23 Jan 2004
LONDON, England (CNN) — Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf spoke about terrorism, Kashmir, and the controversy over nuclear secrets in an exclusive interview with CNN’s Chief International Correspondent Christiane Amanpour on Friday. The following is a transcript of the interview:
Amanpour: There are a lot of issues Pakistan is involved in right now. I would like to start with nuclear proliferation. Your government has announced this week it is conducting an inquiry into the issue and it is banning all nuclear scientists from leaving the country. what does that mean in terms of the inquiry?
Musharraf: There are some accusations against some individual scientists in Pakistan for having proliferated for their personal financial gain, but may I say there are equal accusations against a number of personalities internationally — some Europeans — so it is not Pakistan alone. But what we are doing is investigating against all names we have got, and more than that trying to ensure there is no such leakage in the future, so we are putting everyone into some kind of investigation, and finally based on the result of investigation we will move against violators because they are enemies of the state.
Amanpour: How long will this process take to complete?
Musharraf: I think it will be completed very shortly. We have gone a long way, it should be in a few weeks in fact.
Amanpour: One of the people questioned has said that the nuclear transfer that took place in the 80s was approved by the then head of the army.
Musharraf: These are absolutely wrong aspersions, throwing the blame away from the individual himself maybe? This is not the case at all, however I wouldn’t be able to say anything definite as we are inquiring. But this I know: There is no official of the state or government involved at all. These are individuals we are investigating and we will hold them responsible and move against them. There is no such evidence that any government or military personality was involved in this at all.
Amanpour: The transfer in question is to Iran, and both Iranians have the IAEA that they did receive knowledge and technology and nuclear help from Pakistan, perhaps in the 80s.
Musharraf: Yes, these are the accusations which originated from Iran and they are naming individuals and that list includes Pakistanis and Europeans as well, but as far as Pakistanis are concerned, it is clear it was done by individuals for their own personal financial gain and as I said there is no official involvement yet.
Amanpour: Critics will say how can something so sensitive and secret be transferred without knowledge of government?
Musharraf: This is very much a possibility. Our nuclear program was totally covert in the past. A lot of authority and autonomy had to be given to individuals and scientific organizations to move forward and if some of the irresponsible got involved and misused capabilities that is really a pity and that is what happened. So now that it is overt, there is total custodial control and checks and balances introduced. It is not a possibility any more.
Amanpour: Why has Pakistan changed its tone in the last few months? Previously Pakistan had furiously denied any kind of transfer at any point to any nation.
Musharraf: Obviously facts and figures. It is intelligence. No government in past proliferated. There are individuals we did not know about. Now that someone accused them, we started investigation them. It is not a question of changing stance … it is just that names have been revealed and we have information and we have investigated and we are coming to certain conclusions now.
Amanpour: Do you know what kind of a conclusion you are going to come to?
Musharraf: I would not like to predict but it appears some individuals were involved for personal financial gain.
Amanpour: The U.S. believes that Pakistan has been involved in the transfer of nuclear technology not only to Iran, which you have mentioned, but also to North Korea and Libya. And specifically to Libya the design technology of the centrifuges that were required for enriching uranium.
Musharraf: I wouldn’t like to go into details — we are investigating. But let the world not imagine that it is Pakistan alone which has done that. There is an underworld which is getting uncovered. An underworld of individuals and maybe some organizations and factories involved in the manufacture of refined items. It is a whole list of underworld elements involved. I would like to say there are European countries and individuals involved so let it not be said that there were only Pakistanis involved.
Amanpour: I do no hear you denying the possibility that nuclear transfer, of design technology, could have taken place between Pakistan and Libya.
Musharraf: I am not denying anything because we are investigating. We have sent teams to Libya and Iran, and we are in contact with the IAEA. We are collecting all the data. The investigation within our own organization is taking place. There is nothing that we want to hide. We want to be very clear about it that we will move against anyone who has proliferated. Any individual we will take very stern action against him. What I get concerned about is there is apparently in the media a perception being created that Pakistan is the only culprit around the world and that is not the case.
Amanpour: In your speech to parliament, which was quite spirited perhaps we could say, on Saturday, you said Pakistan has to do a lot to persuade the world of many things — including the fact that Pakistan is a responsible nuclear power.
Musharraf: The media plays a very important role. They must understand they must be clear that it is not the government it is individuals who will be taken to task. The IAEA should know that there are great custodial controls and everything is under great check and supervision. There are a number of rings of organizations ensuring the safety and security of all the organizations and all the assets that we own. Let me assure you that in Pakistan even the army gets involved. Even a bullet in a rifle cannot be lost and a person will be court martialed if that happens, leave aside any proliferation of strategic assets. I am very sure our strategic assets are under great control and we need to convince the world of it. The Pakistan government is doing its maximum and everything is in safe hands.
Amanpour: You say even a bolt of a rifle cannot go missing without the highest levels of command knowing about it. So how can nuclear technology transfer take place without the highest levels of government or military command knowing about it?
Musharraf: Nuclear technology is in computers, on paper and in the minds of people. The other thing I said earlier is that individuals who are responsible for developing things themselves are involved and there was a covert plan or covert development going on. This possibility did exist in the past, but now they do not, certainly.
Amanpour: How are you going to deal with the fall-out and opposition resulting from this?
Musharraf: There won’t be any problem. They understand I have interacted with most of them myself. But there are some vested quarters who have made it a fashion to say everything happens under U.S. pressure. It is nothing of the sort. There is no U.S. pressure. We are cognizant of everything that has happened. There are vested interests who want to undermine my authority, my position, the government’s position and cast us in a bad light — that we are some kind of rubber stamp of the U.S.. This is not the reality. This is a small group who try to do this.
Amanpour: I want to ask you about India which is a great worry and concern to the region and to the rest of the world. Peace negotiations have basically broken down, and yet you have just had a meeting with the PM of India in which you both pledged to restart peace negotiations, particularly over Kashmir. Can you tell us when these meetings will start and at what level of representation?
Musharraf: We have still to take a decision — negotiations are going on, talks are going on between the two foreign offices. A decision will be taken at that level. The talks have to take place in February because that is what we decided in our joint statement.
Amanpour: Do you think it will be a very high level representation? Leaders such as yourself, or foreign ministers?
Musharraf: I do not think it will be at a summit level, it has to start at a lower level. I do not really know the level but we are talking about it — it cannot be at the summit level.
Amanpour: Do you have any idea by which you might resolve the Kashmir issue?
Musharraf: It is such a contentious issue … we need to have a step-wise approach. I envisage four steps, and two steps have already been taken. The first step is to start negotiating. The second step is to accept the reality of Kashmir to be resolved. The third is then through a process of elimination to eliminate anything not acceptable to India, Pakistan and the people of Kashmir. The fourth step is then go on out of the remaining solutions and select the one that is acceptable to all three — India, Pakistan and Kashmir. We are not really discussing the solution yet, we have taken the first two steps.
Amanpour: You know the accusations, certainly from the Indian side, is that Pakistan supports the Indian insurgency in Kashmir. Recently you have said that you have to take massive steps to prove to the world that Pakistan is a country that doesn’t support extremism. Does this translate to your actions in Kashmir?
Musharraf: There have been accusations and counter accusations. We have been accused of cross-border terrorism — we call that a freedom struggle. We accuse India of human rights violations and atrocities against civilians. Let us not talk about these. Let us be looking forward and in looking forward we have reached an agreement, a written statement has been issued, we need to move forward in a composite dialogue which will also address the Kashmir issue. I do not want to look back on accusation and counter accusation.
Amanpour: Let me ask you now about Afghanistan, your other big border issue. There have been many accusations, and those of us who have traveled in Afghanistan recently have seen a very alarming resurgence of the Taliban in areas towards the Pakistan border. Not just the president of Afghanistan but leaders in the U.S. are saying your country is not doing enough still to deny those insurgents access from Pakistan into Afghanistan. Has this reached a serious enough level yet for you to really stamp it out as you have pledged to in the past?
Musharraf: These are unfortunate statements by any leader. I don’t think any other leader has said that we are not doing enough and we need to do more. It is unfortunate that these statements come from the Afghan leadership. Let me tell you that we analyzed the number of actions that have taken place in the 50-mile belt in Afghanistan from Pakistan, and beyond 50 miles, let me tell you for the record that only 44 percent of the action that takes place in Afghanistan takes place in the 50-mile belt, and 56 percent takes place beyond 50 miles. So if all the operations within the 50-mile belt are taking place from Pakistan, only 44 percent is taking place. This is a terrible thing to be accusing each other. We are fighting the same enemy. We are fighting al Qaeda, the Taliban and the rebels. If we start throwing blame on each other, we weaken our positions … These al Qaeda operatives are operating on both sides of the border, less in Pakistan, more in Afghanistan. Let there be no Afghan leader to repeat this accusation that everything is happening from Pakistan, that is not the case. Let everyone to stop bad-mouthing Pakistan … we are one country that has done the maximum against al Qaeda, the world knows it and everyone should know it.
Amanpour: You have just sent your highest representative to Afghanistan — your prime minister. What is your solution for what is most definitely a resurgence of Taliban activity there?
Musharraf: I do not think there is a resurgence frankly. This is what is being said by the media. But if you go into the detail and maybe ask the Centcom leader, he will tell you something different altogether. There is a misperception in the media which is not the reality … The operations on our side of the border, our intelligence network is in place and it is improving by the day. A quick reaction force is in place on the ground and is improving by the day in capability. We have moved against a number of targets and have archived a number of successes. Al Qaeda is on the run and they are hiding. They are leaving the area, let me repeat they are leaving that area, because of our operations and this is known by those who are operating on the Afghan side of the border. let the media know the reality on the ground … the story is different to what is being told by the media. Attacks are on the wane and they are tactical in nature, they are not strategic in nature, there is no strategic threat.
Amanpour: Do you know who was responsible for the two attacks on your life, and what are your prospects for political survival?
Musharraf: Well on the threat to my life, no political party is involved … but our investigations, and we have rounded up all the people directly involved, but the people who are behind that, yes we are reasonably sure it is al Qaeda or some al Qaeda operatives. We haven’t yet got to the top and identified the person who issued the orders, but we know there are linkages that may be the idea came from al Qaeda, but on the other side, who has executed it or whether there is an organization behind that executors or some individual extremists are involved, that is still to be clarified. But I think we have made a lot of success in unearthing them in the process we have unearthed people who are involved in the other terrorist activities within Pakistan so there has been an optimistic outcome to this unfortunate attack.
Amanpour: I want to ask you one final question, on a humanitarian level, and perhaps in journalistic solidarity, it would mean a lot to the management of CNN if you might perhaps make investigations what is happening to a Pakistani journalist who was accompanying to French journalists who were arrested in the Pakistan-Afghan border area, and the family and colleagues of the Pakistani journalist have not heard from him even though the French journalists were released more than a week ago. I wonder if you know anything about it and if you might ask your people to investigate that?
Musharraf: I will certainly do that but I hold him in the poorest of opinion — a man contriving with the French journalists and trying to concoct a movie showing Pakistan in a bad light, he’s a most unpatriotic man and doesn’t deserve any sympathy whatsoever because he is trying to bring harm to my country, and he’s the most unpatriotic man. They are trying to fabricate a story within Pakistan and purporting it to be Taliban activity from Pakistan in Afghanistan. I have no sympathy for him whatsoever. However, now you have said he, I don’t know where he is, I would like to find out where the hell he is.