Posted by: Administrator | 2 April, 2007

President at Chatham House

Monday 15 February 2010     Original Text: Interview General Musharraf



Listen to Q&A session

Bismallah Ar Rehman Ar Rahim

 Thank you very much, ladies and gentlemen. It is indeed a pleasure for me and, may I say, even a unique privilege to be speaking to such an august gathering and also at an institute which enjoys a very prestigious reputation. Thank you very much for being here and for giving me this opportunity to interact with you.I am going to speak to you on the challenges confronting Pakistan. If I was to encapsulate in the briefest manner the present situation in Pakistan, I would like to say that it is the most happening place in the world, where there is never a dull moment. With this, ladies and gentlemen, may I add after this that until 1989 the world’s geostrategic focus was Euro-centric – because of the Cold War, because of East-West confrontation, NATO-Warsaw Pact, the Berlin Wall, the reunification of Germany, etc. But after 1989 – or rather, after 9/11 – the geostrategic focus shifted to South Asia and West Asia, for reasons that you all know. That is the happening place now. Therefore I would like to deduce that while in 1989 the area of South Asia could be abandoned because of the geostrategic focus being Euro-centric, now when everything is happening in that area it is not possible to abandon the place. Therefore I would like to say that quitting or leaving the place is not an option. I will get into the details a little later. I think it will spell international and regional disaster, and I will come to that later also.

Ladies and gentlemen, I am going to speak for half an hour and I am going to cover basically terrorism and extremism, because that is the major challenge.



Then I would like to very briefly get involved in India-Pakistan relations and also Pakistan-Afghanistan relations, very briefly. Having said that, without much ado, let me get on to terrorism and extremism. In order to understand the genesis, may I put it like this, it is very important that we highlight some key events that took place after 1979. Firstly, between 1979 and 1989, two very important happenings took place. One, in 1979, when the Soviets came into Afghanistan, they deposed the king. With that, an arrangement called  misak-i milli   in Afghanistan – it translates into a national covenant, a national arrangement, under which Afghanistan existed for centuries as a unified country, as an integrated country. All the ethnic groups (the major ethnic groups being Pashtuns, Tajiks, Uzbeks, Hazaras – the majority being Pashtun, 50 per cent of them) agreed to stay together under the sovereignty of the king. This  misak-i milli   

got torn and was destroyed when the king was deposed. That glue which held them together was no more. That is what happened in 1979 when the king was deposed. Second, between 1979 and 1989, when we were fighting a war against the

Soviets – the free world was, and Pakistan happened to be in the lead role –

the elites of Afghanistan abandoned Afghanistan. They all came into the

United States and Europe. Therefore the jihad, as they say in Afghanistan,

was spearheaded by religious militant groups and the elites were not there.

These are the two points I want to make.

Then I would like to highlight that after 1989 there were three blunders that

were made. I want to pinpoint each of these three because they are very

important to understand what happened subsequently and now.

Number one, in 1989, having defeated the Soviet Union, the place was

abandoned. Pakistan and Afghanistan were left alone. The worst part of this

was – other than warlordism and the tribes in Afghanistan playing mayhem

and ravaging the country – about 25,000-30,000 mujahidin who we had

brought into Afghanistan (when I say we – the West and Pakistan in the lead

role) were all holed up there, armed to the teeth and knowing nothing other

than fighting. They were holed up there with no resettlement, no rehabilitation

of 25,000 fighters. They coalesced into Al Qaeda. That is what happened

between 1989 and 2001, because the area was abandoned. First big blunder.

Secondly, the Taliban came into being in 1995-96. Pakistan was one of the

three countries that recognised them but the only country which opened a

mission there. It was always reprimanded for doing that, so much so that in

March 2000, when I was in charge, President Bill Clinton came and asked me

why we are dealing with the Taliban. I always said that I proposed a different

Transcript: Pervez Musharraf 4

strategy – we should all recognise the Taliban. You should recognise the

Taliban and open your missions there so that we can manage them from

within. I think that was the second blunder, that we did not do that. As a

result, we pushed the Taliban against the wall and we had no way of

managing their attitudes and responses. That was the second blunder, I think.

The third blunder which had very serious repercussions, even now, was after

9/11. The opposing groups in Afghanistan, with the Taliban on one side (who

were all Pashtuns) were on the other side opposed by the Northern Alliance

(consisting of Uzbek, Tajik, Hazaras, the minorities). When the United States

operation started in Afghanistan, the Taliban were defeated with the

assistance of the Northern Alliance. Having done that, I always said there is a

requirement of a change of strategy now, or policy change: do not treat all

Pashtuns as Taliban. I coined this term: all Taliban are Pashtuns but all

Pashtuns are not Taliban. Therefore let’s reach out, because they are the

majority and historically it has always been the Pashtuns ruling Afghanistan.

We cannot ignore them or alienate them. Let’s reach out to them. That was

the third major blunder, the repercussions of which even now we are facing.

Even now the Pashtuns have been alienated and the government in

Afghanistan is mainly dominated by Panjshiris, Tajiks. Pashtuns are totally

alienated. Therefore for these eight years they have been pushed toward the


I would like to talk very briefly of the events following 9/11. Ladies and

gentlemen, after 9/11 Al Qaeda and the Taliban were totally in disarray. They

ran into the mountains and cities of Pakistan. We operated against them and

may I say that in the initial stages it was the Al Qaeda who were in the

dominant role, the Taliban having been totally dispersed. We acted against Al

Qaeda very strongly in the cities of Pakistan and in the mountains, in South

Waziristan and North Waziristan especially. They went down and they now

exist in smaller numbers – much smaller numbers. They used to be in the

hundreds in the past in the mountains.

But while at that time the Taliban were dispersed and, as I said, we could

have reached out to the Pashtuns and taken them on board, taken them and

weaned them away from the Taliban and had a legitimate government in

Afghanistan with a Pashtun majority playing their role, that was not to be.

Gradually therefore the Taliban started resurfacing. There was a resurgence

of Taliban from 2003-04 onwards. If you look back, the resurgence of that

same destroyed Taliban started in Afghanistan, with support from Pakistan.

The more alienation of the Pashtuns, the more their linkages with the

Transcript: Pervez Musharraf 5

Pakistani Taliban in the tribal agencies of Pakistan and Afghanistan. They

started resurfacing.

This was a result, I would like to repeat, of the third blunder that we

committed, of treating all Pashtuns as Taliban and the enemy.

When we talk of political approach, now that we are going towards Taliban

and trying to look at moderate Taliban, I would like to submit that while at that

time we would have done the same thing from a position of strength, now we

are doing it from a position of weakness. I would like to comment on this later.

In any case, I do not understand what is ‘moderate’ Taliban and Taliban. I do

understand there are Pashtuns who are not ideologically aligned with Taliban

and there are Taliban.

Coming to the present, the situation has increased in its complexity, again

encapsulating what I see as the situation. In Afghanistan the Taliban are

ruling the roost, as they say. Al Qaeda is there in smaller numbers, in our

mountains in Pakistan, in South and North Waziristan particularly.

In Pakistan we have four threats. One, a threat from Al Qaeda, in smaller

numbers but they are there. Number two, the Taliban – the Pakistani Taliban,

especially in South and North Waziristan and Bajur Agency, three of the

seven tribal agencies of Pakistan. Thirdly, Talibanisation – I call this the third

threat, which is the spread of Taliban thinking, their obscurantist views of

Islam, trying to spread that into the settled districts of the Frontier Province.

The fourth threat that Pakistan faces is extremism in our society. Within

certain areas of Pakistan, extremism is spreading. This is the fourth threat

that Pakistan has to confront.

The other element that I see of the situation – the complexity, as I said – is

the mujahidin activity and involvement in Kashmir, the much-maligned names

of Lashkar-e-Taiba, Jaish-e-Mohammed and Hizbul Mujahideen (LeT, JM,

HM – you don’t have to remember the names). They are the ones who are

rising again. They are there because of non-settlement of the Kashmir


Then, may I venture to say, in India extremism within the Muslim youth is

increasing. I know there are many Indians sitting here. We must be prepared

to face facts if we are to address them holistically. Otherwise we will relieve

one portion, and I will come to the implications later. There is extremism

spreading in the Muslim youth, because of a sense of alienation or whatever

the reason. It is spreading and therefore organisations like SIMI (Students

Islamic Movement of India) is gaining in strength. We know what kind of

activities have gone on.

Transcript: Pervez Musharraf 6

All this, as I said, with Afghanistan, Pakistan, Kashmir, India, the biggest

issue is they are developing linkages. Extremism in India, Kashmir, Pakistan

Taliban, Al Qaeda, Afghan Taliban – they are developing linkages. Therefore

the task involved is isolating them and dealing with them with full


How to deal with them is the question. We always tend to talk of problems

and we don’t have solutions. But we must have solutions.

Firstly, we must win. Failure or quitting is not an option. Therefore, may I

venture to add in this august gathering, casualties have to be sustained.

When we talk of quitting – and a lot of people ask me, when should we quit? –

it cannot be time-related. It is effect-related. What effects do we want to

create in Afghanistan, in the border areas of Pakistan and in Pakistan? Then

only can we quit, whether it takes one year or ten years. That is how I look at

everything there. We must follow a three-pronged strategy: military, political,


What do we have to do in Afghanistan, Pakistan and India? Very briefly, the

effect in Afghanistan: we have to defeat Al Qaeda; we have to dominate the

Taliban; and we have to install a legitimate government in Afghanistan. I do

understand it is easier said than done, but this is the basic effect that we

ultimately want to create. We can do it – it is doable. But it is doable when we

speak from strength, not from weakness. Not from a position where everyone

says that we should quit and we should be leaving in one year or two years –

we are playing into the hands of the enemy. We strengthen their views and

resolve. We are showing lack of resolve and lack of commitment.

As I said, we have to speak and go on the political track from a position of

strength in Afghanistan. How do we achieve that strength? We have sent

30,000 more American troops, there is an operation going on – very good.

But when we are talking about running away and going after two years and all

that, it is very easy – the Taliban ought to say to their commander, we take all

the places, don’t offer any resistance, they are going to leave in two years. So

I think that is not the way to go around. We must show resolve and strength.

We must increase strength and saturate the area with strength.

How can we do that? I think there is a dire requirement of additional Afghan

National Army and we must be conscious of their ethnic orientation. We

recruited about 70,000-80,000 army in Afghanistan; they are all Tajiks. How

can we do with such blunders? The majority in Afghanistan is Pashtun.

Therefore we must increase the strength of the Afghan National Army.

Transcript: Pervez Musharraf 7

But more than that, we ought to look at the Pashtun population. It is a tribal

structure there – I don’t want to get involved in that. The Taliban is not a

monolith. It is not one person commanding and controlling everything. They

are different, they are divided into various groups. We need to look at the

Pashtun population and see who within this tribal structure, which tribes do

not have an ideological orientation with the Taliban. Historically, let me tell

you, the clerics in Afghanistan never enjoyed a position of authority in the

tribal hierarchy in Afghanistan. So we need to identify those tribes, arm them

and create lashkars. They are used to these lashkars, creating lashkars. That

will reinforce strength.

But a word of warning: when we go there and do all this, we must give them

the hope and strength that we are there to stay behind them and support

them, not that we will be leaving in two years and will leave you in the lurch.

Therefore while we are doing all this, creating lashkars and the Afghan

National Army, we ought to be telling them: we are with you here to the end.

We will create these effects and then only will we go. That is the way to

strengthen Afghanistan, I think.

In Pakistan, whatever the army is doing, it is doing very well. We need to

continue operations in the tribal agencies and keep the pressure on against Al

Qaeda and the Taliban. We must have political deals. Unfortunately back in

2003, after 9/11, when I was going on the political path and having deals with

the Pashtuns, weaning them away from Taliban, there were all the

misperceptions of me double-crossing or double-dealing with everyone in the

West – whereas now they are doing exactly what I was doing in 2003, dealing

with the senior Pashtun elements. That is what has to be done to wean them

away from the Taliban. So we have to go for deals, weaning away the saner

elements of the Pashtun from the Taliban while the military pressure is on.

With that, with the military, we should have more Frontier Corps, give them

more tanks and guns. I won’t go into those details.

Then in India, may I say that India must solve Kashmir; India must stop the

Muslim alienation within itself. It knows answers themselves, I am not here to

teach them that.

But one thing is very important: they must stop interference in Pakistan

through Afghanistan. With all information and knowledge, I know that that is

happening. Therefore in Afghanistan, which is allowing an influence of India

to the detriment of Pakistan, creating disharmony in the whole relationship,

whole action against terrorism – this must stop.

Transcript: Pervez Musharraf 8

To conclude on terrorism and extremism, may I say that we must remember

the implications of quitting. I have spoken of linkages in the region but there is

a bigger linkage now that we are hearing of: a term called AQIM (Al Qaeda in

the Islamic Maghreb), around Algeria and Mali, etc. We are talking of AQAP

(Al Qaeda in the Arab Peninsula), centred around Somalia and Yemen. Then

we know what is happening in Uzbekistan. There is the ETIM (East Turkestan

Islamic Movement) in the western regions of China. Ladies and gentlemen,

the centre of gravity of all this is Afghanistan and the border regions of

Pakistan. You want to defeat all of it? Defeat the centre of gravity. That is

what I have learned in the military. If you leave the centre of gravity, you will

lose everywhere. That is how I understand it from the military point of view

purely. Therefore quitting, leaving the place, is not an option.

Let me come to India-Pakistan relations. I am going to be very brief. I would

like any questions on that. Let me encapsulate: the relations between India

and Pakistan have almost always, except for a portion of my tenure, been

tense, confrontational, conspiratorial. ISI and RAW have always been

opposing each other, doing a lot of damage to each other. I am not going into

the history. Therefore whatever has happened in the past, various incidents,

cannot be taken in isolation. It is a whole gambit of relationship between India

and Pakistan and the relationship between RAW and ISI. They have been

confronting each other in their countries. I will leave it at that.

This must stop. It must stop because of international concerns that this is a

nuclear flashpoint. It must stop because of regional concerns that SAARC is

impotent because of the Indo-Pakistan confrontation. One of the SAARC

leaders once told me that when two elephants fight, the grass gets trampled.

At that time we were having a lot of rapprochement and I said if the two

elephants start making love then the grass will be more trampled maybe. So

for the regional benefit of SAARC we need to go for rapprochement. Lastly,

for our bilateral advantages and benefits – there is so much to gain and there

is so much we are losing by this confrontation.

So for the sake of the world, for the sake of the region, for the sake of bilateral

gains, we must have peace between India and Pakistan. I am a believer in

that peace. I have been calling myself a man of war because yes, indeed, I

am a soldier and I have fought wars and actions against India. But I am a




for peace – I may be a man of  

war – because I have seen the ravages ofwar, like nobody has seen. Therefore I believe in peace.

The three disputes involving India and Pakistan are the Kashmir dispute,

which is the most difficult to solve – but we were close to solving even that

Transcript: Pervez Musharraf 9

with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. May I compliment Prime Minister Singh

for his vision and his flexibility, for his sincerity. The other two disputes are

Siachin and Sir Creek. They can be resolved tomorrow, because everything

on Siachin has been done – we have had umpteen number of discussions

and we know the solution is clear. It needs a leadership decision. Sir Creek,

the survey of Sir Creek and the area extending into the EEZ has all been

done by the two navies together in my time. Therefore it needs a leadership

decision to sign and agree to.

Therefore we must resolve these three disputes. The easier ones could be

done first and then we could go on to the more difficult Kashmir. But the three

qualities that are needed in the leadership on both sides – and I would like to

share that with you – if you have to reach an agreement on anything, there

are three qualities required in the leaders. Number one is sincerity, being

sincere to solving the problem and reaching an agreement. Sincerity in your

heart that you want to do it. Secondly is flexibility, coming with an open mind

and not coming with fixed ideas of your own solutions. In fact, coming and

leaving your own stated positions and solutions aside and coming with an

open mind to accept any new ideas from the other side. Lastly, the most

important, boldness. Boldness is required because the solution, when you are

talking of sincerity and flexibility, implies that there will be a give and take. It

cannot be a take and take. So when you are talking of give, that is where

boldness is required. You have to sell that give part back in your country and

there will always be some elements – extremists, those who are against –

who are going to agitate. The leader has to be bold enough that the majority

will accept that solution and therefore be bold enough to face the agitation

back in his country. That is the only way you can come up with solutions

where there is a give and take involved. Otherwise, you will never reach a


Pakistan nuclear – I will skip it, if anyone wants to ask questions. There exists

a nuclear flashpoint and Pakistan and India are nuclear states. We became

nuclear because we have an existential threat. That is what we think.

Therefore we became nuclear. But how we are handling our nuclear potential

– we have custodial controls and if anyone asks a question I will answer.

The last part is Pakistan-Afghanistan relations. They were bad in my time.

They may be better now. But inside, they are not good. They were bad

because I thought – and I still believe – in 2003-2005, Afghanistan was

bluffing the world: that the Taliban are in Pakistan. The Taliban are all in

Afghanistan, I used to say that. They have support from Pakistan, they were

hiding in Pakistan, but the resurgence happened in Afghanistan with support

from the Pakistan side. Pakistani Taliban gradually started when all the

Pashtuns of Afghanistan kept getting alienated, as I said, with the third

blunder. So Afghanistan was all the time portraying to the world that we have

to get hold of Pakistan, everything is coming from there. No, it was not

coming from there. It was within themselves that the Taliban were rising and

that is what it is. The whole south of Afghanistan is under Taliban domination.

Secondly, again, unfortunately India-Pakistan relations. We ought not to be

using Afghanistan as an area from where we can do harm to each other.

Frankly, that is what is happening. The West, the United States and Britain,

everyone should be conscious of this: that Pakistan has a sensitivity, it cannot

allow Pakistan’s interests being hurt internally through Afghanistan by

anyone. This is an irritant and it creates disharmony in the operations against

Taliban, the focused operation against the Taliban and Al Qaeda. It must be


That is all that I have to say. Ladies and gentlemen, thank you very much.




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