Posted by: Administrator | 3 May, 2007

An Interview to Global Leaders

Pakistani President General Pervez Musharraf discusses such topics as the whereabouts of Osama Bin Laden, U.S. policy in the region, relations with India and his special ties with Turkey.

26 April 2006

Ipek Cem: Our guest tonight is General Pervez Musharraf, President of Pakistan. Thank you for joining us, this evening,

Pervez Musharraf: My pleasure.

Ipek Cem: Mr President. Since the War on Terror took root after September 2001, Pakistan has been at the forefront of this war. It has worked towards eliminating terrorism, but it has also been accused of harbouring terrorism, or having terrorist elements with in its borders. And I know a great deal is being done about it. But from your perspective, how much progress has been accomplished and what can we look forward to in the next year or so?

Pervez Musharraf: Well it’s just unfortunate that while we are doing the maximum to fight terrorism, there are such accusations and finger-pointing at Pakistan. That is most unfortunate. We have achieved a lot. We are the only country, which has strategised how to fight terrorism, and extremism, as two separate issues altogether. Now as far as fighting terrorism is concerned, we are fighting it militarily with all the force. We first confronted them in our cities, and we have almost eliminated al-Qaeda from our cities. We are now in the mountains, and we are operating against them in the mountains. And there we are also meeting a great amount of success. We have captured all their sanctuaries in the mountains, but what has happened now very clearly is that there is a gradual shift from al-Qaeda to Taleban, and there is an issue of Talebanisation, which is affecting the Afghan side as well as this border area of ours. That is what we are trying to arrest now. Many of these is extremism, this is Talebanisation, is Talebanised views. It’s a mind-set where people have different views, extremist views of religion. So you have to address that is a different manner, and terrorism in a different manner. So in the last year, I would like to say that we are meeting successes through a wholesome strategy of dealing with Talebanisation as well as al-Qaeda in the mountains.

 

Ipek Cem: How much of a co-ordinated effort do you feel that  the terrorist acts are. Do you feel they’re really off of one master-mind and a kind of organised structure? Making plans? Or more dispersed? Or different in different areas?

Pervez Musharraf: No, I think there is a structure. There is a structure where people are operating. It may not be so very well organised that only one or two people are giving them all the orders. But it is fairly, I think it is fairly well organised. They even have inter-linkages internationally, with what is happening with terrorist organisations which are underground. They have linkages with them. They have financial linkages with them also. Therefore it is reasonably well articulated and organised. But when we operate against them and they disperse in the mountains, they may not be in contact with each other so much that they are under common command and control. But I would say that it is a mix of both. It has an organisation, but at the same time, they operate in quite a de-centralised manner.

Ipek Cem: Do you think that Osama Bin Laden is still alive and operating in, within these borders?

Pervez Musharraf: He is quite surely, now I wouldn’t be very sure about Osama Bin Laden being alive. Zawahiri, he is alive, Molla Omar is alive. Osama Bin Laden, I am not very sure. We were almost certain, at one stage, that maybe he is not alive, so I wouldn’t be able to say that. Now where they are Molla Omar is certainly in Afghanistan, Zawahri, and Osama Bin Laden, if they are alive, they could be anywhere on the border area, either on Afghan side, or  the Pakistan side, or they could be shifting to either side, in accordance with whatever operations are going on either side.

Ipek Cem: How much co-ordination is there between Afghanistan and Pakistan, as there has been some finger-pointing in the past several months, especially, and also with US operations in Pakistan? Is there enough co-ordination in you opinion?

Pervez Musharraf: Yes, there is total co-ordination between US forces, ISAF, the International Security Assistant Force, and now NATO are coming in, and Pakistan forces. There is co-ordination at the strategic level, there is co-ordination at the tactical level, there is very good co-ordination at the Intelligence level. Sharing of Intelligence. So that co-ordination is there, but when you asking about Afghan forces are embryonic in form at the moment, and we are trying to establish relationships with them. But I would say with them there is fair amount of co-ordination, but this co-ordination takes place more through the American Forces, and ISAF Forces, operating on the borders. The latest incidents of unfortunate finger pointing, that started with Afghanistan accusing Pakistan of conniving with the extremists and terrorists: Taleban and al-Qaeda – which we don’t like at all. We don’t tolerate such things, especially when Pakistan is doing so much, we don’t accept such accusations at all. And these accusations come, unfortunately, when we know that there are some anti-Pakistan elements operating there which are fanning such feelings, anti-Pakistan feelings there.

Ipek Cem: Your country endured a major devastation, the earthquake, and I know that over seventy thousand people have been killed during this earthquake. I wanted to ask – I’ve been reading about it, I’ve been seeing some pictures – what is the level of progress on that front?

Pervez Musharraf: It’s going very well, and I would like to express my gratitude, to Turkey. First of for all the assistance, the spontaneous assistance, that the Prime Minister, the Government, the people of Turkey, especially. We are touched by the sentiments and the emotions of every individual Turk who contributed money, who collected money for the earthquake. This was the real brother, brotherly relation that I keep saying we have between the people. So we are very touched and we are extremely grateful. Well now, with all the progress we have made, where do we stand? We have dealt with rescue and relief operation. We have made sure that there was no famine, there was no epidemics, and nobody died of winter – the snows. Now what we have to do is to, we have entered the reconstruction stage; reconstruction and rehabilitation. That is what we are doing, and this reconstruction and rehabilitation means reconstruction of houses, reconstruction of educational facilities, health facilities and government structures. And rehabilitation of destitute, women, orphans, and all who are physically disabled. This is what we are into now. This is a long-drawn affair, but we have strategised it, we have an organisation in place, we have the funds which have been pledged to us by the international community, including Turkey, and now we are executing it.

Ipek Cem: So are you happy with the level of international support that you have received?

Pervez Musharraf: I am very happy. I think that the international community really came to our rescue, and when we called the donors’ conference, first of all they came to our rescue the relief operation and rescue operation. In the rescue, the Turkish team also came, again we are very touched by that, because we didn’t have the expertise. In the relief operation, all the international community came in to donate food and water, medical assistance, hospitals, medicines, and then shelters to cater for the winters. So the international community came up very well. And then we held the donor’s conference, where we evaluated the total cost of the damage, it came to about $.2 billion. In the donors’ conference, there were about eighty countries represented, and the world community very generously donated and we have been pledged $6.5 billion. So I think the world community really came up very well, and I am extremely grateful to the UN organisations, the entire world community, NGO’s and of course the Pakistani community and the Pakistan Army.

Ipek Cem: In March there was an important visit by President Bush to the region, including India and Pakistan. And a lot was said about the trip – before and after the trip. One of the outcomes of the trip was that India and the US – even though it didn’t pass Congress yet – are allying themselves further and the Indian nuclear programme is allowed to continue, whereas a similar approach to Pakistan was not established. So there was criticism, and there was internal criticism about Pakistan and the US maybe allying themselves too much; so criticism from all sides. What is your view, not just about the trip, but about U.S. policy in your region, and in particular U.S.-Pakistani relations.

Pervez Musharraf: This is, has to be seen in its overall context of  geo-strategic realities and national interests. Geo-strategically and United States’ own interests have certain orientation, and in that orientation India fits well with them. As far as we are concerned, we do not have that orientation. So therefore we have no commonality as far as that geo-strategic orientation of the United States is concerned.

Ipek Cem: By orientation, what exactly do you mean?

Pervez Musharraf: Their focus… The threat that they see…

Ipek Cem: From China.

Pervez Musharraf: They are… Yes. They are… Their focus is on China. We have excellent relations with China. China is our friend. China assists us economically. China… we have been partners in defence production.

Ipek Cem: Yes.

Pervez Musharraf: So therefore our relationship with China is very different to any other relationships. So from that point of view, we cannot be together on this issue. As far as the nuclear part is concerned, yes, they have… they are not… not that they are denying our… we are a nuclear state, and we are also proceeding further – we are developing our nuclear capability, we are further refining it, we are developing our missile capability and further developing it. So nobody is telling us to stop. The only thing is, that maybe with India, they have given a partial recognition, not an official recognition at all, but by implication the agreement that they have reached with them implies that they have almost accepted them as a nuclear state, which is not the case with Pakistan. That is the slight difference. Although they know that we are a nuclear state, and we are… we have declared ourselves Nuclear. That is the difference. I see, as I said, as far as Pakistan is concerned, our interests are very different, and we see what our interests are vis-à-vis the United States. We develop our relation with the United States, based on our interests, and their interests in us. They develop relations with India based on India’s interests and their interests together. I don’t think Pakistan should at all look at what India and US relations; they can be having any relations. We are watching our interests; our interests are very different.

Ipek Cem: To the extent that Kashmir continues to be an important problem between India and Pakistan, it’s you know a lot of, maybe some progress has been made about the approach to the issue and you have met with the Indian leader and there is talk about “soft borders” and there are different agendas on the ground. However, this is still and important problem and an unresolved dispute between the two countries. In that context, because when two countries don’t come eye to eye on a topic, then one is, if one is developing nuclear capabilities, as you said you are also, but it creates more need to build up arms, perhaps for security, for prevention. In that, in that aspect, isn’t the US, in their rapprochement affecting your policies?

Pervez Musharraf: Well, yes, it do lead to an extent, to a degree, an arms race, but Pakistan is not into an arms race. Pakistan believes in a strategy of defensive deterrence. We maintain our force levels at that level. And that deterrence, in this present day technological development, is very different to the old level of deterrence. In olden times we had to match force with force, in a certain proportion and ratio. Now because of the lethality of weapons, accuracy of weapons, which we have, that level of force to force may not be there because we know what our capabilities are and our enemies also know what our capabilities are. Therefore we are very comfortable, our deterrence level will be maintained, we will keep watching what the threat to Pakistan is, and we will maintain our deterrence level, with the minimum of cost to the nation in maintaining our military. That deterrence level will be maintained.

Ipek Cem: What is your ideal case scenario, or timetable, for moving forward in the resolution of Kashmiri issue, and building better relations with India?

Pervez Musharraf: We don’t have a timetable, really, but I personally feel we should move faster than what we are doing. I believe that we are moving on two tracks. One is the confidence building measure; the other is conflict resolution. So on the CBM, the Confidence Building Measure, we are moving quite well. But I’ve always said, they have to move in tandem together. On the conflict resolution we are not moving forward too well, and we need to speed that up. There is no time frame and Pakistan is not fully satisfied with the base of progress on the Kashmir dispute, especially. We have to move forward on the Kashmir dispute and resolve it, if we want to have final peace between India and Pakistan.

Ipek Cem: In the West, Pakistan is often criticised for its democratic record, saying that the President is both the head of the army and also the President, and you know all the criticism that goes around, and there is a process in Pakistan moving forward process, and in 2007 elections are expected. What is your own analysis of how Pakistan is moving towards democracy?

Pervez Musharraf: Pakistan is moving towards democracy much faster, and genuine democracy which has never existed in Pakistan in the past. Unfortunately, when we talk of the military, every country has it’s own environment… Turkey has its own environment, Turkey has a National Security Council… Turkey has a role of military… that is in accordance with Turkish surrounding, and your own environment, which is very suitable to you. We have our own environment here. We have to evolve something that is suitable to our environment. We cannot run a system that is suitable to some Western environment. They have a different environment. Democracy has to be seen in its essence. What is democracy? And that is what I keep asking whoever asks me this question.

Ipek Cem: Yes, I’ve read…

Pervez Musharraf: Democracy number one is freedom of speech expression, freedom of thought. This is democracy, and this was never there in Pakistan. It is really I who initiated the openness of the electronic and print media. They are totally open. I opened it out, and there are dozens of channels now operating; and opposition is free to talk. So that is there. The other part of democracy is empowerment of the people. Their right to vote; select their own leaders through vote. That has never… there were no democracy at the grass root level in Pakistan. We have introduced the local government system, where people elect their own representatives who are then responsible for the development and upkeep of their own area, and of their districts. We have done that. So that is democracy. And the right to vote we have given to the people. That used to be there, but it is there now: at three tiers… from the top, to the bottom: to the grass root level and at district level.  Then democracy means the empowerment of the people – other than the empowerment of the people that we have done through local government, empowerment of the women, empowerment of the minorities. This was never there in the past. My women were not empowered. We have given them political empowerment, now. So this is democracy. And then democracy of course, means adherence to the Constitution; running of the assemblies. That is happening, for the first time, assemblies are completing their tenure, and the Senate, the local governments, that we formed, completed four years, in an effective manner. There were re-election, and new leaders have come up. Senate, 50% had to go, re-elections were held in a very organised manner. It has been done. National Assemblies, for the first time, are going to complete their five years, and there will be National Assembly elections next year. So, the whole process is running very well. Functioning very well. As far as myself, now, coming to the last point, which unfortunately, every one sees one thing, and then they write away all the actual essence of democracy, just because I happen to be in uniform. But I am in uniform because two-third of the majority of the Parliament asked me, and authorised me to be in uniform as the President. Isn’t that democracy? So I am in this position through a democratic process of two-third of the Parliament allowing me to be… So, therefore, my being in this position, in uniform, is in accordance with the Constitution of Pakistan, and through a democratic process. So therefore there should be no problem with anybody in the West to be challenging the democracy in Pakistan.

Ipek Cem: What is your prediction for the elections coming up, and the period after that, because we know that Pakistan is developing very well economically, you know there has been progress on some fronts, but still it is a fragile country in some aspects and there is the terrorism element. What is your prediction for say the end of the 2000s, and into the 2010s?

Pervez Musharraf: Well, my prediction is that Pakistan will keep moving in the right direction. And yes, there is a problem of extremism and terrorism which we are dealing. There are some internal issues, which we need to resolve, like the water issue, like the problem in Balochistan, the tribals in Balochistan, some of them… which we are controlling, and I am very sure we will control them. There is the issue of extremism and terrorism will continue. We will manage it. We are managing it. And I think as far as Pakistan is concerned we will certainly be moving towards better. So this is my belief, and the economy of Pakistan will remain on an upsurge. I am very confident and these abrasions that I would call them, will not affect the progress and development of Pakistan. And the political process will also ensure that. I am very sure that progressive forces will be elected in 2007, and the same political system will continue.

Ipek Cem: You are in a very competitive region in terms of economy, and producing for the world. You have India, you have China. And I know that Pakistan has quickened its privatisation pace and it’s seeking more foreign investment, especially with the new Prime Minister, and I was wondering, how do you feel you can make Pakistan a little bit more competitive, a little bit more in line with world needs, in terms of producing and exporting services and products?

Pervez Musharraf: We are doing all that. We have a complete strategy of revitalising our economy, our commerce, our trade… and we are executing that strategy. Basically it is based on a system of deregulation, privatisation, liberalisation, and we are going very strongly on that. We have evolved a system which is investor-friendly. We are looking at diversification of our markets, for our exports, diversification of our goods for exports, and we are meeting a lot of success. On the exports, our exports from ’99, 2000 to 2005, in these five years have grown by about 125 – 130  per cent. From about 8 billion to about 18 billion dollars. Our FDI, the foreign investment in Pakistan, has grown by over 500%, and we are going to double it this year, I think. So we are going very well on the economic side, on the commerce, and trade side, through a very focused strategy.  And I know that this will carry on happening. And if we carry on on this policy, I am very sure that we’ll be competing very strongly in our economic growth, with India, or anybody, in the region. Our GDP growth is only second to China in the world today- 8.4%. I am sure we will maintain over 7% growth. This is high level of growth, and since we have a much smaller population than India, I think we should be faring very well economically.

Ipek Cem: You talked about different markets, and different products, services that you are going into. Are there some examples of new markets, or new services, products you are focusing on as Pakistan?

Pervez Musharraf: Well, we are looking at, as far as the economic growth is concerned, we have succeeded… major successes are in the telecommunications and information technology. This is our major success. We had only 600,000 mobile telephones. Three years back, just three years back. 600,000 – not even one million. Today there are 27 million. This is in three years. This is the achievement of telecommunication. So, also information technology. And then we have… there is a boom going on in the building and construction industry in Pakistan. In the energy sector, we are looking at the energy sector. Exploration: oil and gas exploration sector is seeing an upsurge. So then it is the… as far as exports are concerned now, we are looking at shifting our entire strategy from textile and agriculture to industry. To the heavy industry and engineering sectors. And in that, there is the industrial growth in Pakistan is all in double figures. Two years back we had 18%… 18.2% industrial growth. Last year it was 14.6%. This year, again, it will be major… And here there are elements like automobiles, auto-parts, motorcycles, tractors, air-conditioners, refrigerators, televisions… These are the areas where there is a big upsurge in the industry, and we will carry this forward on this gradual shift from textiles to industry. That is the future which we need to take, because we have realised the textile is only 6% of world trade. Engineerin sector, heavy industry, is 61% of world trade. So we were in the wrong place. We are shifting gradually. It will take some time, but our strategy is there, and I know we will shift and we’ll gain.

Ipek Cem: We know that Turkey and Pakistan have been great friends over many years, and we see a deepening of relationship also on the trade side. I was will our ambassador, Kemal Gür, yesterday and he gave me a figure of about 2 billion dollars of trade between the two countries which is many levels up from even four years back. How are the relationships with Turkey progressing, in your opinion?

Pervez Musharraf: Very good. Excellent. I keep saying that our political and diplomatic relations are excellent. The people love each other, and that is the main thing. It goes, so therefore the relationship goes far beyond Governments and leaders. Leaders can come and go, Governments can come and go, but because the people love each other, this relationship is very very strong. But unfortunately this was not translated into economic and commercial relations in the past… And I always have been saying that we have to translate this, or cement this tool… And, well, we are progressing, but we need to…we are also trying to look at the defense side, frankly. This is an area where we have large armies, large military in both the country… And we are dependant on a lot of purchases and imports from other countries. I feel that there is a tremendous amount of consonance in this, and there is a lot to gain financially by both countries cooperating in this… because we are fleeced by, whenever we import. If we were to join in defence production there will be a tremendous gain, mutual gain, because the market will increase with Turkish and Pakistani forces. So, I am looking forward to enhancement in the defence production side also between Turkey and Pakistan.

Ipek Cem: We know that you have, you yourself, have a special link to Turkey, as you were living in Turkey during your father’s posting in Ankara, when you were a child, and you speak the language, and people know you are fond of Beşiktaş, and you like Turkish music. How do you keep this link going? Do you have any time to keep this link going?

Pervez Musharraf: Well, I meet Turks a lot. There are some families who have Turkish… there are some people who are married to Turks, and I know them. My own nephew has recently got married to a Turkish girl. Ayşe, is her name… And she is a lovely person. So… First of all it is through them. I keep meeting the Ambassador. The Ambassador is a great friend of mine, I must say. He and his wife are both wonderful people, and they are excellent representatives of Turkey. I even go to his house and I like the food that Hanım Efendi cooks and… I like the “perde pilav” that she makes, very much. So I am friendly with them. There are a number of visits by Turkish dignitaries who come, and my visits. I think that the number of times I have been to Turkey and I have received Turkish delegations is much more than any other country. That is how I keep relationship.

Ipek Cem: Well on this note, I want to thank you very much for this candid interview. Thank you for having us.

Pervez Musharraf: Thank you. Thank you very much.

Copyright © 2005-2010 Ipek Nur Cem Taha

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