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.
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
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
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
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.
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.
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.
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
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
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
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.