Posted by: Administrator | 3 February, 2007

Two Hundred Percent, There Won’t Be War

Excerpts from the Pakistan President’s interview with Washington Post editors and reporters

June 25, 2003

Question: There are many things we need to talk about in the course of this interview. One is the military situation vis a vis India. Do you think there is any likelihood of a war between your two countries this year? One hears varying assessments and [Indian Prime Minister Atal Behari] Vajpayee has made this set of statements about what he hopes will happen in the next short period. What is the diplomatic and military relationship right now? 

Pervez Musharraf: The relationship between India and Pakistan can never be said to be satisfactory. But your question whether there will be war this year, impossible. Two hundred percent, there won’t be war. There will be no war. And I will say there won’t be any war, I don’t see any war in the near future, foreseeable future. I think for several reasons. One is the understanding of the leaders. We’ve fought three wars and we know the hazards of war, and therefore I think no leader in his right senses will go to war. 

And if you see tensions, these are strategies being applied, maybe a strategy of coercion being applied on us, but other than that, going to war is not an easy decision for any leader. . . . 

The other thing is it’s purely military. These are balance of forces. There is a certain balance that we are maintaining there. Pakistan follows a strategy of minimum deterrence. Now we have quantified this strategy of minimum deterrence into forces and I, as a military man, am very, very sure — extremely sure — that our strategy of minimum deterrence is very much in place, and no country, no opponent, Indians cannot accept the damage that it can incur on them in any outcome of war. So there’s no question this deterrence is very much in place and there’s no possibility from a military point of view, possibility of war. I don’t foresee war at all. 

Question: And the line of control, how do you assess the current situation there, the rate of infiltration? 

Pervez Musharraf: Now these are interesting statements which come out from the Indian side generally because they found it very easy saying that Pakistan has not done anything and there’s cross border terrorism. Now this cross border terrorism has no mathematical answer, there is no mathematics involved. Now I can’t answer you how much infiltration is going on, I don’t know. For me there is no infiltration going on. . . . 

But Pakistan has done all that it can do, all that a government can do. When you talk of what Pakistan has done, that Pakistan has not done enough, I beg to differ. No. 1, all the religious extremist groups who were of concern, who were creating apprehensions in the minds of India and the world and they were creating problems for Pakistan also I must say, have been banned. Like Lashkar-i-Taiba has been banned, Jaish-i-Muhammad has been banned. There are hundreds of offices out there, and I mean hundreds, hundreds of offices around the country, including Kashmir, have been sealed and closed. Their accounts have been frozen. Nobody before this could have touched them, they couldn’t even have touched any one of these organizations or their leaders. . . . 

Then let’s talk of our actions against any religious extremists. We are taking strong actions against al Qaeda, you know, against Taliban supporters, against religious extremism within the country, and we move very strongly. We’ve eliminated sectarian extremists or put them behind bars. These are again people who were taboo, they couldn’t be touched again. So we have taken all these actions.

Then we have also, as far as Kashmir is concerned, we have at the government level we have ensured that nothing ought to be happening on the line of control and we are very sure that we’ve done that. But, having said all this, these are actions which no other government could ever do. But let me say, having said all this, if somebody is to ask me to give a guarantee that nothing is happening across the line of control, I will not do that. I cannot. It’s not possible. You must go and visit . . ., you must see what the situation is. If 700,000 Indian troops cannot seal the border, they are expecting us to be less than one-third the number of troops there to seal the border? It’s not possible.

Question: Mr. President, to make sure I understand what you just said, in the context of your pledge to Secretary Armitage last summer, to permanently end cross-border terrorism, are you saying you’ve done everything you can do but you can’t be sure that it’s been enough? 

Pervez Musharraf: Yes, yes indeed. I told them, whatever I am telling you I told them also. I speak the same language everywhere. I don’t believe in modifying what I say. I’ve said all this and I have said that, yes, Pakistan cannot be held responsible to ensure, to guarantee that not a bird will fly across the line of control. It’s not humanly possible. Let the 700,000 troops of India do it. Why aren’t they doing it? They’ve got 700,000 troops there. Because it’s not possible.

Question: What’s your assessment of the present strength of al Qaeda? Some people say that after the bombings in Morocco and Saudi Arabia that al Qaeda is back. There is daily coordination I think between your country and our country. Can you talk about the counter-terrorism coordination? 

Pervez Musharraf: Again, I think various people give all kinds of things. I’m not going to comment at all, I don’t know. I have no basis for saying, for talking of any number. But all that I know, in our region, in Pakistan, in Afghanistan, al Qaeda ceases to exist as an organized body in good command and control, capable of undertaking organized military operations, its back has been broken, they are on the run, they are hiding. They are hiding in very small pockets in very small numbers in the mountains in Afghanistan. 

Question: President Musharraf, you talk about your efforts to crack down on Islamic extremists and the whole underground jihadi groups. But in Northwest there’s a legally elected government which is extremely competitive, which is implementing sharia law throughout the province and even setting up a vice and virtue ministry not unlike the Taliban. Is this of concern to you and broadly can you speak about the relationship between the MMA and your government? 

Pervez Musharraf: We have cracked down on extremism and terrorism in all its facets. And I’ll keep saying there are three parts of this. One is cracking down or operating against al Qaeda, another is operating against the Taliban, supporters of the Taliban regime or functionees of that regime, nine of whom we have already arrested and apprehended. . . . 

Now we are moving very strongly against sectarian extremism. . . . We are moving against this militant part of the Islamic extremism, religious extremism and sectarian extremists. 

But now when you are talking of the religious parties, this is different now. These are religious parties which were there pre-partition by the way. Jamit-i-Islami, it was there before Pakistan was created. JUI was there before Pakistan was created. Now we are talking something else, we are talking of a different issue. So we are not cracking down on them, we are cracking down on any extremist organization, whether it has links with them or not, we didn’t care. We have cracked down, we have banned them and we have moved against them, we have eliminated their extremists. . . . Now about what is happening on the frontier is a political activity because the MMA . . . are involved in activities which are not even part of the sharia bill that they have passed. Activities like putting restrictions on dresses or dictating terms on dresses or destroying tapes and CDs and music and destroying billboards and cinema posters, etc. These are things which are extremist acts which does cause concern, and I have gone there and given voice to this issue of telling them not to do these things. 

Now the other part that you have said that this organization of virtue and vice, let us see whether it comes up. Certainly, we would not like to allow this to come out as a body, judicial body which is there to address all issues and declare whether something is Islamic or un-Islamic. We have our own courts, the constitution contains issues which disallows any article which is repugnant to Islam to be introduced in Pakistan. So all those checks and balances are there and we think that there is no need of an additional check of this nature that you are saying. And we need to see when they bring it up, they are talking of it, but I am very clear that we cannot allow this thing to happen in our country. 

Question: On Iraq, President Bush is obviously anxious to have Pakistani forces as part of the stability force in Iraq. Did he ask you for a commitment of troops and have you given one, and are you prepared to send Pakistani troops there? 

Pervez Musharraf: Well, we were asked to send two brigades, the British have asked for a brigade and the Americans have asked for a brigade. In principle we do accept this but we are working out the morality. As far as yesterday, we didn’t talk of the troops to be given but we did discuss the issue, but it’s very clear that this request for our troops already exists. 

Question: What are the conditions that have to be fulfilled for you to send troops to Iraq? 

Pervez Musharraf: One, of course, is the financial barometers. Pakistan cannot afford financing that kind of assistance. The other is modalities, other modalities of maybe an organization, a United Nations cover or an OID cover or an ECC cover may I say, or some participation of more Islamic countries. 

Question: Broadly, what is your assessment of the situation in Iraq right now? Do you think the United States is making progress there? 

Pervez Musharraf: I wouldn’t be able to say that the situation is under control or satisfactory. But this is the beginning, and I personally feel the sooner we put an Iraqi government in place, to be seen by the people as their own government and that they are governing themselves, the better it will be. That will reduce the visibility of foreign forces there, which will be better for peace to return there. Otherwise, this issue of . . . acting against the coalition forces there, the British and American forces there, will continue. It’s a possibility also because after all where are the loyalists, the Republican Guard and all these people, where have they disappeared? So I think these people are mingled among the public and therefore some degree of resistance, degree of militancy should be expected there.

Question: Did you raise that issue with the administration yesterday in favor that there should be an Iraqi government or Iraqi authority sooner rather than later? 

Pervez Musharraf: Yes. 

Question: What did the president say? 

Pervez Musharraf: Well, he agreed, he agreed with this, that an Iraqi government ought to be there as soon as possible. But there are certain constraints on who [is in] this government, which government and so I leave it to the people who are running affairs there to understand these things but . . . it is important that an Iraqi government gets put in place.

Question: President Musharraf, in Afghanistan an Afghan government’s in place and yet your troops still seem to be required? How long do you expect that U.S. forces will remain in Afghanistan? 

Pervez Musharraf: Well, I always say that I don’t believe in giving time limits. I believe in giving effects, talking of effects to be cleared. So the duration should be effect-related and not time-related, that is my way of looking at it. We have cleared certain effects, we need to analyze what effects. If it takes six months, then we’re going to be there six months. If it takes six years, we stay for six years.

Question: And how effective then is the U.S. force that went into Afghanistan today? 

Pervez Musharraf: Oh, especially in Afghanistan, there are areas which are dominated by warlords and in our minds there are about 11 or 12 centers all over Afghanistan, power centers which are dominated by warlords. Now warlords reign supreme there. They are maybe coming within government, that needs to be changed. That needs to be changed by bringing the warlords down . . . and making them adhere to the writ of the government, ensuring that. And [the operation needs to be] winning the hearts and minds of the people. . . . 

Question: And you don’t think you’re going to get yourself up for another situation where there’s guerrillas fighting or partisan attacks? No more warlord forces? 

Pervez Musharraf: No. Any military plan is to take into consideration . . . the environment and the environment of this issue of this vacuum. . . . .

In the military we always start with a threat perception. We want to see what is the threat. Do you see al Qaeda as the threat? And I personally feel al Qaeda, as I said already, I don’t want to elaborate, they’re easily identifiable because they are non-Pakistanis. They don’t exist there, they’re just in very small numbers, so they are incapable of any organized military operation. 

Then . . . the second threat comes from Taliban. Taliban are again dispersed, they are hiding and they again do not have that command and control at the moment. But the difference that they have the potential of maybe reorganizing. But at the moment they are not. 

Then it is the dissenting warlords. These very warlords that I am talking of, dominating the various vacuum spaces at the power center. 

And the fourth element of that comes from people who are averse, people in groups who are just simply averse to foreign presence. Now this is a large group also, they don’t like seeing foreign troops running around in their area, in their mountain area, in their sanctuary. If they are involved in some kind of smuggling, some kind of trade which is getting hindered maybe by the presence of these people, they don’t like that. So this is the threat. I feel at present there is no strategic threat existing at this moment. And when I say strategic threat, I mean an organized operation which can take place against coalition forces. 

Question: You’ve expressed concern to American officials in the recent past that the government of Hamid Karzai has permitted India to take advantage of the vacuum you describe to make mischief against Pakistan. Do you feel that that is a continuing concern? Has the Kabul government responded adequately to your worries? Is there a threat there that you take seriously? 

Pervez Musharraf: Yes. We have responded very positively in fact to the president. I talk to him very frequently. I spoke to him before flying here, so there is a lot of informal contact between me and President Karzai. I have the best of relationship with him, and it’s very clear that he and I are exactly on similar lines. There is no dispute, there is no disparity. The strategies that I enunciated I’ve spoken to him about it. 

I think it depends on how much potential there is to control all that Indians are trying to do. India’s motivation in Afghanistan is very clear: nothing further than upsetting Pakistan. It is very clear that they don’t have any other, why should they have consulates in Jalalabad and Kandahar, for example, what is their interest? There is no interest other than disturbing Pakistan, doing something against Pakistan. 

So President Karzai has certainly assured me that he will not allow anybody, and he has evinced this to India also I know, a foreign territory to be used against Pakistan and no activities against Pakistan. But one remains concerned and one will keep addressing this issue. 

Question: There’s a broader issue that’s often addressed in Washington, Mr. President, that you can perhaps help us with. When President Bush made his decision to go into Afghanistan, again when he made his decision to go into Iraq, his opponents said this will cause the United States great lasting damage in the Muslim world. It will not be understood as an assault on terrorism, it will be understood as an assault on Islam itself and Islamic governments. You are a key friend of the United States in the Islamic world but you must live every day with the consequences, whatever they are, of United States’s actions. Two years later, have the United States military actions in Afghanistan and Iraq damaged the standing of the United States in the Islamic world or have they helped? 

Pervez Musharraf: At the moment, yes, the Muslims of the world are disturbed, and certainly I wouldn’t be able to say that they’ve helped at all. Now its effects unfortunately has been two force. . . . No. 1, the Muslim world, the Muslims largely started thinking that Islam as a religion is being targeted. And in the non-Muslim world people have started thinking of, perceiving Islam to be an extremist, to be a terrorist, intolerant fundamentalist religion. Both are wrong. . . . Now I think the solution lies in resolving political issues, and this step of resolving the Palestinian-Israeli dispute is extremely welcome. If we can manage this, and I must say if the United States can manage this, because nobody else will be able to, it will lead to a great extent restoration of confidence in the Islamic world, okay, now resolution with justice is taking place.

Question: Mr. President, could you talk a little bit about Palestine. 

Pervez Musharraf: Together with this of course, this is a theory that I keep proposing that there is the requirement of a two-pronged strategy to be undertaken. One prong is this, that if we are going to have the world as a more peaceful and a better place in the future, one prong is to be delivered through resolution of political disputes by the developed world and the United States in the lead, and the other prong is the Islamic world itself, which needs to a degree of soul searching, analyzing what is the way forward. 

Is the way forward a way of militancy, extremism and confrontation? Or is the way forward, such emancipation from the terrible strait of depredation that all the Muslim world suffers from. They are the most illiterate, they are the poorest. . . . So self emancipation through human resource development concentrating on the social sector within itself, within the body of the Islamic world. So this is the other prong.

Both these prongs . . . needs to be executed with strength and conviction and that is how we move forward.

Question: You and President Bush must have discussed Palestine yesterday. 

Pervez Musharraf: Yes.

Question: How do you feel about the steps the United States is taking? Did you have any policy advice for the president, do anything different he was doing? 

Pervez Musharraf: I think we are going on the right lines. Certainly, we didn’t get into the details of the plan as such, but we did talk of the requirement of resolving this dispute to restore the confidence in the Islamic world that Islam is not being targeted, that justice will prevail. These are the things that we did discuss. The only apprehension that we discussed was that this process should not be derailed, and one couldn’t expect everything in that region to be peaceful, now that the peace process is going on. That there not be one act of militant pure extremism . . . just like in our part on the line of control, I’m not holding a whistle on whatever is happening and nobody is holding a whistle here, not even Yasser Arafat or anybody can ensure with confidence that nothing will happen. So this should not be allowed to derail the peace process. There are bigger objectives to be met and these smaller issues, while there is some extremist who does something, should not derail the whole process. We need to persevere toward peace.

Question: Mr. President, can you talk a little bit about democracy in Pakistan. I know that U.S. officials say the new aid program is going to be linked a little bit to that and, of course, you held parliamentary elections last year but you seem to have not been able to mend the rift that you’ve had with this tradition of secular civilian parties in Pakistan, several of them, and there’s troubles over the constitutional amendments you’ve wanted to put through still. Where do you see this going? How are you going to make the system function more democratically? What is your vision of reform? 

Pervez Musharraf: Now I have seen various interviews and statements in the media in the West with talks of the emergence of MMA or the religious parties because I did not allow these parties to function. Now, this is actually– the parties are very much there. We are talking of the people’s party and PMLA, they are very much there. They contested elections freely.

What we have done are against two individuals, and these two individuals are the ones who have run Pakistan twice before and brought the country to the brink of bankruptcy, brought the country to a state where it was going to be declared a failed state. . . . So what we have done really is that in the constitutional amendment, . . . individuals who have contested and won elections twice and served as chief ministers and prime ministers twice are ineligible to run. So therefore these two are out of the election. Their party has very much contested the election, they are very much a part of the Pakistan politics, nobody can deny this fact. They are continuing their activities absolutely free. . . . 

I could not put an arm on the subject of what is sustainable democracy because we analyze why in the past 55 years democracy has not functioned in Pakistan. Why has it not functioned? Why is it then from ’58 to ’99 when democracy was allowed totally free operation, why did it fail again? Why is it that four prime ministers . . . came and went. Two presidents were dismissed unceremoniously, one chief justice was removed unceremoniously, the Supreme Court of Pakistan was escorted[out] physically, why was an army chief also disposed of unceremoniously? All this happened during the period of this democracy, so therefore there is a requirement to break the status quo, to restructure and think why, what are the corrective steps we need to ensure sustainable democracy in Pakistan?

And that is what we have done. And it is these people sitting outside who don’t want its implementation for their own personal ends. Totally personal ends of personal gain. . . . 

Question: Mr. President, I wanted to ask you to give us a discussion of how you apply that American intelligence now that you’ve had the experience of working side by side with them for 10 years. Has it been sophisticated, dedicated to the rooting out of al Qaeda as you might have expected? 

Pervez Musharraf: The American policy. I think it’s very good and I think coordinated with our intelligence organization and they’re functioning exceptionally well. I mean all these arrests and apprehensions of al Qaeda leaders were not easy jobs. It is through technological expertise, through the combined human intelligence, cooperation that we met such successes. So I think the intelligence operations are going exceptionally well I would say.

Question: Mr. President, there have also been U.S. intelligence reports that Pakistan provided assistance to North Korea in its nuclear program. Did that come up in your discussion with President Bush either recently or in the past, and what sort of agreements have you made with the Americans about stemming nuclear proliferation? 

Pervez Musharraf: I think everyone here understands our stand. It is a totally closed chapter. We didn’t discuss it at all, nobody raised this issue because it’s behind us. It’s a closed chapter.

Question: I thought the Taliban newspaper said that you did discuss it. 

Pervez Musharraf: No, we didn’t discuss anything on that.

Question: Were there any agreements to be made with the Americans in terms of nuclear proliferation? 

Pervez Musharraf: Agreements? There are going to be two agreements to be signed. One is on science and technology, the other one is [on] financial trade. . . . And these are the two agreements which we are going to sign and we hope that this agreement will lead to discussion and to a free trade agreement in the future. 

Question: Mr. President, your statement that this is a totally closed chapter doesn’t address the substance of the report which in the past I believe you’ve denied. Are you no longer denying that Pakistan supplied nuclear technology to North Korea? 

Pervez Musharraf: No, I am not saying that at all. From our analysis of the investigation, as far as I’m concerned no such thing took place. So I’m not going to investigate any further, but I’m very clear that no such things were– 

Question: Even though the same U.S. intelligence organization are reporting that it did. 

Pervez Musharraf: I think we are discussing something which, as I said, is a closed chapter. We investigated, we discussed this matter and we are very clear that there was nothing that happened. We had relations with North Korea, we have bought tactical missiles from North Korean, surface-to-air missiles, especially when there was a threat to Pakistan’s security, when there was escalation on the borders, Indian troops moving on the border, we needed surface-to-air missiles against air attacks. That was the tactical involvement with North Korea. It’s very clear that there is no nuclear dimensions. . . . 

Question: If I could squeeze in a last question. One thing that’s now again on the horizon is India purchasing the Arrow and maybe even Patriots from the Americans, and there is some in the administration who would very much like that to happen. Did this come up yesterday with you, have you raised it? 

Pervez Musharraf: I didn’t raise the issue of individual weapons systems. But certainly we raised the issue of our concern on this conventional balance being disturbed, and being disturbed by India’s spending, increasing its defense budget by more than 50 percent over the last three years, their having access to all markets, defense purchases in the world. They’re going for high tech, and I think they’ve got a multi-billion dollar purchase package in various countries of the world. Whenever this materializes, it will upset the tactical order, conventional balance, force balance in the region. This is a cause of concern.

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