Sunday, Sep 26, 2021

'Here's What I'll Do'

The Pakistani President's interview with Lally Weymouth of Washington Post, June 23, 2002

'Here's What I'll Do'
'Here's What I'll Do'

On whether he told Richard Armitage that he would stop cross-border terrorism and shut down the training camps that exist in PoK and in Pakistan itself: First of all, I don't call it cross-border terrorism. There is a freedom struggle going on in Kashmir. What I said is that there is no movement across the Line of Control. There was no talk of anything else. I have made clear that a response is required from the Indian side . . .

On U.S. and Indian officials' claim that the number of terrorist infiltrations has decreased: I've told President Bush nothing is happening across the Line of Control. This is the assurance I've given. I'm not going to give you an assurance that for years nothing will happen. We must address the root cause, the cause of Kashmir. If you want a guarantee of peace, there are three ways: 1) denuclearize South Asia; 2) ensure a conventional deterrence so that war never takes place in the subcontinent; 3) find a solution to the Kashmir problem.

On whether he is going to build up conventional defenses: We should. Our army is deterrence enough at the moment. But the Indians are increasing their defense budget, having contracted for billions of dollars of purchases from Russia and the West. If they tilt the conventional balance, we shall have to restore it.

On whether India had a conventional edge: If that were the case, India would have attacked us.

On how close Pak come to a war with India recently: It was very close. India and Pakistan both had moved their forces to the border. Therefore, the capability of adventurism was there. As far as Pakistan was concerned, we said we will not initiate a war, but if attacked, we will defend offensively.

On whether some kind of autonomy is a solution for Kashmir or accepting the LoC as a border: That is just not possible. If the Line of Control were the border, what have we fought two wars for?

On whether this is a turning point for Pakistani-Indian relations or just a pause between crises: This is certainly a turning point for the good. I have an assurance: I have been told by President Bush and Deputy Secretary Armitage that, yes, they[Indian officials]need to move forward on the initiation of a dialogue on Kashmir.

On whether Vajpayee can be be his partner: He had become a partner in Agra [at their summit last July in India]. He invited me and I gave him credit for it. The recognition of Kashmir as the core issue was very much in the communique that was drafted by me, Vajpayee, Indian Foreign Minister Jaswant Singh and my foreign minister, Abdul Sattar.

On Vajpayee's claim that Agra broke down because Musharraf wouldn't recognize the terrorists as terrorists: We had four sessions. We may have discussed cross-border terrorism for 10 minutes because I said, "Prime Minister, you don't expect me to accept that what is happening in Kashmir is terrorism because the Pakistani nation will not accept that." We never spoke of it again. In the proposed communique . . . what was bold on the part of Prime Minister Vajpayee was that he accepted Kashmir as the main issue that needs to be resolved.

On the possibility of doing a 180-degree turn on the jehadis in Kashmir as he did on the Taliban: Yes, on Afghanistan, we changed our policy. Before September 11, we had no choice but to go along with the Taliban. They occupied 90 percent of Afghanistan. Then, the Taliban got involved in the terrorist act on September 11. We saw the environment and thought we should join the coalition. If you call it 180 degrees, okay.

But Kashmir is our national interest. Pakistan has always given moral, political and diplomatic support to Kashmiris.

On the fundamentalist groups that have been out of control in Pakistan: There are three kinds of militancy that we are confronting. One is Afghanistan-related -- al Qaeda. We don't want a single al Qaeda member on Pakistani territory. . . .

On Vajpayee's claim that Musharraf knows the whereabouts of Osama bin Laden and that the remnants of al Qaeda are in Pakistan: That is how they keep maligning us. If they are hiding somewhere, we are trying to locate them. Pakistan has arrested over 300 people and handed them over. I cannot say we have freed Pakistan from al Qaeda. But Abu Zubaida [an al Qaeda leader now in U.S. custody] was caught by us. . . .

The second kind of militancy is Kashmir-related.

The third is internal: domestic extremism, religious fanaticism, sectarian extremism. I moved against five political groups. Lashkar-i-Taiba and Jaish-i-Muhammad have been banned, their offices sealed and accounts frozen. It's not easy to tackle these people, and no government ever dared touch them. . . . There is a lot of fallout. This cannot be accomplished by a few orders.

On who's responsible for the attack on the U.S. consulate in Karachi: One possibility is al Qaeda. The other is that it's RAW-related [RAW is the Indian intelligence agency]. RAW does a lot of anti-Pakistan activity within Pakistan. So many bomb blasts have been taking place. Who is brewing this? Obviously they are RAW-inspired. They [the Indians] don't like us getting close to the U.S.

[[Note from Outlook: According to The News of Pakistan, dated June 24, 2002, Sepha-e-Sehbha of Pakistan, (SSP) and its armed wing Lashkar-e-Jhanghvi, (LJ), have been identified to be behind several terrorist attacks across Pakistan, including the recent car bomb blast near the US consulate in Karachi. Pakistani Interior Minister Moinuddin Haider had said yesterday that the groups behind the attack near the US consulate had been identified, but he had withheld the names of the outfits.]]

On whether the extreme groups are a threat to him and his government: Certainly, I get a lot of threats. But I'm not scared. I take principled stands whether it is an external or internal threat. Now, I'm facing both. Obviously, I am stepping on the toes of a lot of people.

On the the upcoming elections in Kashmir and the charge that Pakistani-backed groups have killed moderates like Abdul Ghani Lone: You believe that? Mr. Lone was addressing about 1,000 people. Obviously, there were [Indian] military men all around.

On whether the Indians killed Lone: Obviously. I am 100 percent sure. He had given a statement that he was opposed to elections. Pakistan is against elections; Kashmir is a disputed territory; not a part of India.

On whether he would like to see the U.S. try to bring about a settlement in the region: The U.S is the only country which can persuade India to initiate a dialogue and move toward a solution of Kashmir. Bilateralism hasn't worked.

On whether Pakistan's nuclear option prevented war recently: No, I think it was [our] conventional deterrence.

On whether ISI is under his control: ISI does whatever the government wants. The problem arises whenever there is a rift between the government and the army, which happened under the previous [Nawaz Sharif's] government. . . . I can remove anybody from ISI so I am responsible for whatever ISI does or does not do.

On returning Pakistan to a more democratic system: We will have elections in October, though we have the most democratic system now, a functional democracy. But Pakistan has never had democracy with elected governments. I am a dictator all right, because I am not elected. But I think my functioning is most democratic.

On whether even after October he will still be the most powerful man in the country: No, not after October. My power is as the chief executive of Pakistan, not as the president of Pakistan. Power is the power to govern, to take decisions about governing the country -- on economic strategy, on education, on the distribution of the budget. Now, I make those decisions. After October, that authority will remain with the president. I am going to shed power to the prime minister. I am a believer that two people cannot share power. I will be left as the president and chief of army staff. I will retain the authority to dismiss [the government]. Our experience during the past 10 years was that the government itself was looting and plundering and misgoverning. That needs to be checked.

On his advantage of the loyalty of the army: Everyone thinks being a military man means I'm an abuser of power. But I want to bring real democracy to Pakistan. We have to have elections and get a prime minister. This prime minister must perform. If he doesn't, I will guide him to a right course.

I became maybe a little emotional and sentimental about many of the things you asked about but these are the realities. You can't judge actions taken here in the context of the U.S. You have to be in my shoes to understand the difficulties. This is a complicated place. We have four mind-sets to satisfy: First, what do Pakistanis think of various issues? Second, what does the U.S. think? Third, what do the Kashmiris think? Fourth, what do the Indians think? I have to take the country forward in spite of the militancy to the west, to the east, and in the center. I have to do this balancing act and it is not an easy job.

(Courtesy, Washington Post, Sunday, June 23, 2002)


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