Posted by: Administrator | 8 February, 2007

‘There Is A Freedom Struggle Going On In Kashmir’

8 Oct 2001
First of all, I would like to start by offering my condolences on my own behalf, on behalf of the Pakistan government, and the people of Pakistan to the United States in regard to the attacks of terror of September 11. Pakistan condemns all forms of terror including those against the United States.Following this, Pakistan was requested for support and Pakistan took the decision, after much consideration, to be part of the world community and a part of the coalition to fight terrorism.

The focus fell on Osama bin Laden and his supporters and we were asked to provide intelligence cooperation, use of airspace and logistic support.

 
 
 
  We sent our delegations there, we tried our utmost, but unfortunately we could not achieve what we had tried to, and therefore the action that started last night.  
 
 
 

Having considered the request, we promised to meet these requirements, and that is what we are doing now.

We continued following the events of September 11, we continued to interact with the Taleban government in the best national and international interest, and I know that our efforts have been appreciated around the world, because we are the only country interacting with them, we have tried to bring moderation into the Taleban government, we made all possible efforts to extradite Osama bin Laden, we made all efforts to get freedom for the eight foreigners being detained in Afghanistan.

We sent our delegations there, we tried our utmost, but unfortunately we could not achieve what we had tried to, and therefore the action that started last night.

In the operation in Afghanistan, I feel there are three elements. First of all, there is military action, secondly the post-action political dispensation, and thirdly, there is the post-action rehabilitation effort in Afghanistan.

I would now like to say a few words on each of these elements.

Military Action

First of all, there is the question of military action. One is hoping, and I have got assurances that this operation will be short, targetted, and also that it should not bring collateral damage.

 
 
 
  This operation should not be perceived as war against Afghanistan. It is an action against terrorists, against terrorism, and its supporters and its sanctuaries.  
 
 
 

I am reasonably sure that this action that is going on now is targetted, so although the public perceptions are that the cities, Kabul, Kandahar, and Jalalabad and Mazar-e-Sharif are being attacked, that is not the truth, it is the terrorist camps in the vicinities that are being targetted.

So the operation, I believe, is targetted, that is in fact the desire of all forces participating in the operation. I also hope that this operation, and I also know that this is the desire of all the coalition forces, is that this operation should not be perceived as war against Afghanistan. It is an action against terrorists, against terrorism, and its supporters and its sanctuaries.

Post-Action Political Dispensation

I would also like to convey, and I have done this to (US) President Bush and (British) Prime Minister Tony Blair, that after this action, or rather, that this action should not be allowed to be taken advantage of by the Northern Alliance. The Northern Alliance should not draw mileage out of this action, and the post action scenario has to be balanced.

The second element is the post-action political dispensation. There are certain parameters that I would like to emphasise, these are that we must ensure the unity, the stability of Afghanistan and bring peace to Afghanistan. Whatever dispensation is put in place must be broad-based, and multi-ethnic, taking the demographic composition of Afghanistan in view.

 
 
 
  I know that the people of Pakistan are with my government on all the decisions we have taken in the national interest.  
 
 
 

Thirdly, no political dispensation should be seen to be imposed on Afghanistan. I would strongly recommend that a political dispensation should be facilitated, not imposed. And lastly, certainly Pakistan would like to have a friendly Afghanistan on our west.

Post-Action Rehabilitation

The third element is post-action rehabilitation. I have interacted with all leaders around the world, I have indicated this to President Bush and PM Blair, that we need to plan a major rehabilitation effort for Afghanistan as fast and as soon on the heels of this action as possible, to bring normalcy to life in Afghanistan, and this rehabilitation effort has to be in areas of water management, and land development, so that agriculture comes back into Afghanistan and refugees go back to their country and start earning their livelihood.

There has to be an immediate effort to recover infrastructure and construction work. Thirdly, humanitarian work through UNHCR and other agencies need to be reinforced, and may I say that I know that even during this action of last night, there were massive food drops into Afghanisatan, this is a very good sign that while terrorist camps were being targetted, the people were provided with succor.

To my mind, an ideal operation scenario is a short, sharp, targetted action followed as soon as possible by political dispensation and total rehabilitation.

Now, I would like to say a few words on the internal situation.

 
 
 
  Any option that is broad-based is okay with us, even if it is King Zahir Shah, I don’t think we will have any problems with Afghanistan.  
 
 
 

I know that the people of Pakistan are with my government on all the decisions we have taken in the national interest

I have interacted all cross sections of public opinion and I am positive that the vast majority are with us. A cause of concern is the number of foreigners working in Pakistan on various projects who are leaving Pakistan, this is a cause of concern. Another area that effects our economy is that orders to our industry are being cancelled from abroad and fresh orders are not being placed. The probable reason is an uncertainity in our capacity to fulfill orders, I would like to remind everyone that there was a war going on for over a decade in Afghanistan against the Soviets but even then, in Pakistan, business went on as usual and I am confident that now, too, it is the same thing, it is business as usual. I don’t see any reasons for serious apprehensions, for people working here to leave Pakistan.

I appeal to the world community to see the reality here and avoid any action that will create problems for Pakistan.

And now I am ready to take your questions.

Mr President, on Sunday you had made some changes to top army leadership, could you explain the connection to the events now going on in Afghanistan?
There is absolutely no relation between the changes in military personnel and what is happening in Afghanistan. I have been contemplating some changes for some months now. Unfortunately, on October 7 my own tenure as chief of army staff was coming to an end, there was a requirement of extending my tenure, my own overload of work made a change in the military hierarchy necessary, and that is why it was done, there is no relationship whatsoever with anything else.

What is your assessment of the possibility of deposed King Zahir Shah returning to power, and probably reopening contentious issues like the Durand Line?
When I said that the post-action government has to be broad-based and has to take the demographic composition in view, it is about 50 per cent pushtun, 15 per cent Tajiks, and so on.

 
 
 
  There has been no deal as such, but certainly the US understands the difficulties we face and we have been assured assistance to overcome our difficulties.  
 
 
 

If you take all this into account, we have to work out options within this framework, and any option that is broad-based is okay with us, even if it is King Zahir Shah, I don’t think we will have any problems with Afghanistan.

When did you first know of the attacks, what logistic support have you provided, and have you done any post-strike damage assessment of your own?
I had certainly judged that action was imminent. I was told a few hours before it actually began, that it was going to be launched. We had promised logistical support, sharing of intelligence and the use of our air space. Our air space has been utilised, but not our ground bases. We have not yet made any battle damage assessment, it is too early. But I am confident that it is not the cities that have been targetted, but merely the terrorist camps around the cities that are the targets.

Does the Pakistan have any plans for facing the reaction of militant Islamic groups?
The vast majority of people in Pakistan is with our decision, there are some extremists certainly who are trying to agitate, but it will be controllable, we will meet it as it comes.

When Pakistan was part of the US actions against the Soviet regime in Afghanistan, once the Soviets left Pakistan was left to languish.

 
 
 
  The diplomatic relations we are maintaining with the Taleban are in the international interest, not in our own interest, and this is recognised by the world.  
 
 
 

How certain are you that in this new relationship with the US something similar will not happen?
I have conveyed, in my interactions with leaders in the US and UK, my feelings about Pakistan being left high and dry on that occasion, about our sense of abandonment. And I have been assured that it will not recur. I have reason to believe that things have changed, and that the situation will not be like last time. There has been no deal as such, but certainly the US understands the difficulties we face and we have been assured assistance to overcome our difficulties.

Is there a prospect of an exodus of Afghan refugees into Pakistan, and if yes, how do you plan to cope?
During the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, there were four million Afghan refugees in Pakistan. Now, there are around three million, and I think we can expect another one million plus. This is not an acceptable burden for us. In our interaction with the UNHCR and other bodies, we have indicated that any assistance being given should be given on the other side of the border, in Afghanistan itself.

 
 
 
  To destroy the tree you have to attack the root, and the root of terrorism lies in the sense of deprivation, the sense of powerlessness, around the world wherever there are disputes that are not settled.  
 
 
 

Even near the border with Pakistan is okay, but not on Pakistan soil. Once the Afghan refugees cross the border, they merge with the locals with all the ill effects, if I may call them so, that that brings. And also, wherever they are, they use local resources, infrastructure, and that creates problems for the local citizens and creates a lot of problems. We can accept the injured, and old people, women, children, but not everyone.

You have said that the Northern Alliance should not attempt to take advantage, could you elaborate?
We remember how, once the Soviets left and before the Taleban took over, warlords reigned supreme in Afghanistan and butchered each other, I could tell you horrific stories of what happened then. If after this operation, we can imagine a void in the area now controlled by Taleban which is 90 per cent of the territory of that country, and if this is filled by the Northern Alliance with their so-called military, we will return to anarchy and atrocity and the killing of each other again. To avoid that, it is necessary that the Northern Alliance should be kept in check.

Could you describe your interaction with the Taleban after the military action got underway?
The diplomatic relations we are maintaining with the Taleban are in the international interest, not in our own interest, and this is recognised by the world. There has to be some avenues open for discussions across the border, and therefore we are maintaining this relationship.

 
 
 
  What is happening in Afghanistan cannot be compared to the situation in Kashmir. In Kashmir, there is a freedom struggle going on.  
 
 
 

We thought that this way, we could provide an opportunity for anyone around the world to have interactions with Afghanistan.

Have you been assured by President Bush of a friendly government in Afghanistan?
One hundred and ten per cent. That is a concern of ours and we have been assured that concern will be met, if it wasn’t so, why would I go along with them?

There is a meeting of the Organisation of Islamic Countries on Wednesday, is there any point to it now that the military strikes are on?
Events are moving so fast that we have to run faster than the events. I think the OIC, representing as it does the entire Islamic countries, should meet, and evaluate the situation and come up with a joint resolution that spells out our stand. I hope that some useful purpose will be served.

As a General yourself, in your assessment how long will it take to achieve the target?
Answer: The situation in Afghanistan depends on correct targetting, and that in turn requires exact information and location of the targets. I cannot say how accurate the information available to the troops is, how accurate the targetting is. If all this is done correctly, then it should be a short, sharp engagement, the Taleban definitely has no serious military strength to resist for long.

This is merely one phase of the war, the war on global terrorism remains. How do you think that war should be fought?
After this action in Afghanistan settles down, one needs to go into the cause of terrorism around the world. When you move against terrorists, when you kill 50, 100, 1000, you are plucking the leaves but the tree that produced them remains. When you move against an organisation, like you are moving against Al Qaeda now, that is a branch, but still the tree remains. To destroy the tree you have to attack the root, and the root of terrorism lies in the sense of deprivation, the sense of powerlessness, around the world wherever there are disputes that are not settled. It is these disputes that need to be settled, in a just and fair manner, which will address this sense of deprivation, and that is the root we need to address.

What assurance is there that the aid now pouring in from abroad will actually reach the people and not be enjoyed by a few generals, like happened earlier?
Let us not have these naive ideas that a few generals shared the money that came in earlier. If there has been loot and plunder, it was not by generals. And I can assure you that the money coming in now will not be enjoyed by a few generals.

After the Gulf War, American troops stayed back in Saudi Arabia. What is the guarantee that they will leave Afghanistan after this operation?
I don’t think it is in the interests of anyone to stay on in Afghanistan or in this region. Things happened in the Gulf because of certain interests, I don’t think that is the situation here, I am confident no one will stay behind.

Why have you suddenly changed your stance in respect of terrorism?
There has been no change in my stance on the question of terrorism. Actually, the Afghan camps have been giving shelter to Pakistani terrorists. I have been asking the Taleban to stop doing this, but at that time we couldn’t go and use force on the Taleban, so we could only interact diplomatically.

Your first act on assuming power was to stop cooperating with a project by (the then US President) Bill Clinton and (the then Pakistan PM) Nawaz Shariff to capture Osama bin Laden, could you tell us why?
This was a project with which the ex-prime minister and some former officials here were involved. I came to know of it only after I became chief executive. In my assessment the project could not have met with success, therefore I shelved it.

When you said that the cause of terrorism has to be rooted out, where you referring to Kashmir?
I do not think that at a time when the world is focussed on these sad and tragic events, it is fitting on my part to raise issues that are not the main focus of concern at this point in time. But having said that, I will say that when I talked of the disenchantment around the world as the root cause of terrorism, I did mean that the problem of Palestine has to be addressed, the problem of Kashmir has to addressed, similar problems around the world have to be addressed and solved in a just and fair manner if there is to be lasting peace.

Would you say that terrorism exists as much in Kashmir as in Afghanistan?
What is happening in Afghanistan cannot be compared to the situation in Kashmir. In Kashmir, there is a freedom struggle going on.

Would you characterise the recent suicide attacks in Srinagar as part of that freedom struggle?
I have condemned that attack at the time and I will condemn it again now. We do not support such acts, where innocent civilians are killed. Such kind of incidents only harm the freedom struggle in Kashmir.

India’s Foreign Minister Jaswant Singh has said recently that an attack on terrorist camps in Pakistan cannot be ruled out. Would you care to comment?
It is regrettable that such a statement was made, they are trying to draw mileage out of the situation. Pakistan has the power to defend itself, and no one should try to draw mileage out of the present crisis.

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