p. “ABC news interviewed Musharraf”:http://abcnews.go.com/sections/wnt/US/PJ_Musharraf030922.html on Sept 22. It’s very interesting, and I believe very important as it signals a change in Musharraf’s approach to the west. Previously he was more respectful and politically correct, now he’s laying it out on the west and is openly critical. Bonus points to him! Previously, I had been “quite critical of Musharraf”:http://ko.offroadpakistan.com/pakistan/2003_08/musharraf_self_styled_saviour_stuck_in_a_rut.html but over the last 2 weeks since he started speaking up he’s once again at the top of the list. I was particularly impressed by the ABC interview, which is below. It’s a must read.
Yet more good stuff by him at the UN about the war on terrorism. As usual, the American newspapers either don’t mention his statements on Kashmir or gloss over them. The Daily Times has more: “Musharraf: Kashmir movement not terrorism”:http://www.dailytimes.com.pk/default.asp?page=story_23-9-2003_pg1_1.
bq.. NEW YORK, Sept. 22 — Pakistani President Gen. Pervez Musharraf said today that the U.S.-led war against terrorism, including the occupation of Iraq, have helped fuel the perception of Muslims that “Islam, as a religion, is being targeted and pilloried.”
…Musharraf told more than 20 world leaders and foreign ministers attending a counterterrorism conference that the Islamic world has an obligation to reform the religious schools, or madrassahs, that “preach hatred” and to “shun militancy and extremism.” But he said this would only “be feasible if the West joins us by helping to resolve all political disputes involving Muslims with justice.”
>> “Washingtonpost : Musharraf Criticizes Terror War”:http://www.washingtonpost.com/ac2/wp-dyn/A49515-2003Sep22?language=printer
h3. Transcript: ABC News Interviews President Musharraf
*PETER JENNINGS:* Do you think there is a root cause of terrorism?
*PERVEZ MUSHARRAF:* Yes there is, certainly, if you want to resolve the issue … we must get to the causes, and … the main cause is political. And other than political, also what gives rise to extremism, is the poverty and lack of education, and these are the areas which you need to address if you want a long-term solution.
*JENNINGS:* Why do you think in your own country there are people who hate the United States so?
*MUSHARRAF:* Because in all disputes around the world, at the moment, in the decade of ’90s, from the decade of ’90s, all throughout the Cold War, it has been Muslims were involved, in all of them. And there was a chance that maybe Muslims are being wronged. And that is the main cause.
*JENNINGS:* So if someone in Pakistan were to come to you and say, Mr. President, the United States is wronging me as a Muslim, how would you explain it to them?
*MUSHARRAF:* We need to get to the solution, because a lot of extremism, a lot of hatred, and the world has become such a dangerous place to live in. So therefore, it’s a very complex issue which needs to be addressed in its entirety.
*JENNINGS:* But do you think that the United States is in any way, shape or form wronging the Muslim world?
*MUSHARRAF:* When it’s being perceived as such, especially I would say … on the Palestinian dispute.
That is the general perception in the Muslim world and now the issue of Afghanistan and Iraq has also come in. The general perception is that maybe, the United States is not on the side of the Muslims. That is the general perception.
*JENNINGS:* Do you agree with that perception?
*MUSHARRAF:* I would not agree with that perception although in as far as the Palestinian case is concerned, one would say that there has been a tilt on the Israeli side, historically. Now although they will let the United States … broker a peace, they are trying to neutralize and follow a neutral path, and I hope they do, if at all we are to reach an agreement or a solution with justice. But, other than that, historically we see how in the ’90s, we started extremism with Bosnia, and ethnic cleansing, in Bosnia and Kosovo. … The world was planning to go and fight there.
But the memories are short, and unfortunately that has been forgotten. One gets, in the Palestinian issue, it is very much on the limelight, it’s on the television every day. And what is on the television is really tanks and guns being confronted by stone-throwing children and youngsters. Now this creates a very, very negative image. These are world perceptions more than facts really, at the moment.
*JENNINGS:* Pakistan has been a Muslim state since it was founded in 1947. It was not a democracy, though you talk a lot about it being a democracy, and there is a perception in the United States at least, that Pakistan is becoming more extremist in terms of Islam and that extremists have more opportunity today in Pakistan than they did 10 years ago.
*MUSHARRAF:* Yes, I would say because of happenings in Afghanistan, and Iraq, extremist elements, religious extremists, have politically gained in strength, there is no doubt on that. But this phenomenon is not at all widespread, I personally think that a vast majority of people of Pakistan are not extremist, they are moderate. It is the events which have brought the extremists to gain ground. It’s not a widespread phenomenon, and I think whatever gains they made, it’s not permanent, I also go to that extent of seeing that, that it’s not a permanent future. I’m very sure that the moderate forces still retain the overall majority in Pakistan.
*JENNINGS:* You have said on any number of occasions that you would crack down more determinedly on the extremist elements of Islam. And a lot of people here say you’ve failed to do this [and] that extremist organizations are able to be broken up and then rise again as something else and that people associated with the Taliban and al Qaeda, are able to operate freely in Pakistan.
*MUSHARRAF:* That is absolutely wrong; they are not able to work free. Yes, there are supporters of these elements, al Qaeda and Taliban elements, within the frontier of the tribal area as you call it. But when they say that I have not acted, or we are dragging our feet, this is absolutely wrong. It’s the wrong perception. Because acting against them really, you need an overall strategy. When in the short term, our action in the tribal area [is] going on very strongly. Now people don’t understand the realities on the ground there, the reality is this is an inhospitable terrain. … You couldn’t even get inside, you couldn’t work within these regions.
And they don’t also realize … the kind of operation [that is] required. It’s not a military operation that has to go in there, that you can start sweeping and searching the whole area, it would require the whole Pakistan army to do that I think. It is just not possible. The area if you take the one side and our side is as big as Kashmir. 700,000 Indian troops haven’t been able to do that. So this is not the operation required. What is required, is an intelligence operation more than a military operation where you have to organize an intelligence center, which gives you information, you get started. And this is the organization on military intelligence, on electronic and technological intelligence.
Now you establish an electric intelligence organization in all these dimensions, which has been done, which has been done now, and actually with a lot of assistance from the United States. Then you need a first lock there. So you [go] through this set-up, then you act, so you have a quick reaction force to act. That quick reaction force cannot act on ground.
*JENNINGS:* But let me put this to you, Mr. President, you have absolute power in Pakistan, you have an army which you control completely, you have a world-class intelligence service which terrifies many people. If you can’t do this, maybe it’ll never get done.
*MUSHARRAF:* No, as far as the electronic intelligence is concerned, technological intelligence and ear surveillance as I said, that is not our capability at all, we need to be assisted.
*More Assistance Needed From United States*
*JENNINGS:* And does the United States need to do more?
*MUSHARRAF:* Yes, much more. It is happening, there is a lot of coordination, [but more] assistance is required. Now having said that, this is the immediate strategy. Now when you are talking of cracking down on extremism, there is much more than this. This is the strategy against al Qaeda. What we are acting against is religious extremism. … There is no short-cut solution on this. And we are doing this also.
*JENNINGS:* This, this is a conversation you and I had a couple of years ago about cracking down on the madrassas, what have you done since then.
*JENNINGS:* And rather than ask the United States for money for military parts for example, why would he ask for a huge chunk of money to get rid of the madrassas and put in a different system of education?
*MUSHARRAF:* This was very interesting, in fact, the new assistance that has been given to us, this $3 billion over the next five years, which is $600 million per annum, it has been given half for military and half for the social center. But we don’t want it for the military, by the way. I don’t want it for the military at all. … This division is not ours, we may be needing some parts all right, it doesn’t need this kind of money. Any amount of transfer from military side to the social side, will be most likely by us and Pakistan.
*JENNINGS:* I think, I think I hear you saying that the Bush administration has decided the way it’s going to give you the money.
*JENNINGS:* [The U.S.] wants to give you money for military affairs and you don’t want it.
MUSHARRAFF: Yes indeed, sir. Yes indeed.
*JENNINGS:* Why do you think that?
*MUSHARRAF:* As I said clearly, that we would welcome any shift of this $3 billion to the social sector. We would welcome it. Let me say that. Now this is the reality. It is not our requirement. The other issue that we had, cracking down on madrases. There’s no cracking down here. You want to moderate them. As I said this is the best social service that is going on. There are about 700,000 poor children.
Al Qaeda, Taliban Crackdown
*JENNINGS:* Did President Karzai of Afghanistan tell you that you were also, by not cracking down in those provinces contributing to instability in Afghanistan?
*MUSHARRAF:* No, he didn’t. I think he did say that he would infer that everything, all the Taliban activity in Afghanistan is taking place in Pakistan, and I very strongly disagree and I do not accept this term at all. There is, possibility there are people here hiding on our side, and we have to act against them. There is certainly people going across the border and coming back here, and we need to act against them and block them and act in our area, through intelligence, as I said, and a quick reaction force. But the same thing is happening on the Afghan side. … We act on both sides in a similar way.
It’s an intelligence operation more than a military operation. An intelligence operation to locate, and quick reaction force to act. So this is I think on both sides, we are doing it on our side, they need to do it more effectively on their side. I know that the American forces are doing it, but, it shouldn’t be a blame game on each other. On both sides the situation is the same, and we need to act on both sides in unison.
*JENNINGS:* You’ve just done something which your critics say you do often, which is to say, to acknowledge, that the Taliban and al Qaeda may move back and forth and find sanctuary and protection in Pakistan, and you say you’re going to crack down on them. And then nothing seems to happen.
*MUSHARRAF:* This is a perception of the media. Now as I said, things have to happen, you have to put on ground an organization which will act. Now what is the action required. Well this perception here is, in which we need to take the whole army, and start sweeping with the army from one end to the other in a military operation. Now this is not the way to act, as I, as I said. You have, it’s an intelligence … or it’s an intelligence operation that is required. And I have told you what the requirements are, and we are being assisted. The intelligence set-up now is not even firmly on ground, OK? This is being assisted, and everyone will know it by the way.
*JENNINGS:* Do you believe that you, as the de facto leader of Pakistan, are in complete control of the intelligence services, the Inter-Services Intelligence Agency? *MUSHARRAF:* Total, yes.
The intelligence service in our side is manned by military officers. And I post military officers, I can remove anybody any time. So there is no question, it’s totally under control.
*JENNINGS:* Do you believe that all, whatever sympathy there was in the ISI for Taliban or al Qaeda has been cleansed by you?
*MUSHARRAF:* Yes indeed. Yes, there is no such thing. … We have an army of 550,000 people. Who say this is no problem at all, this has happened and we are taking action.
*JENNINGS:* You banned the leadership of the two largest secular parties in the country in the Parliament and as a result it appears that you’ve had a big growth in Parliament of so-called Islamic parties or an Islamic coalition. Is that threatening in any way? And do you regret having done it?
*MUSHARRAF:* No, I haven’t regretted anything because we want to give democracy a chance. We want to bring sustainable democracy in Pakistan. And in that whatever has happened is in line with democracy and democratic norms. Now I’m not worried about the situation on ground at all. Democratic institution, constitutional forms have to be followed in to deal with the situation.
*JENNINGS:* It is often said that you yourself are in a bind, that if you were to crack down completely on extremist Islam in Pakistan, which is a Muslim state, the authority you have would be completely undermined, you’d be seen as pro-American, doing the Americans’ business all the time. Is there some truth to that, that you’re trapped in the middle?
*MUSHARRAF:* No, not at all. I do things in national interest, in Pakistan interest, keeping Pakistani environment in view. Now there are extremists, we want to crack down on them, because it is in Pakistan’s interest. There are religious extremists, who are misusing mosques and madrassas to preach sectarian and religious extremism. We need to crack down on these elements. We will do that and that is in our interest.
*JENNINGS:* What frustrates you about the United States, or any of us who live here?
*MUSHARRAF:* I wouldn’t say the United States is assisting us. But, the media does frustrate me at times because they don’t realize the actual environment that we are working in, especially on the western border.
And the question that we are asking [is] when a person does not realize what is the ground reality, they will expect that you can just clean the whole area in an operation. Anyone who’s seen this area, and I would urge you to come and see this area, we will take you inside, we will show you what is happening, the roads and tracks that are being constructed, the intelligence organization that is being put on ground, and the quick reaction force. We are going to get the helicopters by January next year. We were supposed to get them last August. So all this is happening. Now, this has to come on ground, then only will you be able to act successfully. Now this is, what is being misperceived, is that we are not acting. We don’t have the capacity to act at the moment, it’s not a military operation.
So therefore this is what is at times frustrating, that people are understanding the reality on ground there. The other issue is religious extremism. Again, I feel there is a misperception here that you can just crack down and eliminate all the religious extremists. This cannot be done, it has to be a strategy [that] has to be followed, and we have evolved a strategy and we are following that strategy. How to moderate the madrassas, you cannot go around cracking down and closing down all the madrassas. You have to first of all know which madras is really teaching extremism.
*JENNINGS:* Do you think that the U.S. invasion of Iraq hurt the United States badly in the Muslim world?
*MUSHARRAF:* Yes it did.
*JENNINGS:* And does it continue to do so?
*MUSHARRAF:* Yes, till now it is.
*JENNINGS:* And does it make it difficult for you in Pakistan to be pro-American? MUSHARRAFF: Yes, as far as the Iraqi is concerned, yes, it’s difficult to come to a solution of contributing troops at the moment under the present arrangement.
*JENNINGS:* If you were to decide openly to contribute troops to a peacekeeping operation in Iraq, how popular would that be in Pakistan?
*MUSHARRAF:* Unpopular, at the moment.
*JENNINGS:* And how popular ? or unpopular in the Muslim world?
*MUSHARRAF:* At the moment, unpopular.
*JENNINGS:* And does that mean you cannot do it?
*MUSHARRAF:* The environment has to be changed, and then when I say environment, there has to be a yearning by the people of Iraq, asking for Muslim troops. … When this urge or yearning for Muslim troops, from within the Muslims, and within Iraq, comes up, that will change the environment.
*JENNINGS:* This administration badly would like to have Pakistani troops in Iraq. This would give you at the moment some considerable leverage, would it not?
*MUSHARRAF:* [It would] leverage externally, but not domestically. One has to balance both out.
*JENNINGS:* If the United Nations were in charge in Iraq, and there was an apparent date for U.S. forces to withdraw, would Pakistan then send a peacekeeping force?
*MUSHARRAF:* Yes, under the United Nations cover, the situation [would be] much more easier.
*JENNINGS:* Have you told the president that?
*MUSHARRAF:* No, we haven’t discussed that yet. … We are going to talk about it.
*JENNINGS:* And will you tell him that the United Nations needs a larger role because it’s important, in the Muslim world?
*MUSHARRAF:*Yes indeed. Certainly, the United Nations’ role is important and after the United Nations role, it is a Muslim attitude in the Muslim world.
***PETER *JENNINGS:**** Recent polls in the United States, President Musharraf, show that more Americans have a bad attitude about Islam than they did six months ago, and that most people who believe Islam is a peaceful religion, is actually going down in current polls. Do you think there’s a possibility that the United States and Islam in general, are on a dangerous collision course?
*MUSHARRAF:* At the moment yes, and this is exactly what my aim and purpose of my United Nations address, coming here and interacting with the media. We need to understand Islam in its current perspective. The problem is, the theory versus the practice, by extremists. It is the practice by extremists, which is distorting the image of Islam. And that is exactly what is being projected through the media, on the television. It is the wrong perception of the extremist element of Islam which is getting popular and therefore, the opposition to Islam.
You have to understand what Islam stands for. Does Islam stand for democracy? Does Islam stand for secularism? Does Islam stand for modernism? I think inherent in the teachings of Islam, there is democracy. Islam is very democratic, Islam is secular, and Islam is modern for all times to come. But unfortunately as I said again, there is the practice of Islam by extremists, under the garb of their version of Islam, which is creating the misperception.
*JENNINGS:* So when the Wall Street Journal reporter Danny Pearl was murdered in Pakistan, you must have just said to yourself, this is a huge setback for all of us.
MUSHARRAFF: Yes indeed. That’s right. That’s a terrible extremist act. It’s a terrorist act. And, obviously any sane person would say that.
*JENNINGS:* What do you say to those people including at least one French writer who’s getting a lot of attention that the ISI gave sanctuary to those people who murdered Pearl and knew what they were when others were looking for them?
*MUSHARRAF:* Well, I mean these are absolutely unsubstantiated aspects that he’s brought out. Intelligence organization basically, inherently – operate in certain clandestine ways, [like] very intelligence organization. Unfortunately it’s only ISI which is coming up in the limelight. Every intelligence organization of the world does exactly the same thing that ISI does. So, that is unfortunate but, but to blame ISI, that they were behind or they were in any way abetting this kind of brutal murder of Daniel Pearl is absolutely ridiculous.
*Osama Bin Laden Still Alive*
*JENNINGS:* My final question. The last time you and I spoke, which was actually on the telephone a year or so ago, you, you said then you didn’t think Osama bin Laden was alive. Do you think he’s alive today?
*JENNINGS:* And how much of a danger is he?
*MUSHARRAF:* I think he’s on the run, al Qaeda is on the run. Taliban supporters are on the run.
*JENNINGS:* You believe he’s in your neighborhood?
*MUSHARRAF:* Could be, yes. He could be on our side, he could be even on the Afghan side, he could be shifting, I’m very sure, reasonably sure, that he’s shifting places. He’s not at one location and so we need to counter a strategic threat developing. And the strategic threat could be the unison of al Qaeda, with Taliban supporters, and with the dissenting moderates. We will not allow that on our side. With each passing day, our intelligence set-up and the quick reaction force, effectiveness is improving, and we are very sure that our side will be acting strongly, and there is no possibility of strategic build-up here. And we need to do the same thing on that side, and this coordination is improving every day, and we are sure that the strategic threat will be eliminated.
*JENNINGS:* It’s nice to see you again, sir, thank you for the time.
*MUSHARRAF:* Thank you very much.