anything new that you can give to break this stalemate? How do we find a meeting point? 

Musharraf.  Frankly, the meeting point is very clear. We have to start talking, I don’t see any other meeting point. I just don’t see any other meeting point. We have to start talking and without any pre-conditions. Let’s stop damaging each other, let’s resolve these disputes.

Malini.  Given that you have to talk, do you see a point where you can return and pick up the Agra process? Can you go back to the Agra process, is it possible?

Musharraf.  Yes, we would love to go back to the Agra process. Why can’t we? We have invited both the Foreign Minister and the Prime Minister. They don’t want to come. They don’t want to play cricket with us. What kind of relationship is this? Why should we not play cricket with each other? Why did the under-19 team play cricket with us? They played cricket with us. Your under-19 team. So what is the issue?

Frankly, it all leads to all kind of confusion in our mind that there is some kind of game in everything. There is no frankness, there is no straightforwardness. Under-19 can play, but the main team cannot play. What is this theory? I don’t know. I would like to find out. They played hockey, they are playing hockey, they are playing under-19 cricket but not test cricket. Frankly, we feel that you are scared of losing. 

Malini.  Is there anything that can be done to get out of this tremendous stalemate?

Musharraf.  What we can do is to have a ceasefire again. Again there is firing on the Line of Control. Not as much as it used to be before but there is firing on the Line of Control. We can stop that firing. And we start talking. We say that okay, the borders should be manned by the United Nations — the UNMOGIP — which is here. India will not allow them to go to the borders. We are saying that — okay, let them man the borders, let them see if cross-border terrorism is going on or not. After all who is the judge to say — yes, now cross-border terrorism has gone or it is still going on, who is to judge that? Are the Indians the judge? So let a neutral body be the judge. Let the United Nations force be the judge. Certainly we won’t like the Indians to be the judge. Just like they wouldn’t like us to be the judge.

Malini.  Since September 11, you have been seen as putting a lot of strategic weight into the whole relationship with the United States. India too has become much more closer to the United States. We have expressed fear in India that too much reliance on the United States at the expense of developing bilateral relations with Pakistan will make us, as it will make you, much more dependent and much more weaker. Isn’t it a dangerous thing for both India and Pakistan to rely more and more on the U.S. and play a zero sum game with each other? The relationship between India and Pakistan has worsened since September 11.

Musharraf. In theory, or idealistically, bilateralism is the best form of negotiation. Okay, if both countries are responsible enough, open-minded enough, flexible enough, all problems should be resolved bilaterally. But if that is not happening, fifty years have gone by, or let us say after the Simla Accord, which brought in this word of bilateralism, now since Simla Accord, thirty years have gone by, where have we gone, what have we achieved, other than Siachen, okay I will include Kargil… Siachen, Kargil, this firing and shooting each other, what have we achieved? Have we moved an inch ahead in resolving disputes? Yes, there was a bus diplomacy, which is being boasted about by India. Yes, there was a good beginning, but if it had led to some kind of a negotiation further on Kashmir, it would have been positive.

Malini.  You have taken on a huge challenge in combating terrorism internally, you have taken major steps to strengthen secularism here, abolished separate electorates for minorities, reforming Madrassas… why not take political democracy a step further… why introduce talk of referendum and why say people like Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif should not contest elections? Does that not impair the whole resolve to make Pakistan a genuine democracy?

Musharraf. Every country has its environment. All actions are dependent on the local environment and our local experience. I am taking action keeping our national interest in view and seeing our past experiences. When you see the twelve years experience between 1987 and 1999 of so-called democracy in Pakistan, where we have had four democratically-elected governments, two by Nawaz Sharif and two by Benazir, both of them led to disaster for this country. Economic disaster, administrative disaster, political disaster. So now, when we are now coming into elections and I am trying to do political restructuring. I said my focus was on four things, right from October 1999:

  1. Economic revival of Pakistan,
  2. Poverty alleviation in Pakistan,
  3. Bringing good governance to all spheres of activities in Pakistan;
  4. And political restructuring.

I have not missed this focus at all. I took each one of them and went down and worked out strategies for each. We are now coming to the provincial and the central and national elections in October. These elections will be held. There is no doubt in my mind. A lot of people are creating doubts that I am not going to hold the elections.

Malin. Are you contemplating a referendum?

Musharraf. I have to decide. I have to take a decision in a few days maybe in a week or two. I am still interacting with political parties. So when I see that these twelve years of ruin that was done by Mr. Nawaz Sharif and Benazir Bhutto they certainly have no place in Pakistan. I don’t want them to come and plunder this country.

If the people of Pakistan are with me everything is do-able. And I think the people of Pakistan are with me. Now I am going to prove to the world and to all these politicians whom we are talking about, Benazir and Nawaz Sharif, that the people of Pakistan want me and when they want me I will never allow them to come into politics again. If they have a place then I don’t have a place.

Malini. Finally, is there hope of moving relations between India and Pakistan to a better level?

Musharraf. Frankly, I have a grouse that the Indian leadership has converted the positive Indian public opinion and positive media opinion into a negative one. I went to Agra with all sincerity and had all the sincerity when I came back even though we were let down in Agra by your leadership. In SAARC when we met, I showed all my positive attitude there. There is this continuous negative propaganda against Pakistan and me, and a deliberate attempt to convert a healthy environment into an unhealthy environment… we haven’t done anything to deserve this kind of attitude… it is all being done at the behest of happenings in India. There is a kind of hatred between the two countries, which did not exist in Agra in July. In seven or eight months, the environment has changed from good to bad. And it is not our fault at all if I may say. We haven’t done anything to invite such change. This is my disappointment.

Malini.  How would you beat this if this is how you feel? How do you overcome this negative environment? 

Musharraf.  I don’t know. I was creative in SAARC when I went there, I wanted to meet the Prime Minister, I went up and shook hands with him. It was disappointment again when people said it is gimmickry and sort of PR. I am not a PR man. I am a realist. I believe in acting on whatever I like to do… Whatever I am thinking in my mind and in my heart, I do. If I thought I must shake hands with Mr. Vajpayee, I went and shook hands. Now there was no acting going on. I wasn’t acting, I wasn’t pretending. It wasn’t meant for the cameras, it was an urge that I just felt and I went and shook hands with him. Now let us not read between the lines. I am not that kind of a man. It is unfortunate. It hurt me again… the media saying that I am a PR man, trying to act all the time… it is not showmanship, it is reality. 

Malini. So what do you want to see now happening between India and Pakistan?

Musharraf.  Sincerely, we want friendship. In the immediate context we need to de-escalate but if India thinks I am saying so because it is going to bleed us, they are sadly mistaken. You want to stay one year or two years or five years on the border, we are prepared to stay five years on the border.

I am saying all this in sincerity that we need to de-escalate in the interests of both the countries. In the interest of armies of both the countries, I know what the Indian army is feeling. No army feels very happy staying in the desert for years now. When the summer comes I don’t know what they will be feeling because most of your army, I know where they are concentrated, they are all in the deserts. Let them remain in the deserts. There are about I think 7 or 8 divisions in the desert. Let them remain there. We will feel happy. Let us see them spending summers in the deserts.

Malini.  But the need is to move forward…

Musharraf.  Honestly, I don’t know. I have done so much. We have moved against extremism here… We encouraged the United States who is mediating. We know that they are telling them to talk. We have said we are prepared to talk but we are not getting positive responses from the Indian side. Not at all, we are not getting it at all. In fact, on the contrary, every time anyone talks it is all negative. I really don’t know where to go from here. We have done everything. Domestically, we have taken actions, which could have encouraged positive response from the Indian side. We didn’t see it. At SAARC, we again sat down, I took action which could have de-escalated now. It did not take place.

And then this, the closing of the airspace. Now who did that? Who did that? Why did this happen? And, interestingly, you are suffering far more. India is suffering far more than Pakistan. Far more. We have calculated I am going to lose 200 million rupees in a year if this carries on. Peanuts okay? We know how much India is going to suffer.

We know there are about 140 flights, some people say 130 or 150 or 160 flights. Obviously, how can you go to Afghanistan, how can you go to Russia? Can you go to Russia? You take a detour anywhere you go, to the east, to the west you have to take a lot of detours. Look at what you are suffering. Why did you have to close the airspace?

Look at the tension which is being created for nothing and then expecting me to unlock. You see, in diplomacy, they say that you should always keep the door a little open but here we are being taught a new form of diplomacy. Slam the door shut and now ask the other side to please open the door for us. Why should I open the door for you? You slammed it shut. You open it yourself. I didn’t slam it shut for you. All that has happened, it is just unfortunate.

I am sorry to be showing this emotion but I would like you to convey this to the people of India and to the Indian media that I am open to peace in the region. We want peace in the region. We want to resolve disputes, all disputes, I repeat, all disputes. I read articles, I read statements that he is just talking of Kashmir. I have said a hundred times that I am prepared to talk on every issue but let us not be naive, let us not bluff ourselves – Kashmir is the main issue. We will discuss every issue but Kashmir has to be accepted as the main issue.

Why can’t we live in harmony and when we are talking of harmony, let me also say that it is the elder brother, it is the elder partner, we are far from calling each other brothers, but it’s the elder brother who has to show magnanimity. It is the bigger partner who has to show magnanimity.

Magnanimity does not come from the smaller partner. It is always from the bigger one. If I have a relationship with a smaller country, I have to show magnanimity. I will not expect magnanimity from a smaller country because it has its honour to guard, its dignity to protect. It is the bigger one, which should stoop down and give them ease and comfort… that’s not being done by the bigger force here. Unfortunately, they are expecting every time the smaller force to come begging and crawling to them. We don’t crawl. We are not going to crawl


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