Posted by: Administrator | 13 March, 2007

President’s conversation with Washington Post’s Lally Weymouth

A Conversation With Pervez Musharraf

By Lally Weymouth on Sunday, December 16, 2007

An angry President Pervez Musharraf defended imposing a state of emergency on Pakistan and blamed the Western media for many of his problems — from increased attacks by Islamic extremists to lawyers who have taken to the streets to protest his suspension of the constitution and firing of the country’s chief justice. In an interview with Newsweek-Washington Post’s Lally Weymouth, the Pakistani president reiterated that he would lift the state of emergency Saturday but will not reinstate judges who opposed him. Despite his opponents’ doubts, Musharraf insisted he will ensure a free and fair election in January. But he refused to say whether he would endorse a constitutional amendment to allow former prime minister Benazir Bhutto to serve a third term.

Q. Is there a difference now that you have shed your uniform and relinquished your post of army chief of staff?

A. On a personal note, I loved my uniform. From the national point of view, I don’t think there is a difference. I think the overall situation will be better and stro nger. The army is being managed by a chief of staff dedicated to the job, and I will be president of Pakistan, and if the two are totally in harmony, the situation is better.

Q. You will appoint the heads of the army?

A. I will appoint the chief. The security services report to the president and the prime minister. . . . The ISI [military intelligence service] reports to the political leaders.

Q. Once there is a prime minister, how do you see power being shared?

A. The prime minister runs the government. Then there is a National Security Council chaired by the president that meets to review situations. But this is only a consultative body. There is no sharing of responsibility, really.

Q. You imposed a state of emergency. You announced it will be lifted on December 15th. Does that mean that the regulations recently imposed on the press will be lifted?

A. There are no restrictions on the press.

Q. Wasn’t there a code of conduct [mandating “responsible journalism”]?

A. We issued a code of conduct and asked them to sign it. It’s as good as you have in your own country. All the channels except one accepted it, and all except one are open. The print media were not closed at all.

Q. In the U.S., there is no code of conduct for journalists — they are free to write what they want?

A. If you see our press and electronic media, there is no problem criticizing the government. . . . The problem was that they were distorting realities and creating despondencies in the people of Pakistan by showing pictures of dead bodies and interviewing terrorists — not showing the law enforcement authorities in a good light but showing the terrorists in a better light. Thus they encouraged terrorism and discouraged the law enforcers. They were undermining the good work of the government, were entirely one-sided, and some responsibility had to be brought in.

Q. In the U.S., it would be unacceptable to have a code of conduct. Don’t you think you should lift that when you end the state of emergency?

A. No, the code of conduct is there in most countries of the world. Why should we compare the United States to Pakistan?

Q. Will the judges be restored to their prior positions?

A. No, not at all. What judges? Why should they be restored? New judges are there. They will never be restored.

Q. People in the West will have a hard time understanding that.

A. Let them not understand. They should come to Pakistan and understand Pakistan.

Q. Since you say you are restoring the constitution, why not also restore the courts?

A. No, there is no restoration of courts required — the courts are already there.

Q. But these judges are handpicked by you.

A. We took action. The judges had to take oaths, and those that took the oaths are there. Those that did not are gone. This action was validated by the Supreme Court of Pakistan. . . . There was something seriously wrong with the chief justice of Pakistan. On March 9th, there were charges against him of corruption; [he was accused of] interfering [with] the judgments of judges on other courts; he was accused of interfering in the executive by taking actions on issues from traffic control to privatization.

Q. Do you feel you stuck your neck out for the United States after September 11th and the United States has not stood by you?

A. No, I don’t. I stuck out my neck for Pakistan. I didn’t stick out my neck for anyone else. It happened to be in the interest of the world and the U.S. . . . The problem with the West and your media is your obsession with democracy, civil liberties, human rights. You think your definition of all these things is [correct]. . . . Who has built democratic institutions in Pakistan? I have done it in the last eight years. We empowered the people and the women of Pakistan. We allowed freedom of expression.

Q. Then why are you now clamping down on the media? You seem far more angry now than ever before.

A. I think you are right. [Laughs] Why don’t you understand? Am I a madman? Have I suddenly changed? Am I a Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde?

Q. People make mistakes.

A. I don’t make such mistakes. I take considered views. I don’t sleep at night and suddenly dream of something and issue orders in the morning. I discuss, I debate issues and then take decisions.

Here was the situation when I had to take action on 3rd November [when Musharraf declared the state of emergency]. The Western media was undermining what [we] are doing. Your media keeps criticizing the army and the ISI — not understanding what their real contribution is to fighting terrorism. If the media is doing something which is totally demoralizing the nation, [resulting in a] government which is almost nonfunctional, the economy taking a downturn, despair and despondency in the nation . . . terrorism rising in the settled districts, then . . .

Q. Mr. President, terrorism is not rising because of the media. Terrorism is rising because the U.S. went into Afghanistan, bombed the Taliban, and they ran into your country.

A. No, let me give you the answer. You take this Red Mosque incident [in which pro-Taliban clerics at an Islamabad mosque instigated an armed standoff with the government last July]. We took action. What did the media do about it? They showed those who took action as villains and brought those madwomen who were there on television and made heroes of them.

It should have been converted into a great positive. . . . Instead, it was as if we had done something terrible.

Q. Can Pakistan contain the threat from the extreme Islamists?

A. We are combating it, and I think we are on the winning side. The issue is in the FATA — that is, the Federally Administered Tribal Areas. There are two of them in north and south Waziristan and a third one in Bajaur. . . .

Q. Is that the area where you think Osama bin Laden is hiding?

A. No, these are settled districts. He could be in Bajaur — this is the tribal agency bordering Kunar province, where there were no coalition forces in the past. On the Afghan side — that’s in Afghanistan.

Q. So you can go from one side to the other?

A. That’s a possibility.

Q. Does your intelligence service know where Osama is?

A. Nobody knows.

Q. Has President Bush been supportive?

A. The president has been extremely supportive. I have nothing against President Bush. I think he has been most supportive; he has been a very sincere friend. I must say he understands fully the Pakistan environment. He understands why I had to act and what I’m facing. He totally and completely understands.

Q. You think he understands why you imposed the state of emergency?

A. Yes, he understands the emergency. He understands what we were suffering and that an action had to be taken.

Q. Why are there more extremists now than when you came to office? Is it because of the U.S. bombing of Afghanistan? Is it because there’  a growing anti-American feeling?

A. There is an anti-American feeling, and certainly U.S. actions in Afghanistan have an impact on it. On a larger scale, I would say the impact of whatever is happening to the entire Muslim world, starting with Palestine.

Q. You mean plus the lack of any progress on the Israeli-Palestinian issue?

A. Yes, you see all turmoil today is in the Muslim world. Iraq, Lebanon — when the Israelis came into Lebanon — and Afghanistan, of course.

Q. You see the U.S. discussing withdrawing from Iraq. Does this mean America pulls out of this region again?

A. Unless there is an arrangement where you don’t create chaos and destabilize this whole region, it would be a mistake.

Q. You mean withdrawing from Iraq would be a mistake?

A. Yes, if there were a sudden withdrawal. Either make some arrangement where there is a continuity of the effort to bring sanity and democratic government into Iraq and ensures the integrity of Iraq. If we [just] leave, I don’t know what will happen there.

Q. Do you feel you could work with Benazir Bhutto?

A. When you talk of working with her, you imply she is going to be the prime minister. Why do you imply that? I keep telling everyone we haven’t had the elections.

Q. If she gets enough votes, do you think you could work with her?

A. Yes, of course.

Q. If she gets enough votes in the Congress to allow her to serve a third term, would you allow the ban [on anyone serving for three terms as prime minister] to be lifted?

A. We’ll have to decide on that once they win the vote.

Q. But didn’t you promise the U.S. last summer that you’d lift the ban on that?

A. No, I haven’t given any such promises. We did talk about it, but there were many things that we talked about which have been violated . . .

Q. And you feel you could work with her?

A. I think so. I am not such an unpleasant person.

Q. Some say that you want the prime minister to come from your own party.

A. We are going to have fair and transparent elections.

Q. Is that really true?

A. Why do you think it is untrue?

Q. Mrs. Bhutto charges that there are going to be ghost polling stations — that the voting is going to be rigged.

A. That is what she is used to, and that is what maybe she has been doing, so let her not treat everyone like herself. . . . I am not like her. I don’t believe in these things. Where’s her sense of democracy when 57 percent of the Parliament vote for me, and she says she is not prepared to work with me, whether in uniform or out of uniform?

Q. What do you think about President Bush saying that U.S. troops would operate unilaterally in Pakistan against al-Qaeda if necessary?

A. That will not be acceptable to Pakistan. The people of Pakistan will not accept any foreign involvement here, and I do not think it is required. We have intelligence cooperation . . . .

Q. Why can’t U.S. intelligence people see A.Q. Khan [the nuclear scientist who confessed to operating a network that supplied nuclear materials and know-how to Libya, Iran and North Korea]?

A. No, it would be interference in our country. Would you like Pakistani intelligence to interfere in the U.S.? The problem with the West is that you want the developing world to do everything that you wish and desire. . . .

Are we that incapable, are we that small? This is not a banana republic! 


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