Posted by: Administrator | 16 March, 2007

President with Christian Science Monitor

10 September 2002 – Editor’s note: Pakistani leader Pervez Musharraf met with “The Christian Science  See full size imageMonitor” editors in Boston Sunday. Here is the transcript of the entire interview.

CSM: Let me start with a very warm welcome to President Musharraf on his first visit to The Christian Science Monitor. We are just delighted to have you here. We’re also delighted to meet Foreign Minister Inam ul Haque, Finance Minister Shaukat Aziz, Information Minister Nisar Memon, Major General Rashid Qureshi. And finally, welcome to all the other distinguished members of the delegation. Like journalists, we are interested in a story, but we are just as interested in good conversation that helps us understand Pakistan’s view of the world and its role in the monumental events of the past year.

We invite you, Mr. President, to make any opening remarks before we begin with some questions.

Musharraf: Thank you very much. First of all I’m extremely grateful to you, to The Christian Science Monitor for having invited me for lunch and also giving me this occasion to interact with all of you. For having invited my whole delegation here and including my son. It’s indeed a pleasure, and I would like to add here that myself and my family – my parents – have always been getting a copy of The Christian Science Monitor sponsored by my brother who’s in Chicago, since – I don’t know how many years we’ve been getting a copy. So that goes to the credit of the credibility and authenticity of The Christian Science Monitor.

Having said that, I obviously come from a region which is the center of attention and attraction at the moment. All that is happening around the world – important events are happening in our region, that is the South Asian region and Pakistan. I would like to – as a starter – give whatever is happening very, very briefly so we leave the rest to the informal questions.

Of course, first of all, domestically, talking of Pakistan, as far as I and my government are concerned, we came on the scene in 1999 in October and in these three years we have undertaken reforms and restructuring of the country in all its facets. The main concentration being economically viable, because we thought that nothing is possible without a stabilized economy and a progressive dynamic economy. To that extent, my finance minister is here. I give credit to my finance team; we have stabilized the economy of Pakistan. All macro-economic indicators of the country show positive growth and the future – all goes well for the economy of Pakistan.

Then, the other issue that I would like to touch on is the issue of democracy and politics in Pakistan. We are trying to – political restructuring, may I say, was one of the four areas of focus right from October 1999. We had four areas of focus: Economically viable, poverty alleviation, group governance, and political restructuring.

So in political restructuring we have brought the grass-root level change. We now have a local government in place, where we say we have empowered the impoverished. We have given the destiny of the people of Pakistan in their own hands and this is a “silent revolution” in the words of some foreign dignitaries. In fact, our international finance institutions claim this as a silent revolution. So this is the start of the political restructuring.

We are having our elections next month. All that we are trying to achieve through these elections is to introduce sustainable democracy in Pakistan, ensuring that the democratic process is not overturned, bringing checks and balances on all power brokers within Pakistan, and also ensuring that the reforms and the restructuring – the process that we’ve initiated – is sustained and it is not reversed. This is what we’re doing on the political side.

A word on the law and order and terrorism, which is very important: We are a member of the coalition. We will remain a member. We will not allow Pakistani territory to be used by Pakistanis or non-Pakistanis for terrorist acts anywhere in the world – within or outside Pakistan. We are meeting a lot of success in our joint efforts to fight terrorism from the western side, the fallout of whatever is happening in Afghanistan coming into Pakistan on our tribal belt and also infiltrating or maybe passing through into our cities. We have taken several actions very successfully.

Our internal sectarian extremism is there, which we are handling – religious extremism and sectarian extremism. At times, the actions or the unfortunate incidents involving some actions against a church and one of the hospitals in Taxila and in a school in Murree maybe are a combination of the sectarian extremism internal and the fallout of Al Qaeda actions – a combination of these two – but we are meeting this challenge very effectively.

On the external side, the India-Pakistan relations – tension exists. There’s a standoff. There’s an eyeball-to-eyeball contact on the borders. I keep saying that lately the intentions of any adventurous act by the Indians, I will say – because we are not going to initiate the war – have reduced. Rhetoric has reduced. But as long as the forces remain confronting each other, the capability of an adventurous act remains. So therefore, intention may have gone down, receded. But capability remains, therefore the situation remains dangerous.

On the Western border on Afghanistan, the situation is not still in control. One needs to take certain actions, which we have certain views of our own and to bring or to extend the writ of the government on the whole of Afghanistan, improve and stabilize Afghanistan and the region because it has its fallout on integrating central Asian republics and its whole region from its economic point of view.

With this, gentlemen, I’m absolutely open to any questions that you may like to ask. I’ll try my best to give you my personal views as sincerely as possible. Thank you.

CSM: You live in a tough neighborhood, that’s clear to anybody. I would be interested in your thoughts on Afghanistan, which has been a rather tortured country for a long time. Do you feel now like it’s finally firmly on a path to produce greater stability on your border, or should the United States and the West be doing much more than they have been doing? Recent events would indicate that things are far from settled there – an assassination attempt and a major bombing in a couple weeks.

Musharraf: Yes, I think the situation remains fluid. It’s improving, but it remains fluid. We have to bring stability into Afghanistan, and that stability has not yet come. I would like to say that – in fact I’ve been saying this all along since we got involved in Afghanistan and the operation in Afghanistan – that if you see Afghanistan, there are seven power centers in Afghanistan – seven or eight – which are dominated by warlords.

The writ of the government has to extend to all these seven or eight power centers. And the warlords’ writ in those areas needs to be reduced and the center’s impact and stature needs to be enhanced. So this has to be done, this is the important factor which has not been done as yet. So this is one important factor.

The other element is the element of multi-ethnicity. It is critical to Afghanistan. Whatever we do we must ensure multi-ethnic dispensation. Now multi-ethnicity because there’s a Pashtun majority which is 50 percent – some say 45 some say 55 – then there is a Tajik element; there is an Uzbek element; there is a Hazara element. These are the four main groups.

Now we have to ensure multi-ethnicity in the government. We have to ensure multi-ethnicity in any police force or military force that we create – army. It is extremely important. And creation of this multi-ethnic army, multi-ethnic police is extremely important. So one feels that the strategy ought to be that we ought to extend to these seven or eight power centers, politically, maybe the ISF needs to extend there. And then we need to have a multi-ethnic police, multi-ethnic army extending to those seven or eight centers. That’s what we need to be targeting.

And then, yes, of course, this is the political side. The other is I’ve always been saying– there are three elements to Afghanistan. One is the military element. The other is the political element. And the third is the reconstruction element. All three must go on simultaneously. I’ve been saying this right in the beginning when the Taliban government was there.

Now, the reconstruction element has not even taken off. There is a Tokyo Accord which has promised I think $4 billion or $4.5 billion. But this assistance is not coming because they want– probably one is looking for political stability in Afghanistan. But this is a chicken and egg situation. I mean do you want political stability first, and then bring money? Or, money itself will bring political stability? I think the reverse is true. We must inject this money, and give the Karzai government the clout to spend this money and extend their writ through allocation of funds to these power centers that I’m talking of. So money must come, and money must be placed in the hands of the Karzai government.

Having said all this, Pakistan is totally supportive of the Karzai government. Whatever he’s doing, I think he’s the hope for the future of Afghanistan.

CSM: Is the United States doing enough at this stage for the reconstruction process?

Musharraf: I think the United States, yes, is doing a lot. They are the main contributors to stability in Afghanistan frankly. When I visited Afghanistan, my security was also being handled by the US troops. But as I said, this financial infusion of money into Afghanistan, in accordance with the Tokyo Accord, and extension of the writ, and this multi-ethnicity – I’m sure the United States is looking into this. At least we are interacting along these lines.

CSM: One more question, somewhat related. What do you anticipate the reactions, say between the militant communities of the Muslim world, if the United States takes action in Iraq – in your own country, for instance, and in the region?

Musharraf: Short answer is yes, it will have a negative impact.

CSM: That sounds like it would be counterproductive to the war on terror, which you have said the Iraqi fight is not your fight, but you are part of the war on the terror, and it sounds to me like you’re suggesting that action in Iraq is going to make the war on terror more difficult. Is that true?

Musharraf: Well, I’ve been saying that we don’t want to get involved in Iraq, because we’ve got so much on our hands really in our own region, on our western border, on the eastern border with India, domestically, that we don’t want to really too much to get involved in anything that is happening around in a region where we don’t even have geographic affinity. One would like to say that the world community– consensus needs to be generated on whatever has to be done, that’s what I would like to say. But, certainly the agenda in Afghanistan is not over. I only hope that our involvement and commitment to Afghanistan and that region does not get diluted because of attention going somewhere else, which is very, very important for that region.

CSM: Would your opposition to action against Iraq be focused on, as you’re saying, the fact that you are focused on other matters in your country, or does it extend beyond that to other concerns? And what is your view of the United States giving itself this right to attack another country and the leader of that country?

Musharraf: Well, I think domestic, into the domestic extreme elements within our domestic environment, it will give them further ammunition I think to agitate, as far as internally, Pakistan’s internal environment is concerned. So that could be, that is one additional point of concern, as far as we are concerned, as far as I and my government is concerned but otherwise I think as I said the general consensus in Pakistan is that why are we being asked this question about Iraq, we don’t have anything to do there? That’s why we do not want to get involved.

ul Haque: I think your question is justified because it does raise a number of questions. It, in a way, changes international law and how the world has been run, and so forth. The doctrine of pre-emptive action by the United States against another country could also create instability regionally because larger countries might begin to feel that they have the right to intervene in smaller countries because these smaller countries are doing something that is wrong.

That is why the president said that an international consensus is necessary. Pakistan has always held that Iraq must implement UN Security Council resolutions, it must allow weapons inspectors in, it must assure the world that it is not manufacturing weapons of mass destruction. Having said that, we still feel that there is room for diplomacy where the pressure can be exerted on Iraq to do all these things in accordance with UN Security Council resolutions. And we should exhaust all peaceful means before we resort to a military action, which should preferably be through the United Nations Security Council, not as an action by an individual country.

CSM: Did you have any particular examples in mind when you mentioned that fulfilling this doctrine on the part of the United States might encourage other large countries…

ul Haque: Well, we have heard noises from India, for example, saying that if the United States can take unilateral action in Afghanistan and in Iraq, why can’t India take unilateral action against Pakistan. So that is one example that comes easily to mind. There might be others.

CSM: That’s a particularly close and relevant example.

CSM: I know you have very good relations with President Karzai, and you will be meeting with him at the UN. But we’ve been hearing reports from the Afghan intelligence service that Al Qaeda has been in various pockets around Pakistan. They’ve named the cities of Gilgit and Chitral. What do you think is the next step for Pakistan to take in terms of getting rid of Al Qaeda in the region, and how soon do you think you can do it?

Musharraf: We are taking steps all over Pakistan, there is no doubt in our mind. And we have made it very clear that we don’t want any foreign element without valid documents in Pakistan. That includes Al Qaeda or any foreign element. We are getting involved, in the whole of Pakistan, in our cities, on the border belt.

But many of these reports are exaggerated, in that we get information that there is some Al Qaeda elements hiding here and there, and we go and we launch an operation because our army is deployed there on the western border. In the entire tribal belt our army is fully deployed now – our army and the frontier corps, this is the second-line forces. And we have very good elements there

We go there at night, with helicopters we surround the area, and find nothing. So many reports are exaggerated. A lot of information comes, which is unconfirmed information, and we act. But in many areas we’ve met successes. I mean, there is no doubt we have recovered a lot of weapons, and I think we have arrested 400 Al Qaeda members. The arrest of Al Qaeda members, the majority are by us in Pakistan.

So it’s disheartening when sometimes you read that we are going back, maybe we are going soft. No, we are acting fully. And I think the forces, the CENCOM commander General Tommy Frank knows what is happening, absolutely. It is only in the media sometimes that it appears, that they are very clear. We are very clear how we are operating.

I don’t think there are elements in Chitral – it’s being reported in Chitral and in Gilgit area. Whenever we get information we move against them.

CSM: You’ve checked out those places?

Musharraf: Yes. Yes, indeed.

Press secretary: This particular report. There was a group of journalists that came to me and they said exactly what you’ve said – they named Chitral and Gilgit. And they said ‘we would like to go there.’ And I said ‘you have full liberty to go there.’ They went there, and they called me up from Chitral and said except for meeting a number of interesting people – no such thing.

Musharraf: Gilgit has headquarters of our frontier corps northern area. This is my division headquarters with a major general sitting there. I’d have a very poor impression of this army division if there were some members of Al Qaeda in his area operating there. It’s a very peaceful area, and it’s a beautiful area. A lot of tourists are even now visiting.

Information Minister Nisar Memon: May I add that perhaps the separation that has come in is because [inaudible] this year, the action against the religious elements that tend to be extremists. Subsequent to that, there has been control on that. But from time to time they emerge. The religious elements which could be different sects – now this is an internal to Pakistan where you have different sects than here. Now that emerges sometimes, and sometimes that creates a small law-and-order situation. That can be represented– may have been represented– by the journalists because we are a free press since President [Musharraf] has come, taken over the reins of the country. Press is free and, in fact, it has been said, if I may say, that the words of the people – press freedom is unprecedented in Pakistan. None of the press people have been taken in and not allowed to write. In fact, one would say the exercise of freedom sometimes is not much of a responsibility but that is the extent of political reforms that President mentioned is based on freedom of expression, which is enjoyed in our constitution. So Gilgit is specific, because I was there last week. There is sometimes the element of religious ethnicity. That may be translated by the foreign journalists as some Al Qaeda because anything religious – I must have to say, Mr. President – anything religious they tend to this see Al Qaeda which is not true.

[Unidentified member of Musharraf entourage]: Intelligence reports – as you know, there is very close cooperation between US intelligence agencies and Pakistan intelligence agencies. Any time we have received any information from US intelligence, we have always investigated and taken action as the President has indicated. The day before yesterday there was an action against suspected Al Qaeda people who were in a village [inaudible]… So action has been coordinated with US intelligence.

Musharraf: The tribal belt of Pakistan, you must be knowing, we could not intrude. The writ of government could not get inside. This is known as FATA, Federally-Administered Tribal Area.

For the first time in 150 years maybe that these troops have entered this area. Now we are operating in that area, and the army has gone in a humanitarian role. It’s making roads there, it’s making running dispensaries and schools. Thousands of children are now studying in those schools. Hundreds of thousands of people have been treated free.

They have been welcomed, they are being welcomed by the tribal elders in this belt. And therefore, the operation is assisted by the tribal people there, in this border belt. Therefore, we are very sure that wherever there is Al Qaeda we will get assistance and we will get information also.

But, having said that, there may be some elements in this area, some extremist elements, who may be harboring small groups of Al Qaeda. One can’t write this off, the possibility.

But whenever we get this information, as we’ve said, we move. And the tribal elders go along with the troops now to ensure. And we’ve laid down certain rules and regulations of dealing with anybody who is harboring these people, according to tribal laws. And what you may be hearing or reading is that their houses will be demolished and they have to pay a certain amount of money. This is according to tribal customs, which they have agreed. That if there is anybody, any tribe harboring them, that tribe will suffer these penalties. It’s laid down.

My corps commander in Peshawar is a tribal himself, by the way. My 11th corps commander is from, is an Oraxai tribe, and he has a tribal, he is [from] a very very inaccessible tribal belt. So he is handling the whole operation himself.

CSM: Do you think bin Laden is still alive?

Musharraf: [Laughter]

CSM: I’d like to ask the president a question about the religious extremes. If you look down the road into the long-term, do you think the Islamic radicals can be incorporated, can be domesticated, into a peaceful, functioning democracy? And do you have a roadmap or a timetable for how that would work?

Musharraf: First of all, a perception needs to be cleared. Pakistan is an Islamic republic, but Pakistan is a moderate Islamic republic, and I mean every word of it when I say this. If you look around the world, you see North Africa and all the Islamic countries, there is a very strong political base of the Islamic movement, of the Islamic political parties. You come anywhere to Central Asia, you go even to Turkey, and everywhere .

But if you see Pakistan, in Pakistan, no political party, religious political party, has ever, in the history of Pakistan, got more than 5 percent votes. Normally they get 1-2 percent. In the local body elections that we held in last year, the mayors, or the nazims, who was backed by religious parties didn’t even get 2 percent votes, 2 percent victory. So that is the reality on ground. There are a number of political parties, religious political parties, some we have banned – these were groups and even political parties, because of their extremist action, we have banned them already – but there are a number of them who have joined hands. I am reasonably sure that the people of Pakistan will vote – and you will see the vote next month – they don’t have much standing.

However whatever standing they have– now, one has to see if they are extremist in character. All of them are not extremists – they are balanced, they are moderate. But there are elements in these who have been supporting extremism. They are the ones who need to be moderated.

We are interacting with them, then we have taken certain actions like madrasa reforms. Madrasa is the religious schools. We have launched a fresh, new madrasa strategy to moderate them. These madrasas are the biggest NGOs I would say, they used to have, they have about 800,000 students having free board and lodge. But they were only teaching religious education. Now we have told them that they need to be registered, they need to adhere to certain laws and rules of the land which we have laid down in this madrasa act.

And they need to teach subjects which are in the mainstream of education. We are encouraging them through some kinds of incentives, but easier said than done. We need some resources also to execute whatever we’ve said. They are coming on board, I think this will go a long way to bring some moderation into the religious thinking. So we have taken certain action at the government level which will bring moderation in the minds and hearts of the extremists. This will gradually improve, I am very sure the situation will gradually improve .

After all, this is a fall-out of twenty years of war in Afghanistan, where, may I add, that for the first ten years when we were fighting the Soviets, really we were encouraging these people from all over the world. Who brought these– how did these people come into the region? They came into the region, they are living with their families, by the way. Many of them, if not most of them, in Afghanistan, these foreign elements from all over the world were living with families. They came in the days of the Soviets in huge numbers and they existed there. So therefore, gradually, once we stabilize the government in Afghanistan, I think situation will keep stabilizing and improving on the religious side, in Pakistan specially. Pakistan doesn’t have that serious a problem as other countries of the world have, but there are extremists that need to be curbed, and, yeah, curbing them.

ul Haque: Radicalism doesn’t really have a religion. So to say that Islamic radicals need to be reformed [inaudible]. There is a major radical force emerging for example in India. There are extremist lunatic fringes in all countries be they Christian or not. But whether all of these radicals can be brought into the democratic fold is a question I suspect nobody can really answer because some of them might be die hard thinking.

You have had examples in the United States of people who act in a radical manner. And it’s impossible to control the lunatic fringe in every country. As the president has said, Pakistan is one country where even religious parties – not extremist parties –have never been able to seek electoral victories.

Musharraf: And people were worried when this operation started in Afghanistan, when you saw the BBC and CNN, it appeared as if the whole of Pakistan was up in arms. And I was all the time saying that that is not the case. If you saw the pictures on the screen, you would have realized that the people are not participating. It is only these fringe religious extremists.

ul Haque: And many of them too are not Pakistanis, they were Afghans

Musharraf: If you saw the maximum thing initiated was in Karachi, where five people got killed initially and all that. Now the people who were seen on the screen were not Karachites. They were mostly Afghans and some religious extremists. But the real Karachites, never, not a single one of them was visible on the screen. It was unfortunate that this was – one thought that the whole of Pakistan– I knew for sure that the people are not with them at all. They’ll just die down; it’s only these few extremists.

CSM: Can you recall for us, in as much detail as you can muster, where you were on 9/11 and where you got the news and what you started thinking the first day or so?

Musharraf: Yes, I was in Karachi, I was addressing the nazims, the local government representatives, I was holding them – I had called them from all of Sindh. I was talking to them when I think he [points to press secretary] rang me up. And he said something, first my MS came and, Nadim, he came, and he told me there was something urgent. I said, ‘We are having a conference. What’s so urgent about it?’ But then he came, he said, ‘No it’s really very urgent, and you must come out.’ Then I went out and I spoke to him and he told me about this World Trade Center and I said ‘What are you talking?’ So I went and concluded the whole ceremony and then came out and then this thing started moving and we had to take the decisions.

CSM: What kind of calculations, I mean as you thought through, once it was clear as you connected the dots that Afghanistan was involved, the Taliban, that this was on your border, etc., what were you thinking about the forces that were coming to play here and what kinds of decisions you might have to make?

Musharraf: Yes, the difficult decision first was obviously whether we are part of the coalition to move against extremism in Afghanistan or not. That one was one decision that I took. That had to be taken first of all.

But more difficult than this was the decision to allow military action in Afghanistan, where we allowed utilization of airspace, logistic support, and intelligence cooperation, these three elements. That was a more difficult decision to take. But we took it that on an issue of principle, it was a principled stand which we took. And I thought that the nation will support my decision, and they did, I think, and that’s how it went.

CSM: Is the nation doing any second-guessing now as the United States talks about Iraq or any other developments that have – clearly your government has stood firm – but do you hear in the streets, as it were, a growing second-guessing on Pakistan’s role in all of this?

Musharraf: I think there is no doubt in the people’s mind about the role of Pakistan and the decisions of my government vis-à-vis Afghanistan and whatever is happening there. I don’t think it is only a fringe element of extremists who talk against it, but the majority in Pakistan do understand that the decision was correct, and they support it. There is no doubt in my mind.

But yes, there is some areas now of concern when talk is going on about Iraq, yes, there is a lot of talk in the street. It’s a common talk subject now about it, and there are apprehensions, certainly, in the minds of not the extremists alone but the common man in the street, there are apprehensions.

CSM: You mentioned in your opening remarks a standoff with India. And I’m wondering what you see is the next steps that are necessary in the case of Kashmir, and what progress you see – as opposed to what some people claim is not there – but on the question of infiltration and incursions across the Line of Control.

Musharraf: As far as the Line of Control is concerned, we have said, and I have said many times, that there is nothing happening on the Line of Control. And I mean it. But having said that, it was very clear that this should lead to reciprocation, that this must lead to responses from the Indian side. It’s most unfortunate that we have taken a number of steps – it is most unfortunate that I personally have taken a number of decisions, we have taken a number of actions – which have been very sensitive to our country, to myself, to my government, and the reciprocation has not come. No reciprocation whatsoever has come from the Indian side. This is unfortunate, and this is not sustainable, this is not tenable.

So when you ask what progress can be made, progress should be we must initiate a process of dialogue, India must accept that they need to talk to us, and they need to talk about all issues with Kashmir as the focus. They must accept this. And the world community must make them accept it. And I would say that the United States is playing a role and they need to play a stronger role in realizing this progress on the issue of Kashmir between India and Pakistan.

CSM: When you say “need to play a stronger role,” what would that entail? How would that be manifested to your satisfaction?

Musharraf: I would leave that to the United States, I think. They know how to make issues stronger and – but I think when progress is not being made, something additional needs to be done. India keeps talking of bilateralism and bilateral relations, bilateral negotiations, bilateral addressing all this issue. But unfortunately nothing happens bilaterally. When two people are not prepared to talk, one of them is not prepared to talk. So what kind of bilateralism is that? So, we better get involved in a mediation or facilitation. And that is what the United States is doing. I must – I am grateful to the United States for the role that they are playing. And they need to keep playing this role in the – toward – the direction should be as a step one: de-escalation and initiation of dialogue between India and Pakistan in the Kashmir dispute.

CSM: Mr. President, is India waiting for the US to verify that infiltration has stopped?

Musharraf: Sorry?

CSM: Is India waiting for the US to verify that infiltration has fully stopped?

Musharraf: I think United States – first of all, there’s no guarantee, there cannot be a 100 percent guarantee of stopping of infiltration. That guarantee is not possible because of the nature of the terrain there. But, everyone said, even the Indians themselves said that there is no – infiltration has gone down, even though they didn’t say that it has stopped. But [the] United States itself, its own assessment was that the infiltration is not taking place. So, I think this is not a matter of numbers, or mathematical, it’s an assessment, which even Indians support now that the infiltration has certainly gone down. The Indians and the United States government know that.

Now to wait for any progress that it has to – the Indians say that it hasn’t stopped. Well, let’s move forward, I keep saying. Let us not stop, let’s move forward, let’s initiate the dialogue, and things will keep moving forward.

I think their strategy is really to gain time. The Indian strategy is to gain time somehow through coercing Pakistan, internally or through their own military means, or through an indirect coercion, through world pressure. Then, they want to hold elections in Kashmir. In whatever form they are going to declare them successful, and then they are going to say that: ‘Kashmir dispute does not exist and that is all, thank you very much.’ This is their strategy, probably, which is very clear to us.

Now the world must understand that this strategy will not work. It has not worked in the past. You cannot sideline the issue of Kashmir. We have gone too far forward. It cannot be done, so we have to address it.

So India should be told actually not to play games really, it can’t be done, not doable.

CSM: There’s some talk of a consideration of making the Line of Control permanent. Is that something that you would ever consider?

Musharraf: No, we can’t take that. That is not a solution because we keep saying that is the problem. For fifty years, this Line of Control has been there – with minor changes, some very minor changes. So we have been fighting the wars over this Line of Control. So how can the problem be the solution? This is not the solution. It goes beyond that.

So to that extent, we need to ensure that there are checks and balances on the power brokers. We must ensure that the military government never enters, and martial law is never imposed, and military government is never imposed on the country. We need to ensure that these reforms and restructuring that we are doing have permanence, and they continue. They are sustained. And therefore democracy, a sustainable democracy is brought in. So whatever I am doing, whatever are my amendments, they are exactly in line with this. I can challenge anybody to ask me anything on those, and we are online and I’ll give the rationale. I’m not taking power, I’m giving power, in fact.

When people talk of the national security council, and they say that I’m taking power, if I was taking power I would not have the national security council because that, having removed the 13th amendment, the power of dismissing the assembly comes to the president. And it was with the president in the past until it was taken away in 1998. ’97 or ’98, through the 13th amendment. When you restore that the president has the power to dismiss the assembly, which had been the case. And through that, there was some check on governance by the prime minister, democratic governance of the prime minister

So what I’m doing is, I’m giving away that power to the national security council. Let an institution take the decision. Because what has been happening in the past – I’m sorry I’m taking a little longer because I think that this is the key to the issue – what had been happening in the past, if you see the last 12 years the two prime ministers, governing for twice each, there was mis-governance, there was root plunder, corruption. Now what could an efficient president do? He could sort of reprimand the prime minister, that you’re not doing well, and you better improve, you’re not governing well, giving specific examples of whatever wrong is going on. But it always ended with that prime minister retorting and saying, not accepting the word. And a one-to-one confrontation between the president and the prime minister used to take place.

So the result used to be either the president getting rid of the prime minister, or the prime minister impeaching the president. Because of this sort of one-to-one fight between two individuals. And this happened I think thrice or four times in these 12 years. Every time a government changed, it was a president versus a prime minister. And the third element that used to get injected was the chief of army staff.

Now every time the chief of army staff– because the army in Pakistan is the most stable organization. Now this organization has the faith of the people of Pakistan. Whatever Pakistan suffers, the people straight run to the chief of army staff. “What are you doing? You take some action. You improve the situation.” Now we say that he doesn’t have any constitutional role. But always he had a role to play. Because the people of Pakistan wanted him to come. I was chief of army staff for one year in ’98 before I, before 99. Now I know how many people came to me and told me, “What the hell are you doing? Why are you sleeping?”

I mean it was quite, at times, even humiliating, that I was told that I am not acting. How does the chief of army staff act in the face of nothing? No institutional availment. He has two choices. He goes to the prime minister and he says, “You’re not doing well and you’d better improve yourself.” Now the prime minister either listens, or does not listen. Now when he doesn’t listen, what does the chief of army staff do? He either sits quiet, and gets himself humiliated because he went there, couldn’t do anything. Gets humiliated in the eyes of his own army, that here is our boss who went, couldn’t achieve anything. Pakistan is going on as it is, going down.

The second option he has is to take over. So, how to avoid that? We can avoid that through this institution, the national security council. I have not done it to take over myself. I have done it to check the prime minister, check the president, check the chief of army staff. Let them come and sit together. And this institution has 13 members. Eight of them are civilian elected members. The ninth is the president. Hopefully the ninth one will be a civilian person, and four will be in uniform. Now, all of these nine are elected members, so there will be a balance.

If the chief of army staff is being pushed by anybody that the nation is going down and the prime minister is misgoverning, he’ll have this forum to come to. And he’ll take the prime minister in that forum, and if the whole forum decides that he is not doing well, then the president should act. There will never be a need of imposing martial law. And if the president is unnecessarily doing something to the prime minister, the prime minister will have this forum to act, also. And when we say, “What is the check on the president?” the check on the president, first of all, will be the mandate of the legislature, of the assembly. It’s not been removed. They can impeach him, exactly as it was before.

He can be impeached. The Supreme Court, it can take notice. It has done before, it can even now do that against the president. And thirdly, when this national security council, 13 members sitting– sir, I have run a number of boards even in the army, the army is supposed to be very autocratic. When we sit on the promotion board, there are core commanders, eleven core commanders, and I am the boss. Now when seven or eight or nine are saying something, I can never go against them. How can I go against them? It can’t be done.

So the president cannot impose his will when there are seven or eight members of the national security council saying something else. So there will be, I think, a lot of checks and balances on every one.

CSM: Do you see a long-term role, a political role, for the military in the security council?

Musharraf: No. The security council, another important thing to be understood is, that they will not have, repeat, will not have any executive or legislative authority. Executive and legislative authority rests with the prime minister and the assembly. I have always been saying ‘What is power really? Let us define power.” A lot of people say you are taking over power. And I ask them ‘What is power?’ Let’s be clear, ‘What is power?”

I think power is to govern the nation. To take executive decisions. What is the foreign policy of Pakistan. What is the economic policy of Pakistan. What is the trade policy of Pakistan. What is our strategy against India or Kashmir or Afghanistan or Taliban or whatever. What is our developmental policy. What infrastructure development has to be done, etc. etc. That is the power, and who takes those decisions? The prime minister of Pakistan. So the entire authority lies with the prime minister. But there is a requirement of checking him. Because unfortunately Pakistan has its own environment where the prime minister has been malfunctioning. He has been misgoverning. And he has been looting and plundering.

So how can we check? That check is through the article 58 (2b) resting with the president. But I have diluted that, because I brought in this national security council. I’ve diluted the powers of the president. Because I’ve seen that it used to be a one-to-one fight. It ended up in a bout between two individuals, chief of army staff drawn in, and always a confusion. So we will have an institutional method of checks. Now check is not that the power. Every one must have check. But the power to govern, and the power to run a government, and to legislate, will remain with the assembly and the prime minister.

No interference of the national security council, no say of the military whatsoever.

CSM: This is the fullest explanation I’ve had of the changes that you’ve made to date, and we appreciate it. But you know that most people are going to ask you, still, When is there going to be an election next? Have you decided on that? Before they say, “OK, now it’s a democracy.”

Musharraf: When are we going to have the election? The tenth of October we fixed it. The date is fixed, everything is fixed. The road map is very clear. Everything is fixed now. And we will have elections. The elected government will be in place, I don’t know when the swearing in etc. is, but they will be in place in October.

CSM: And if someone like Benazir Bhutto shows up?

Musharraf: No. She’s been disqualified. This is another issue which is contentious, a lot of people keep talking about my acting against her. She left Pakistan on her own will before I was on the scene. She left Pakistan in 1988 I think. 1998. In the previous government time because there were a number of cases against her. And she ran away herself. Now those cases are there, on two of them she’s been convicted, on two cases, and there are 12 more cases I know of loot, plunder. Name it and that is what she and her husband have done – the one who is in Pakistan. So, she has to face trial if she comes back. And similarly, Sharif family, the ex-prime minister, they left on their own sweet will very happily in accordance with the decision – and some outside players played a role frankly – and they are there on their own will and they are not coming.

Again, the rules and regulations of qualifications and disqualifications are there. There are a number of cases against them again of loot and plunder. Dozens again. So they need to face the legal formalities again if they come. But having said all this, I would like to say these are two people who had made politics of Pakistan their family cult. I mean, we have to move out of it. We have to develop leadership in Pakistan. Is there no other leadership in PML other than they keep exchanging one, one goes the other comes, this goes, that one comes again. I mean, what kind of situation is this? We need to break away from this situation.

There are leaders, but they don’t want them to emerge. Now the 14th amendment that Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif brought about was total, autocratic dictatorship within his party. Nobody could have a vote of conscience, nobody could have a dissenting vote in the party. They would lose their seat. If they went against the dictates of the head of the party. This is the 14th amendment. How can you do that? And no person, any person from the party, if they vote or say anything against the wishes of the president of the party loses his seat.

So this was the 14th amendment. So he usurped total power within himself. Complete power he took over within himself, the prime minister. And that is how he got rid of the chief of army staff, he got rid of the president, he got rid of the chief justice. This is no democracy. Now we are trying to bring about democracy. It is unfortunate that I am a military man and talking of democracy, but that is what my lot what it is, and I am doing, I am doing it to the best of my ability, as I understand it, and as it suits Pakistan and mine.

CSM: Mr. President, if I might ask you, this is along the same lines as the question of democracy. Clearly in the short term, the United States is focused on the terrorism question in the region. More in the long term, American interests point to strong relations with stable democracies. I think we saw before Sept. 11 the Bush administration was placing quite a bit of emphasis on improving its relations with India for example – a large democracy, a large middle class. I’m wondering what burden does that place especially on you, as you said a military man talking about democracy, but what are the burdens placed on you as someone talking about democracy? What do you have to do to convince those critics still, observers, experts, people who know the region but yet continue to talk about the military ruler and in fact refer to your recent reforms as, if anything, consolidating the power of the military authority?

Musharraf: Yes, this is the projection unfortunately being given by the politicians in Pakistan – not all, some. This is also the projection being given by some in the media, especially in the print media. It is unfortunate that they talk of only theory. I mean, theoretically, yes, the military should not have a role. Theoretically, yes, when there’s an elected government and an assembly, how can you have a national security council? Theoretically, yes, if it will hold good in the United States, it will hold good in any developed European country, but unfortunately it doesn’t hold good in Pakistan.

We cannot be idealistic. We have to be pragmatic and practical. The solution that I’m hitting at is suiting the environment and the people’s interest in Pakistan. And I think we have to obviously interact and project ourselves better, that we are doing this in the interest of democracy in fact. It is not letting down democracy, it is in the interest of creating sustainable democracy whatever we are doing. The world must understand. And that is why I am interacting with you and trying to convince you all the way that I may be a dictator– I may be a military man– but I am not a dictator, by the way. I take people along. I would like any one of them to say whether I’m a dictator. There’s no dictatorship; there’s a free press; the judiciary has never been as independent as it is now. So, there’s a– [unfinished].

Just one of the things that I observe is that just to remind that when president is talking about the amendments, one thing on the 12th of May, year 2000, when the Supreme Court judgment came, it was appeal whether the rule was justifiable. That’s where the Supreme Court gave a judgment that this government take over and president was correct and it was legal, absolutely, and then they say in order to achieve the objectives that he defined in October 1999 very clearly, he could also make some amendments to the constitution. But one of the conditions that I wanted to bring in was that the country’s constitution will remain federal parliamentary system. That has not been tested. That’s the reason when you said that when will the elections be, so that the elections are going to be of the parliament, the national assembly, the senate, and the four provincial assemblies, being the four provinces, who then will elect the senate. And this is what the parliament then selects the national assembly out of the senate. That is, the majority leader will be the prime minister. So that’s the executor that the president was defining. The president remains as responsibilities same as 1973, in fact as he said his responsibility performing the nation’s security….[inaudible]

Let me add one more thing. If I was a dictator, the first thing– Let me take you back to 1999, and I’ll tell you an interesting thing. When I came into the government – I was thrust into the government I would say because I was in the air when everything happened and this change occurred – the first decision that I sat with my military commanders and spoke was should there be martial law. Whenever a military takeover takes place, there is a martial law. And martial law means that military personalities are put as governors, and they are called martial law administrators, and a chief takes over as chief martial law administrator, and then in every division there is a deputy martial law administrator, in every sub-district there is a sub-martial law administrator. This has been our experience of the past.

I went against it. I said, ‘Let us see what has been happening in those martial laws. We come and superimpose the military on the entire civil administration. And when we leave – whether we leave after three years or ten years – we leave the administration at the same level as we came in. So, they haven’t progressed. Let’s not do that. Let’s not superimpose ourselves. We stay away. There is no martial law.’

And I come, and I use everyone. I use civilians as my ministers, and we run the civilest administration. And we make sure that they run better. And we make sure that they improve. So I introduced a monitoring system from the side ensuring that the civil administration functions and raises its level. And there was no martial law. And I’ve run these three years without martial law. There was no martial law.

And it has succeeded because we’ve brought about institutional changes. We’ve brought institutions into being. And we function in a very institutional manner, in a very democratic manner. That is how these three years have functioned. I would like any one of them to add or subtract to what I’m saying. Don’t listen to what I’m saying.

Memon: I would like to add, Mr. President, to remind that in 1971, when the change from the military took place at that time, there was a civilian who became the martial law administrator.

Musharraf: The father of Benazir Bhutto declared himself as being the prime minister of Pakistan, a civilian. He took over as the chief martial law administrator – unprecedented. This is the kind of democracy that we’ve been having in Pakistan. If I am trying to bring about sustainable democracy, they say: ‘You’re a military man, don’t do it.’ So who’s going to do it? Nobody has been able to do it for these thirty years.

Memon: I think the proof of the pudding is going to be in the eating. The effort that we are making here is to make sure that institutions are not destroyed again. In the ten years of democracy that the president has indicated, the judiciary was destroyed, because the chief justice of the supreme court was removed summarily. The presidency was destroyed and the president was dismissed. The army was being subverted because the chief of the army staffs had been removed, one had been removed the second was about to be removed. The parliament had been subverted because the parliamentarians could not even speak out against their own parties policies …

The effort – let us reestablish those institutions and make sure that the future government does not subvert institutions. Because a democracy does not rest on individuals, it rests on the efficacy of the institutions that run democracy: the legislature, the executive, the presidency, the judiciaries, and the press.

If we succeed in making sure that these institutions regroup and develop strength, I think democracy will succeed in Pakistan. So we will have to wait and see how these constitutional amendments work. Again, the dependence is not individuals, Benazir Bhutto is free to come back, face the courts. If she is acquitted by the courts, she can contest elections.

Mr. Nawaz Sharif was convicted of certain actions that he had taken. When his family approached us [from a] friendly country and said that we want to get out of here. And it was in a way a favor to them that they were allowed to go to that friendly country, Saudi Arabia. Now to claim that they were thrown out is not correct. They could have stayed on, faced the courts.

Musharraf: Those who say that I tell them – there are some people that you’ve thrown them out – I say just see the video clippings of their take off and landing in Saudi Arabia. Look at how happy they are, how glad they are, and you’ll take your question back then.


Musharraf: The Pakistani nationals, they should come back, they should face the judiciary. Whatever the judiciary decides, we’ll abide by that. But before they face that judiciary, they cannot claim that they are leaders and they should be allowed to participate in the election.

CSM: Mr. President, you’ve been very generous in explaining your thinking at points of crisis. Can I take you back to May of this year when India appeared to be threatening war with Pakistan, and your country does not rule out the first strike option, and you gave a speech in which you said that if India did attack, Pakistan would “respond with its full might” (I think you said). What was it like during those days? Was it difficult? How did you make those decisions? Was it tense? Can you just describe what went on?

Musharraf: Yes, it was extremely tense, I would say. It was extremely tense because there were war clouds and they appeared to be bent on attack us. But, let me honestly tell you that my military judgment was that they would not attack us. That was my military judgment. It was based on the deterrence of our conventional forces.

Pakistan follows a strategy of deterrence in its conventional and unconventional capabilities. Now, the beauty of the deterrence is in the conventional mode. The force levels that we maintain, in the army, navy, air force is of a level, which deters aggression. Militarily, I don’t want to get into the military aspect, there is a certain ratio required for an offensive force to succeed. The ratios that we maintain are far above that – far above what a defensive force requires to defend itself. Therefore, you may have noticed I keep saying that we are going to defend offensively, because we can launch an offensive also. That is the level of force we have.

So I was very sure that militarily, conventionally, [that] they are not going to attack us. It would be silly, because it’s going to end in a stalemate. We are both going to suffer tremendous damage and loss unnecessarily, economic damage, it’s going to be terrible for both the countries. So what I would like to add, finally, is that the avoidance of war was not because of our banking on our nuclear capability. Let me assure you, I think it would be most senseless, and most unbalanced view if one was to even really think of using the nuclear, getting into the nuclear mode. But thank God at the moment there is a conventional balance which deters aggression, which deters war in the region. And I’m very sure if it. I mean it.

CSM: Do you feel the level of tension with India is as high as ever at the moment? Our impression here is that things have subsided, it’s quieter, but there really hasn’t been a massive pullback on either side. Is it as tense as ever?

Musharraf: No, it’s not. But I, as a military man, we judge the enemy’s intention – and here I mean the enemy is India, of course, as far as we are concerned – through intentions and capabilities. Now intentions, initially they were talking a lot and we knew nothing [would] happen, because the capability was not there. Their forces were not moved into their assemblies for offensive. But then gradually, come May, the forces moved forward. Now they developed the capability. So the high mark of India was when they were showing the intention, as well as the capability. Now, the intention has receded, but the capability is there. So, therefore, intentions can change overnight

If the cabinet sits, and they decide to attack, well then the intention is finished. The next day, tomorrow, the intention is over and the capability is there and anything can happen. So, therefore, I say the intention remains. We need to reduce capabilities. To a degree the capability has receded in that they’ve moved their high-tech assets back, air force, and some military units. But I keep saying when you take the air craft back, air craft can come back in 12 hours. It’s the logistic support elements of the air force. And if you take some military elements back, unless you take the offensive military elements back, it’s not de-escalating. So the Indians should know that they can’t be clever on the military side. We understand everything that they are doing. They are moving some forces, but they are not really de-escalating.

CSM: What do you think India’s strategy is? Is this internal BJP trying to stroke national sentiment?

Musharraf: Of course.

CSM: Or do you think there is something else going on there?

Musharraf: It’s very clear. One is yes. I think– I would like to comment– on the political side they have lost face in India. I think their strategy is basically at the moment they are focused on Kashmir. The elections, they want to coerce Pakistan militarily and through an exterior maneuver, as I said. And then they want to hold elections there and bring a total close of the Kashmir dispute. Try to do that. And in the process maybe gain in popularity. The BJP gaining in popularity if they manage this exercise well. [To ministers] Would you like to add something?

ul Haque: I think it’s a fairly – the policy that India is following started off as a very successful [pose]. They were able to build international community because the international community was against terror. They were trying to link the struggle in Kashmir with terrorism. And Pakistan did come under pressure, let’s be quite clear.

But I think that that policy is outliving its utility, because we have taken the necessary steps to curb any movement across the line of control. Pakistan and the United States know that–even the Indians know –we are not sponsoring any movement across the Line of Control, we are not encouraging. We are actually interdicting all movement across the Line of Control. Sometimes who come go across and the Indians know that they cannot stop them, their force on the Line of Control is much larger than ours. So if anybody escapes from our side, they should be able to handle that. They know that.

Basically, they are overextending their policy, which initially met [with] success, but the returns of that policy are progressively decreasing. Because where does it all go? Is India intending to go to war with Pakistan? Does it want to impose its will not only on the Kashmiri people but on Pakistan also through military means? We do not think that that could be a sustainable policy. But the Indians are maintaining that because of their internal problems.

You know that Mr. [Advani] has now taken over as the deputy prime minister. He’s moved to be a hardliner. He wants to make sure that the losses that BJP suffered in elections earlier this year in four or five states are reversed. That BJP not only continues to rule until the year 2004, but wins the election afterward. And for that we need a platform. And that platform is anti-Pakistan policy. And also that platform is making sure that Kashmir is pacified on India’s terms. That is why their insistance that this election must be successful.

You know that they have arrested all the Kashmiri leaders. They’re not allowing them to meet other political leaders in the so-called Kashmir committee that they themselves have formed. The basic objective is to try to calm all the Kashmiris, to make them give up their struggle. They know that Pakistanis aren’t providing any support to them. They think that this is a good window of opportunity to finish off the Kashmiris.

The struggle in Kashmir isn’t with them, because nobody could really sustain a struggle from outside for decade after decade after decade. It is the Kashmiris themselves who are fighting. India thinks that this is the time that they can control that.

We think that this policy is not going to succeed. We think that the only was is through a dialog. Through discussing it with Pakistan and with Kashmiris. Our position is that there is a future for the Kashmiri people which is on line. Therefore any discussion between Pakistan and India must also include the Kashmiris. To decide, what is it that they want. And this cannot be determined through military means. Hence our very simple position, that forces should move back to locations, and the two countries should sit down and discuss with the Kashmiris what is the kind of fate that they want. In the twenty-first century I think that is the only way to move forward.

CSM: You were speaking earlier about military assets. What will you be seeking from the United States now that sanctions have either been phased out or will be phased out? What will you be seeking in terms of military assistance and what is your rationale for what you are seeking?

Musharraf: Yes, indeed, as a military man, I think it is a very important question. As I’ve just said, conventional deterrence must never get compromised. Futuristically, it will be extremely dangerous if the conventional balance of forces is destroyed between India and Pakistan. Now, we see that India has increased its budget by 50 percent in the past three years. We see that India is both chasing weapons worth four-and-a-half billion dollars this year– [to adviser] Is that correct? [inaudible]

They are going to be the highest arms importers in the world. Now this kind of activity– and we are seeing that they are getting high-tech aircraft from Russia, from United Kingdom, from France, and they are getting surveillance equipment, electronic warfare equipment from Israel also. So gradually we are seeing a definite tilt in the conventional balance of forces. This is very dangerous. So, therefore, the United States must understand that this is dangerous and know what our requirements, certainly, would be to restore this conventional balance in two ways.

One, proactively deny India the access to this high-technology increase in their conventional potential. And secondly, whatever we were getting initially in the form of purchase of arms and – also may I add – F-16s, which we had paid for, in fact. That would be required to reestablish balance in the conventional forces.

It’s very important I think.

CSM: Is your view that those F-16s were in fact not repaid? Because there are those in the US government who say that that was actually repaid when they were not delivered.

Musharraf: They were repaid after I don’t know how many years and if I told you the whole story I don’t know if you’d believe it.

CSM: Paid in soybeans?

Musharraf: Yes, and wheat – and in the most expensive manner. The soybean that we got was much more expensive than we could have gotten from Malaysia, and elsewhere. The transportation cost was maybe double the cost that we were saying that we will take it ourselves.

In fact, there was a time when – you won’t believe it – but the F-16s that were ours, we were told that ‘you’ll have to pay demerit charges for them’ – parking fees for these F-16s. Why are you demanding parking fees from Pakistan? We are asking you for the F-16s!

This is one of the issues which every man in the street in Pakistan knows. Really, and I have said this here, that every man in the street knows that we have been partners of the United States, we have fought a war for ten years against the Soviet Union. And let me tell you that I have seen an inscription of the Berlin Wall in one of our ex-intelligence boss’s house. This was presented from the German head of intelligence. The caption reads: ‘To the one who struck the first blow.’ Now, the first blow of the collapse of the Berlin Wall was struck in Afghanistan, and Pakistan was there.

So, the people of Pakistan say: ‘For ten years we have done that.’ And our F-16s–because every Pakistani is extremely sensitive to our relations with India and Kashmir. Now anyone who is denting that is a serious issue frankly. And I’ve said this, that this is a very sensitive issue, this F-16 issue. Which, if ever you talk to a man in the street, he’ll tell you, ‘F-16? Yes, our F-16s. We need to be given our F-16s,’ so that is the reality.

CSM: President Bush says he is very tight with you. What is his reaction when you bring that up?

Musharraf: Well, there are certain constraints. I won’t get into an argument and discussion on that. Yes, I do want to understand the constraints. But all that I would like to say, because I am seeing it from the Pakistani point of view entirely, from my point of view, there may be some procedural and political constraints here.

But one needs to address this issue, especially in view of all that India is doing – the one-sided activity in the conventional side that India has undertaken – one needs to have a review of the constraints. It’s important I think. I will maybe tell him again when I meet him.

Monitor editor Paul Van Slambrouck: President Musharraf, you have been extremely patient with your time, and I want to respect you have other engagements today. I think I can speak on behalf of all of us at the Christian Science Monitor in saying ‘Thank you.’ You present a very articulate, candid conversation; it’s been a delight to have you here. And before you leave, publisher John Selover would like to present you with this small gift to remember the event by.

John Selover: We have high hopes for this time. We are very grateful to you to be with us. This represents our hopes for your country. And we will look forward to reporting on it. I also hope you will find this time with us, in a time of stress, some sense of refreshment for the care we found here. We are very deeply touched by your being here with us.

Musharraf: Thank you so very much.

John Selover: For the future of your country, sir.

Musharraf: Thank you. Thank you. May I have the opportunity – may I reciprocate: I think we’ve really had a most relaxed interaction. I’m extremely grateful to you for all the questions that you asked. They were extremely penetrating, and I think I, we, got an opportunity to explain what our point of view is very frankly. When your point of view is based on reality and truth, one doesn’t mind any kind of questions. Let me say that whatever we are doing, whatever my government is doing, and whatever I am doing is based on truth and is based on Pakistan’s interest and therefore I am very freely accessible to everyone, and I welcome any questions. I remain grateful to you for all the questions that you asked and having given me this opportunity to clarify Pakistan’s position in a very candid manner. Thank you very much for being here. Thank you very much for having hosted such a wonderful lunch, also. Thank you very much!



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