Posted by: Administrator | 6 February, 2007

President interview with CNN’s Tom Mintier

Musharraf’s exclusive interview with CNN’s Tom Mintier dated 3 June 2002

Tom Mintier: General Musharraf, the world is holding its breath right now. Should they be?

General Musharraf: Yes, the situation is dangerous. But one needs to de-escalate and reduce this tension.

Tom Mintier: You’ve been calling for de-escalation and reduction of tensions, but nothing seems to happen. In a couple of days, you’ll be in Kazakhstan, where Russian President [Vladimir] Putin has attempted to put together a face-to-face meeting with you and [Indian] Prime Minister [Atal Behari] Vajpayee. Will the two of you meet?

General Musharraf: It depends more on Prime Minister Vajpayee. I have no problem in meeting him, and I’ve been saying that all along. So this question needs to be put to him.

Tom Mintier: You said it’s a dangerous situation. But should the world be worried about a nuclear conflict between your two countries

General Musharraf: I would say no. I don’t think either side is that irresponsible to go to that limit. I would even go to the extent of saying one shouldn’t even be discussing these things, because any sane individual cannot even think of going into this unconventional mode, whatever the pressures.

Tom Mintier: India has a no-first-use policy. Pakistan does not. Why not?

General Musharraf: We have called for much bigger than that, a bigger policy than that. We’ve called for a no-war pact, that there shouldn’t be any war. We have called for de-nuclearization of South Asia. So — we’ve called for reduction of forces. So what we are saying is much higher and much bigger than what India is proposing.

Tom Mintier: There have been accusations that you have moved your nuclear assets into front-line positions. There have been accusations that India has re-outfitted their ballistic missiles with conventional warheads and that there could be confusion if there is a launch. What precautions have you taken, and have you changed the status of your nuclear weapons?

General Musharraf: No, not at all. Now, let’s — as I said, I would not even like to discuss the nuclear issue, because it’s very irresponsible of any leader to act — to even discuss, rather than acting. Now, it’s absolutely baseless, absolute baseless accusation that Pakistan ever moved any nuclear assets at any time, or deployed its missiles at any time. This is absolutely baseless. And that holds good even now.

Now, if at all, Indians have moved missiles. This is extremely dangerous, and this is a very serious escalation, extremely serious escalation which the world needs to take note of, because this is — you can’t differentiate between what is conventional and what is unconventional, coming from a missile. I mean, we don’t know — one doesn’t know what it is carrying. So let’s hope that good sense prevails and this does not lead to escalation. It has not because of the restraint that we are — we are restraining ourselves.

So let India not test our patience and restraint. It will be very dangerous.

Tom Mintier: The issue that seems to be in contention is infiltration across the Line of Control in Kashmir, that following your speech on January 12, you said that there is no cross-border export of terrorism from Pakistan. Can you still say that today?

General Musharraf: Yes, indeed. I can say that with full conviction today.

Tom Mintier: Have you changed your orders at all to those along the Line of Control to be more vigilant, to be more careful, to prevent from what you’re saying being countermanded on the ground?

General Musharraf: Well, the orders were there immediately after my January 12 speech, all instructions, all orders were given in — for compliance of whatever I said on the 12th of January. Now the situation has worsened, certainly, because of certain actions since then. And one has assured — I have assured that there is nothing happening on the Line of Control.

And we need to be more vigilant, yes.

Tom Mintier: British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw came through here and said you need to do more. George W. Bush came out and this week and said you need to show you’re doing more. In your mind, what more can you do?

General Musharraf: Yes, I know that they’ve said this. I know that the international concern is on cross-border terrorism, and the international concern is to defuse the situation arising out of this confrontation between India and Pakistan.

Now I certainly have given a commitment. I’ve given a commitment that nothing is happening across the Line of Control. And I’ve also said that we will not allow Pakistan territory to be used for any purposes of terrorism across its borders against any country.

Now we stand by it, I stand by this. But my disappointment that I would like to also express is, what more has to be done? I think the amount or the decision that I’ve taken, and the amount that we have done, starting from the time that operation has been going on in Afghanistan against al Qaeda, the amount of actions that we’ve taken against al Qaeda in Pakistan, within Pakistan, on the borders, on the western borders, is things that could not have been done by anyone.

Even internally, when we moved against a number of extremist organizations, I don’t think any government, any leader in Pakistan, could have even imagined to handle such a situation.

So I personally feel that I’ve taken actions which couldn’t have been imagined before.

Tom Mintier: There is a perception in some corners that those 2,000 or so people that you arrested leading up to and following your speech on January 12, that you let them all go.

General Musharraf: But this is absolutely baseless, absolutely baseless. Let me give a short explanation of this. Pakistan and I, my government, want to root out militancy from our internal environment. We will do anything toward rooting out this militancy, and we are doing that.

Now, that is why we banned parties which couldn’t even be touched. The previous governments used to be hobnobbing with these very leaders, with these very parties. I have banned them. I have sealed their offices. I have frozen their accounts. And there are hundreds of their members behind bars now.

Now, I — having said that, coming to your question, we did — whenever there’s a crackdown, we take in a lot of people. And then we start interrogating and investigating. Whoever is declared white is let go. And this is happening exactly with the al Qaeda, even. The number of people that get arrested are far more than those who are retained, because anyone declared white is left.

After all, you haven’t given life imprisonment to anyone that you’ve taken. You move against them, you have a crackdown, and then you analyze, who are the people who you grade black, and who are those who are in the gray area, who need further investigation, and the whites are — those who are declared white are left.

Now, to say that all of them are — there are hundreds of their members still behind bars. And so this is absolutely baseless.

Tom Mintier: Speaking of who they are, there have been accusations that maybe a third hand might be at work here, that al Qaeda, Taliban, may have regrouped in Kashmir and may try to start a conflict between Pakistan and India. Is that a concern?

General Musharraf: To an extent, yes, to an extent, yes, it is. But one has to understand the dynamics of all that is happening. There is militancy in the west, there is militancy in the east, now, and it has fallout here on — inside Pakistan, internally.

So therefore, certainly al Qaeda has its effect, and the freedom struggle in Kashmir has its own fallout, has its own effects. So therefore certainly with over a decade of this militancy going on — in fact, two decades, if you include when we started at the — during the cold war period of fighting in Afghanistan — two decades of military action has its fallout.

And there are independent-minded people who are operating maybe independently.

So therefore, one cannot blame or cast aspersions on Pakistan, on my and my government, on whatever happens around. This is absolutely…

Tom Mintier: But they do.

General Musharraf: Yes, that is unfortunate.

Tom Mintier: They still are.

General Musharraf: That is unfortunate, and that must be understood by everyone, especially the leadership in the United States, that we will move according to the promises made.

But if that means that nothing will be happening around, I mean, we are a victim of terrorism ourselves. What happened here, what is happening here, we are a victim ourselves. So who’s doing that?

So one must understand, there is a fallout of whatever is happening, and we must be bold enough to face this fallout and understand that it is not government sponsored. It doesn’t have the backing of Pakistan government. So that must be understood.

So the differentiation has to be made between what I am doing and the government is doing, and what any individual person or group or organization may do on their own.

So this differentiation has to be made. And there has to be some trust placed that we are against militancy. We will fight militancy in any form.

So this is the assurance that I am giving. Now let us understand the nuances of this. Let us understand the dynamics of this within our own region, and then see and observe what we are doing, what myself and my government is doing.

Tom Mintier: How can you prove to the world that your government, your military, doesn’t allow this to take place? There are U.N. observers along the Line of Control, but probably not enough to ensure that this doesn’t take place. The terrain in that part of the country is extremely rugged, extremely difficult to control, extremely difficult to patrol.

General Musharraf: I mean, first of all, my word has to be taken. Secondly, I know that the United States, Britain, all the leaders that I’ve spoken to, say that they have independent ways of checking and knowing what is happening on the Line of Control. So if they have that, and they are very confident, they will know. They have to be knowing what is happening on the Line of Control.

Tom Mintier: Don’t they provide you the intelligence?

General Musharraf: Yes, they do. They do. We have a good interaction with the intelligence of the United States, so we — we’ve said that there’s nothing happening. Let us see what they say now. And as far as physically giving a guarantee that this rugged terrain, in this rugged terrain nobody at all will move across, is expecting too much, because that has not been possible by the Indian army, to seal the borders. We are for monitoring the Line of Control. Any assistance of this, any increase in the force of United Nations, we welcome that. Let’s beef them up. Let’s survey on the Line of Control more effectively.

Tom Mintier: Let’s talk about troop movements. There are reports that Pakistani units are moving away from the Afghan border and being redeployed along the Indian border, along the Line of Control. Why did you do this?

General Musharraf: Well, we haven’t moved the entire troops. We have moved elements. But let me first of all say that the western border, the seeding of the western border even now, wherever the passes have to be sealed, is complete, even now.

But we were moving — we had moved certain larger elements into the western border, out of them a part has been moved, and we are watching the situation on the east. Obviously, I said that the security of Pakistan is much dearer to us. We haven’t moved the entire force. There’s no change on the western border. In effect — the effects are not — there is no change.

But if the situation worsens in the east, yes, we have plans to move more from the western border.

Tom Mintier: You talked about terrorism, you talked about security. What about your personal security? It’s no secret in this town that there are several motorcades that go around that the president’s not riding in. Have there been threats by terrorist groups against your life?

General Musharraf: Well, this is — yes, there have been. There have been threats from all directions. When we — what I said, the bold actions that we’ve taken, which unfortunately are not being gauged when somebody says that we haven’t moved enough, we have stepped on the toes of a lot of people, a lot of extremists also.

So a lot of people may be having reasons to take action against me. So therefore, certain security arrangements are being taken.

Tom Mintier: Are you afraid?

General Musharraf: No, I’m a soldier, frankly, I believe in destiny, and I’m not afraid.

Tom Mintier: Let’s talk about dialogue. You have been calling for months for dialogue with Mr. Vajpayee. You had an opportunity in Agra [summit meeting in July 2001]. It didn’t work out. What’s it going to take to get it restarted?

General Musharraf: Again, I would say this question has to be asked from Mr. Vajpayee. The issue is very clear. We — the world is firstly concerned on deescalation, and we go along with that, we must deescalate and reduce tension.

The world is concerned about cross-border terrorism, and I’ve given a statement, nothing is happening across Line of Control.

Now, it should not end there. There has to be some movement forward. And the movement forward is certainly the issue of addressing — initiating the process of dialogue and squarely addressing the dispute of Kashmir, the Kashmir dispute.

After all, there is a United Nations Security Council resolution which must be adhered. And I would request all world leaders, the United States leaders, the people of the United States, to understand that this — the stand that the Kashmiris have taken, the freedom struggle there, it is a genuine freedom struggle going on, and their demand for the — on the implementation of the United Nations Security Council is extremely genuine.

And they must be heard in that direction. We expect the world to help the Kashmiris to get their right of self-determination as promised to them by the United Nations Security Council resolution.

So why we are moving to address the immediate problems of escalation and this region being engulfed in war, we must think of the long-term strategy of how to resolve this dispute permanently. This is…

Tom Mintier: You call them freedom fighters, but some people call them terrorists. I mean, there’s been a lot made of that differentiation. You say that you don’t supply financial aid, organization, military assistance, that it’s simply moral and diplomatic support.

General Musharraf: Yes.

Tom Mintier: What is that moral and diplomatic support?

General Musharraf: Well, we — right since partition, right since the time that this United Nations Security Council resolution was passed, we have been giving, assuring Kashmiris of all our support, because we must understand there are Kashmiris here. There are Kashmiris all over Pakistan. And there are Kashmiris all around the world. They all give their moral support, diplomatic, political support to whatever is happening in Kashmir.

Now, when this Kashmir struggle started in 1989, it was — it’s totally indigenous. It started because the people of Kashmir, of the Indian-occupied Kashmir, rose against Indian — Indians. And they came out in the streets. It was a political struggle.

But when there was a clampdown on them, and when the army moved in, and with — started its atrocities, this political movement convert — got converted into a military struggle. And this is how it got initiated. And that is how it is going on.

Tom Mintier: The Indian government’s talking about elections in Kashmir again.

General Musharraf: Yes, they are. I wonder whether the people of Kashmir want the elections.

Tom Mintier: Do you think they’ll happen?

General Musharraf: I can’t say, I can’t say. But one thing I’m very sure of, the people of Kashmir don’t want the election. And I know that the blame is, again, said from Pakistan, that it is we who forced them not to go on election.

No country from outside can force a people, where there are 700,000 Indian occupation troops, not to go for polls. It is their own desire that they don’t want to go for polls. How can we sitting here force them not to do that?

It is actually the Indian forces who undertake such atrocities, force them to go for the vote. That is what happened last time. They were forced to go and vote. And yet the turnout was extremely dismal.

Now again they are saying, there’s — I know that there’s a lot of thinking that Pakistan forces them not to go to. We don’t have to do anything, because I know that the Kashmiris don’t want to go to polls themselves.

So let the — if at all the elections are held, let the world see itself what happens there.

Tom Mintier: This past week, you had British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw here, saying that the issue of Kashmir is a bilateral dispute, must be settled between India and Pakistan. You have the U.S. secretary of defense coming, Donald Rumsfeld

Do these attempts at mediation, at clarification, help?

General Musharraf: Now, I really don’t believe in mincing words, saying something, meaning something else. Certainly there’s a mediation going on. I mean, yes, this issue of bilateralism was introduced in the Simla Accord [of 1972], that we need to resolve all disputes bilaterally.

Yes, but then, what, 30 years have passed since then, and nothing has moved forward bilaterally, unfortunately. Therefore, I feel that this term is being misused, bilateralism.

And may I also say that even India allows mediation, what is happening now is mediation or facilitation or whatever you want to call it. When Jack Straw comes here and then goes across the border to India, when Donald Rumsfeld is coming and going to India also, so, after all, what are we talking? I think there is a degree of mediation going on, a third-party mediation going on.

I think this is required. This is very much required, because bilateralism has not solved the problem.

Tom Mintier: Do you ever think about picking up the phone and just call Mr. Vajpayee and say, Let’s go back to Agra?

General Musharraf: Frankly, I didn’t think of it. I didn’t think of it because, I don’t know, I have initiated such steps so many times, and I thought maybe a response needs to come from the other side now.

Tom Mintier: Where does it move forward? How does it move forward? What would you like to see happen in the next five to seven days that can change this from the current situation, which is not good, to something which is better?

General Musharraf: I think the realities on ground must be seen. And steps, certain definite steps for deescalation taking — taken by both sides. And within five or seven days, yes, if we make our minds that we cannot go to war, war is an expensive hobby for both sides.

Let us also understand that this is not a run-through, this is not a situation where the Indian forces are going to have a sort of a run-through victory over Pakistan. This is not the case. We are going to defend every inch of Pakistan, there’s no doubt in my mind, and there should be no illusions of any — or miscalculations from the other side that if there is a sort of an air attack or a cross-border hot pursuit operation, that Pakistan is going to sit and watch.

This is not going to take place. And we have a very strong force. Therefore, both sides, leadership on both sides must realize that this is a very dangerous situation. There should be no miscalculation on either side.

And I would hope that I don’t miscalculate, and I’ve said that I’m not going to initiate war. But if at all we are — war is thrust on us, we are going to fight.

So in these five or seven days, we must make up our mind that war is not the answer. Let us see the realities on ground. And let us go and start addressing the core issues and start the process of dialogue.

Tom Mintier: The chairman of the Afghan administration, Chairman Karzai, was here, and made the comment in a press conference, to both you and Mr. Vajpayee, “If you want to see what war is, come to Kabul, then decide if you want to do it.” Did that strike a chord with you?

General Musharraf: Yes, it did, and my reply to it was that I appreciated that remark, and I said I do understand that, and one should not go to war. I do understand that, absolutely.

Tom Mintier: You’ve made it quite clear that you don’t want war. War wouldn’t be good for your country. War wouldn’t be good for your military.

General Musharraf: Yes, and it would be equally bad for India. That is also what I am trying to make clear. And they should understand that. It will be not good for Pakistan, it will be not good for India also.

Tom Mintier: And the rest of the world?

General Musharraf: That is the only way that war will not take place, if both understand it won’t be good for both sides. If it is taken by India that it will not be good for Pakistan alone, then maybe there will be war, because they’ll be encouraged by that.

So I would feel that the world must understand, and India should also understand, that it will not be good for either side.

Tom Mintier: Mr. President, thank you very much.

General Musharraf: Thank you very much.


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