CNN interview with Christiane Amanpour dated, 1st October 2001
First words to Bush when he called after 9/11: That I, first of all, certainly condoled all the tragedy that has struck the United States. I condoled the loss of lives in the United States and expressed our cooperation in fighting terrorism around the world.
On whether he would allow U.S. troops, U.S. military hardware, support, logistics to be based on Pakistani soil? Well, we have — certainly we’ve been asked for intelligence and information sharing. We’ve also been asked for utilization of our airspace and logistics support. And we have said that we will certainly cooperate in all these three areas. Since we haven’t gone into the detail, I wouldn’t like to go into the modalities of our tactical details.
Would he allow U.S. forces to be based in Pakistan? Well, as I said, certainly we need to consider. And we have said that we will cooperate in these three areas of logistic support and use of airspace. We need to get into the details of the modalities as they come along.
On his bottom line and what he’s not prepared to do in any military campaign:Well, I would not like Pakistani troops to be crossing the borders into Afghanistan because I don’t think that is a requirement from our troops also.
On whether U.S. has presented an operational plan yet: No, not as yet. We don’t know anything about the operation plan.
On reports of special forces from the U.S. and the U.K. already taking part in reconnaissance in Afghanistan, and that thousands or hundreds of U.S. troops have been based here already: Well, I see these in the news, yes. So there’s no such information. I don’t at all know those who are based in Afghanistan, but I’m certainly very clear that nobody’s based in Pakistan as yet.
On whether he’s personally convinced that Osama bin Laden and the al Qaeda network is, was responsible for what happened in the United States? Well, frankly, we haven’t been — there’s no evidence that has been shared with us as yet. So therefore, all that I know is from the television. I don’t have any details myself.
On whether he’s expecting a full sharing of the evidence from the United States: Well, yes, we have indication that parts of the evidence which can be — which do not have any confidentiality, maybe, could be shared with us.
On whether there needs to be a public presentation of the evidence: No. I really don’t know what the confidential part of this evidence, so if there is confidentiality in it, in the interest of justice, we certainly would understand that. But those parts which would facilitate in better understanding of the people at large should be shared, I would say.
On the huge risk in standing with the United States because of the public support for Taliban and whether that would destabilize Pakistan: No, I don’t think so. Those who are against whatever my government and myself am doing are a very small minority. These are generally, if not all, religious extremists, and they do not form the majority of Pakistan certainly. Therefore, certainly I have no doubt that there is no destabilization within or there’s no opposition, there’s no mass opposition to me and my government on whatever we are doing.
On whether he and his government would to redress the imbalance caused by hardliners and extremists in Pakistan: Well, I wouldn’t say that. We are concerned about extremism, religious extremism and in the garb of religion, these terrorists acts, sectarian terrorists acts that are being done here in Pakistan. So we certainly — I certainly would like to address this issue. We’re already addressing them as a part of our law and order improvement in Pakistan. And I would like to certainly go along and see what effects these religious extremists and sectarian extremists have, and I would certainly like to move against them.
On the Madrasas teaching hate: Well these are — I would like to elaborate on this issue of madrasas in Pakistan. These are misunderstood organizations, may I say. There are about 7,000 or 8,000 madrasas in Pakistan, and they have about 600,000 to 700,000 students in these madrasas. But let me very clearly say that actually those who know what is going on in madrasas would support this point that I’m going to tell you, that this is the biggest welfare organization anywhere in the world is operated today. They get — about 600,000 to 700,000 children of the poor get free board and lodge, and they get free education. Now, the issue is that in many of these madrasas, education is only religious education. But in many of them, they get other forms of education also.
So what we need to do actually, and we are doing — we are following an education strategy for madrasas where we have — we want to teach other subjects other than religion also in these madrasas so that we won’t — we will then absorb these students, these religious students from madrasas into the mainstream of life in Pakistan.
But what I certainly would like to say is that there are influences within these madrasas by political extremists or religious extremists just like they have in any other university or college or educational institution of Pakistan. So therefore, one shouldn’t think that all madrasas in Pakistan really are under the influence of religious extremists and they are teaching some kind of terrorism. No, that is not the fact.
On whether he would stamp out those madrasas which promote Anti-Americanism and terrorism: Yes, certainly. Any madrasa which is preaching terrorism or militancy will certainly we would like to move against it.
On the support in the Pakistani army and intelligence services for the Taliban and the security of strategic assets, protection for nuclear facilities? And would and could he self-destruct them, destroy them rather than risking their reaching the fantatics: No, I’m very, very sure that the command and control set-up that we have evolved for ourselves is very, very secure, is extremely secure, and there is no chance of these assets falling in the hands of extremists. The army is certainly is the most disciplined army in the world, and there is no chance of any extremism coming into the army. We have an excellent command system, we have excellent traditions. And I don’t see this doomsday scenario ever appearing.
On Northern Alliance: Not concerned, really, to the extent that we must understand what Afghanistan requires. We must understand we are interested in Afghanistan’s peace and stability and unity of Afghanistan. We are interested in having a friendly Afghanistan. And we certainly are interested in having government which takes into consideration the ethnic layout, demographic layout of Afghanistan. To that extent, I really don’t know what is the extent of support that is going to be given to the Northern Alliance. Our concerns are in having whatever I’ve told you.
On Taliban: Well, may I say that this term “Taliban” is being used rather loosely, I would say, in that “Taliban” really means a religious student. Now, there are millions of Taliban. I would say all these children in the madrasas are Taliban really.
The ruling militia then, the Taliban militia as we know them in Afghanistan: Well, as it appears because of all the coalition-forming against them, certainly there’s a danger of damage coming to them.
On whether the Taliban is a liability to Pakistan now: Well, they are governing their own country. We have had diplomatic relation with them. We are the only country left having diplomatic relation with them. To the extent of a degree of views in the world, we, Pakistan, acting against world views on Afghanistan, we have suffered for their sake, but that was because of our national interests. Certainly Afghanistan is a country which concerns us the most, so whatever our diplomatic relation with them were based on our national interests. So I can say that diplomatically certainly we suffered internationally because of our support to them.
On Taliban’s very close alliance with Osama bin Laden backfiring on Pakistan: Well, as I said, we were interacting with the Taliban in Afghanistan because of our national interests, and we are directly concerned with whatever is happening in Afghanistan. So to that extent, our policy towards the Taliban and Afghanistan was absolutely correct. It’s a different matter whether we suffer diplomatically or not. Now the situation is very different, and we are still interacting with the Taliban to moderate their views, to change their views in accordance with the dictates of the world opinion. We are still carrying on doing that.
On the failed missions and likelihood of success: Yes, I would say yes. We haven’t been able to succeed in moderating their views on surrendering Osama bin Laden or even — we would very much have liked that the eight foreigners against whom they are holding trials, maybe they need to be released. We haven’t succeeded as yet, but we have our doors open. And some progress has been made, and we hope a little more progress could be made.
On whether Taliban will do what’s expected of them: Expected of them in what form?
Hand over Osama bin Laden, close down the terrorists camps: I think the passage of time as the situation is, the hope is very dim, I would say.
No hope? One can carry on engaging with them. And there is a little bit of flexibility being shown after the edict by the Ulamah, by the Shura in Afghanistan. But the signals that come out certainly are not very encouraging.
On President Bush demanding Osama bin Laden is wanted dead or alive: Well, I think certainly Afghanistan is suffering, the people of Afghanistan are suffering. And as I said, because of this, even Pakistan diplomatically has been suffering. So I think in the interest of the people of Afghanistan, a resolution to this impasse on Osama bin Laden must be resolved certainly. I would urge the Taliban to do that, and that is why we keep interacting with them.
On terrorism in Pakistan, Pakistan harboring terrorists or having its own terrorists groups, one of them on the list of the United States terrorists groups: Well, when you talk of terrorists groups here in Pakistan, there is no terrorist group in Pakistan. You are talking of probably Harakat-ul-Mujahedeen, which has been banned.
Which has been just closed down: Yes.
The offices of HuM: No, Harakat-ul-Mujahedeen is not here at all. They are operating in — they were operating in Kashmir, in Held Kashmir. And we have no contacts at all with them whatsoever. So they don’t have offices here. The other office which was — what was the name of this office? That has nothing to do with Kashmir. The trust that has been — the accounts which had been frozen, that has nothing to do with Kashmir. And if at all they are involved in terrorist acts, we certainly will take all actions against them.
On relief from sanctions, debt rescheduling — significant, or symbolic: Well, this is not a deal that is going on, so I wouldn’t like to say that there’s some exchange or we have made a deal for whatever we are providing and you give us this much. I haven’t gone into this. And I only expect certainly that we have been faced with a difficulty, and, as you yourself said, that we are again a frontline state. We were a frontline state for 10 years when we fought the Soviets with the allies, and now again we are a frontline state. This has its fallout on Pakistan. I’m sure United States understands our difficulties and certainly whatever is happened does not address all our difficulties at all. But there’s no deal as such. I would leave it at this.
Does he expect more? Well, again, I wouldn’t say that there’s a deal. One certainly expects the United States to understand our difficulties and help us in removing those difficulties, overcoming those difficulties.
On openly joining the military coalition: Well, I had told everyone, I even have conveyed to President Bush, that certainly a United Nation umbrella would be extremely helpful in removing certain doubts or putting certain doubts at peace. And also we are trying to have an OIC foreign ministers conference, which is being held, I think, in a few days time on the 9th of October, I think. These will go a long way toward removing this anxiety in the minds of some people that maybe we are the only Muslim states. But all of the Muslim states have also voted in favor of the U.N. resolutions which do call on cooperating for the fight against terrorism around the world and also the perpetrators of terrorism and those who abet terrorism. So therefore, Muslim countries are onboard on this issue of fighting terrorism. So to that extent, all Muslim countries are onboard.
On the delicate balance in Pakistan that could topple one way or another if a military action starts: Delicate balance within…
Within Pakistan, the vocal minority: No, I don’t think so. I think I have the support of the entire people of Pakistan. It’s only the religious extremists, as I said, who have this extreme views. Other than that, I place — I divide Pakistan into three groups actually: the religious extremists, who are in a very small minority. Then the other is the middle class, the upper-middle class, and the upper class of Pakistanis, who certainly have moderate Islamic values. They are moderate Muslims. They don’t believe in extremism and they are fully, always have been in support of whatever we are doing. The other left, the third party is the lower-middle class and the working class of people of Pakistan, whom I tried — who maybe did not have the full comprehension of the situation. And I tried to address to the nation, to this third group of people, and I think I managed to explain to them what the reality is. And I’m very sure that I’ve converted opinion in my favor. And therefore, the only people left are the religious extremists who are in a small minority. I’m sure they don’t hold sway on whatever will happen in Pakistan.
On his commitment to returning Pakistan to full democracy next year: Yes, I still remain committed because that is in our national interest. It’s not for any other country of the world or any world opinion that I’m doing it. I’m doing it because it’s in our national interest. And I will do it. The time schedule and the road map that I’ve given, I will still go forward on it.