Συνέντευξη στον τηλεοπτικό σταθμό France 24
mercredi 23 janvier 2008, par lmd
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Ulysse Gosset – Welcome to France 24 for this special edition. Our guest today is one of the most threatened heads of state in the world – and one of the most controversial as well -, the President of Pakistan, Pervez Musharraf. Pakistan, with 165 million inhabitants, has been a prey to terrorism and violence for years. Good day, Mr President.
Pervez Musharraf – Thank you very much. It’s my pleasure.
Ulysse Gosset – Thanks for being with us today during your visit to France. We are here with our colleague from weekly magazine Le Point Olivier Weber, an expert on Pakistan. The situation in Europe is very fraught. Some intelligence services believe there is a terrorist threat looming in France and around Europe. In Spain, 12 suspected Pakistani terrorists were arrested. Are you concerned ? Is there a terrorist threat looming over France and Europe ?
I’m not worried back in Pakistan. The threat is there and I’ve been attacked twice. More, in fact. But the worry here is not at all the same. I am very grateful for all the security arrangements here. But I’m not worried at all.
There are a lot of large-scale security measures in Europe. The arrest of Pakistanis about to carry out terrorist attacks in Spain, for example. Do you really believe there aren’t any clear and present threats ?
Yes. It’s unfortunate. Especially the last incident in Spain, involving Pakistanis. It is most unfortunate that these people – caught in Spain or anywhere else for that matter – bring a bad name to the country and to our religion, Islam. Because we don’t believe in terrorism of extremism. And we need to fight it in a concentrated manner. Whichever nationality they are and wherever they belong. They are enemies of the people, of humanity. And therefore we need to act in unison to counter them.
Former Pakistani People Party leader Benazir Bhutto’s assassination in September unleashed a wave of violence. Do you know who is behind it ?
There is no doubt in our minds that it was carried out by an individual called [inaudible] Massoud, a militant in a southern tribal agency. This has been further confirmed by the CIA Director Mr Hayden, who very recently blamed [inaudible] Massoud for the assassination. He likewise insisted that this was not information from the Pakistani Government and Intelligence : it was from their own sources. So I think that’s relatively well confirmed. However, there’s also a Scotland Yard investigation team there. So let them go into the details.
But could you tell, Mr President, that you are sure the secret services or factions of your Administration are not directly or indirectly involved in the assassination of Benazir Bhutto ?
I am one-thousand percent sure. And may I add that no intelligence agency in Pakistan is capable of indoctrinating a person for suicide. Nobody is capable of doing that. It’s not easy to incite or indoctrinate someone to blow themselves up. No intelligence agency in the world – leave aside Pakistan – can probably do that. These people pick on illiterate young extremists with obscurantist views of religion, and indoctrinate them to believe that they might go to heaven. This is not the job of intelligence agencies.
Ulysse Gosset – The opposition doesn’t seem to agree. The accuse you of leniency and ask why you won’t authorise an international investigation to shed light on this murder.
The opposition will always criticize. But that is not the point. Whenever we lack capability, we get it from wherever we can. We saw we lacked technical expertise, forensic expertise, etc., we got the Scotland Yard team. How more international do they want us to get. Too many cooks spoil the broth. That team is providing whatever resources we lack. I don’t think we need any further assistance.
Other countries are hosting international investigations. The UN investigation in Lebanon, for example. Would that be a way of fending off those rumours ?
No, I don’t think that is required. First of all, the case of Lebanon was different. There were two other countries involved. Here, it is a simple assassination, within Pakistan, by an extremist terrorist. That was not the case in Lebanon, where other countries are involved. And does the UN have more technical or forensic expertise than Scotland Yard ? I don’t think so. I think what we have done is the best course of action.
But you yourself, as you said, escaped several attempts at your life in Islamabad. In December 2003, for example. Do you feel threatened ? Is it practically possible to be the President of Pakistan ?
We are living in dangerous times around the world. And indeed in Pakistan, of course. Pakistan’s fabric has been torn by war since 1979. We were at war with the Soviets for ten years. We trained Mujahidin, we trained the Taliban, we brought in Mujahidin from all over the world. We called it a Jihad. Then we spent the following 12 years, from 1989 to 2001, letting 20,000 to 30,000 Mujahidin join Al Qaeda. Chechens came. Uzbeks came. Then 911 came and these people converged on Pakistan. So much has happened over the past 30 years in Pakistan. It’s a difficult situation. But we have to tackle it. We have to face it. With the force of the people. The people of Pakistan are moderate. I know they are against extremists. They don’t want Talibanisation. With that hope, I am sure we can fight them and that Pakistan is going to succeed.
And yet you yourself said your fundamentalist-infiltrated army was behind one of the assassination attempts… Are you sure about them, and that your troops are not being won over to the Islamists’ cause ?
There are over 500,000 people in this army. When you say the army was involved, you are talking about one or two individuals. The others were all civilians. The Army was not involved at all. These things happen. It was an organized conspiracy by Al Qaeda and the Taliban. There’s no doubt about that. There were a few local Pakistani facilitators. So I don’t think it’s fair to say that the military were involved and that the whole force is going to fall apart. Our army is most disciplined, and totally under good command and control. There’s no doubt in my mind about that.
What percentage of the military are radicals and Islamists ? We talked about quite a large portion (10,000 or 12,000 people). Can you confirm that ?
No. That is a terrible miscalculation. I don’t think they are even 10. The people involved were retired. They were not even serving in the Army. They were retired Air Force soldiers. I can’t give you a figure, but the most I can imagine is that maybe five or six individuals may be in contact with someone. If there are any at all. Which we don’t know. As I said, I believe claims that the army was involved are totally unsubstantiated.
You are a civilian today, even though you were the head of the Army up until a few months ago. Are you afraid for your personal security ? Are you still the target of terrorist attacks ?
I believe in destiny. I also believe one has to take security measures. I am under a threat, and there are security measures in place around me. I must be aware of my own security and then leave things to destiny. In think Benazir Bhutto violated basic security prerequisites. She addressed a gathering, and she was safe, because of the security arrangements. Then she came out. Again, people rushed towards but she was safe (again, let’s give credit to the security arrangements). Then she was safe in her bullet-proof car. The seven people sitting there with here were safe. Then she decided to step out of the car and the tragedy occurred.
Then you decided to delay elections. Will the 18 February polls be fair ? Won’t gerrymandering affect them ?
No, not at all. People who talk of rigging and fraud don’t know our system. There is something cultural about Pakistan’s election. The opposition starts crying foul every time. If they win, they stop. It they lose they go on. This has always happened. This time, I say it will be absolutely free, fair, transparent and peaceful. The system is inherently fool-proof. Gerrymandering was possible in a few areas. My government removed those bugs. The opposition used to say that returning officers, who compile polling-station votes, could rig them en-route to Islamabad. We have changed the law. The returning officers will give the results to the candidate. There were also doubts about constituency delimitations. We eliminated that. There was a ghost-polling-station issue. They have all been listed on the website. There was talk that voter lists could be rigged. Voter lists are on the website. We have taken all the measures we had to. I don’t think any fraud is possible. Each polling station has a presiding officer and agents representing each candidate right in front. They will be shown the ballot boxes sealed, people casting votes and supervise vote counting. How can there be fraud there ?
Before Benazir Bhutto’s death, there were negotiations about power-sharing were underway. Would you still be willing to share power with the opposition and to strike alliances if they won ?
No. Let’s be clear. I am the President of Pakistan. I am not in the election. We don’t have a presidential system : we have a parliamentary system. Political parties share power. If there are elections and one political party gains a majority, they alone can form a government. They alone will appoint their Prime Minister. If nobody gets a majority and we get a hung parliament, the two parties will form a coalition and appoint the Prime Minister. I don’t have to share any power with anyone. Pakistan’s Constitution gives me certain powers. It also says that the Prime Minister governs the country.
You still declared a state of emergency. You are at the helm. If the opposition won, would you let them govern ?
Under Article 58 2 B – which has always existed – entitles the President of Pakistan to use his authority to dissolve the Parliament if he believes governance is at issue, the Parliament is not functioning, or the Prime Minister is not delivering. However, I put a check on that. We have created a National Security Council. The President is its Chairman, and the Chief Ministers, the Prime Minister, the leader of the opposition, the Chairman of the Senate, the Speaker of the National Assembly and Armed Forces representatives sit on that Council. So the President can not take action unilaterally.
Are you going to let the media cover the election campaign ? Are you going to release opponents still in prison ?
There is no politician under arrest today. Many people have asked me. Please come to Pakistan and show me an opposition politician under arrest. Yes, indeed, there was lawyer who was agitating. We will not allow that under the present circumstances. If you want to draw people to the streets to burn, plunder and arson, we will not allow you to.
Understand that people in Paris and Brussels are different to people in Pakistan. Here, people will not cross a yellow tap. There, they will climb over walls. We cannot allow agitation. It will disrupt us. It will hurt our economy. They burn poor people’s cars and motorcycles, smash window panes, destroy traffic lights, etc. How can we allow this ? This gentleman wanted agitation to destabilise us and destabilise the government. We cannot allow that. But, getting back to your question, the media will be totally free. As will politicians. We have 50 channels and they are all free. Our newspapers and television channels criticise me and the government most of the time. We don’t check them. Please come and watch our television and read our newspapers.
Some sources believe Osama bin Laden is on the Pakistan-Afghanistan border. Do you know exactly where he is ? And what can be done to arrest him ?
I cannot say where Osama bin Laden is. He is possibly shifting back and forth across the border. I can’t say for sure. I can only guess.
But you would know if he’s alive…
Frankly, I don’t know. At one point, Intelligence reports agreed he was on dialysis. About two years or three years back, we knew he was alive. I can’t say now. And where he is I don’t know.
But, at any rate, his circle and Al Qaeda still exist, militants cross the border regularly… What are the threats there for Pakistan ?
The “easement rights” on the border date back to the British days, when there were families and ethnic groups living on both sides. Now, however, we have 1000 posts on this border (Afghanistan only has 96). We have fenced part of the border as well. Clandestine crossings have dropped 42% as a result. Our strategy is to fight Al Qaeda and to stop Taliban crossing into Afghanistan. Then we use a multi-pronged – military, political, social and economic – approach. Al Qaeda converged on Pakistan after 9-11 (they were the Mujahiding left over after the Soviet Union collapsed in 1989). Chechens and Uzbeks joined them. We caught 600 to 700 of them. Pakistan succeeded there, nobody else (Intelligence cooperation of course helped). Then they ran into the tribal-agency mountains. There were hundreds in the valleys. We surrounded and attacked them with the Army. We suffered casualties. Now they have clustered into small groups scattered around the mountains. There aren’t groups of hundreds any more. We know that because, when we look at the casualty figures after an attack, reports talk of two, three or four Uzbeks, Arabs, etc. So they are there. But in small numbers. They are dispersed. They don’t have the ease of movement they had before. So much for Al Qaeda. The Taliban, however, are a different story. The Taliban from the Mullah Omar days (from 1996 to 2001) have resurfaced in Afghanistan. They rule 90% of Afghanistan. They get influence, support and shelter from our side. This is what we need to stop and what we are fighting.
That’s the point : growing radical influence around Peshawar. There were attacks in most major cities in Pakistan over the past ten days. Is there a risk of an outburst ? Or of a civil war one day ?
There is no risk of a civil war. Pakistan is not falling apart. Isolated suicide attacks or rocket firing can not take down a country. It can disrupt a country and cause casualties. But not take over a country. Talibanisation has indeed spread into tribal-agency settled districts in the north. To our most beautiful tourist resorts. Locals were shocked. They asked us to do something. We did. So these incidents are coming up, we are fighting them and, I think, doing a good job.
You also have nuclear weapons. Can you guarantee they are safe ?
I would like to talk about this. Our concern is that the West has not accepted Pakistan as a nuclear state. We keep on hearing talk of an Islamic bomb. So aren’t we talking about a Jewish bomb ? About a Christian bomb ? About a Hindu bomb ? Why is everyone calling our bomb an Islamic bomb ? We take exception to that. If India and Israel can handle security, why can’t Pakistan ? There is total multilayered custodial control. In 2000, I created the NCA (National Command Authority). It supervises the SPD (Strategic Planning Division), which controls strategic-asset production. We also created an Army Strategic Force Command headed by a lieutenant general overseeing two divisions in turn supervising brigades in turn supervising regiments, which hold these assets. I challenge anyone to steal as much as one rifle from an infantry battalion in Pakistan.
But there are coups. What will happen to the nuclear weapons then ? And might the technology leak to radical circles ?
Please don’t equate Pakistan with an African State or to some banana republic where things like that can happen. We have an organised body. I can stay here for a month and, I can assure you, nothing will happen. There is a military force in place. There is a government in place. There is a Prime Minister and a cabinet. There are law-enforcement agencies. Courts are functioning. Business is bustling. How can this be toppled ? And by whom ? There is only one man in charge of the military : the Chief of army Staff. And nobody acts against him. Period. That happens in Africa and South America. Not in Pakistan. I have served in this army for 47 years. I have commanded it for 8 years. I am not a paper pusher. I have fought two wars. I have led them myself. They respect me. They owe allegiance to me. They are totally disciplined and nobody is there to take over anything now. This sort of thing can not happen in Pakistan.
But you and your army are at the front line in the fight against terrorism. Do you have a strategy and method ?
Al Qaeda, as I said, a scattered sprinkling of small clusters on the run. They are powerless. Talking about Al Qaeda and the Taliban makes sense. The chain behind suicide attacks is an issue. The masterminds are generally Al Qaeda (they are educated and have resources). The facilitators are Pakistanis. They use the perfect traitors, the person who is going to blow himself up. These facilitators have links with Al Qaeda, and between themselves. They embrace obscurantist views and are interlinked. But we have broken those links and the ringleaders are on the run.
Are you going to arrest them ? Can you ? Are Benazir Bhutto’s murderers going to stand trial ?
Yes, indeed. We have killed so many of them. We are after this man. He kills us or we kill him. It’s as simple as that.
What are you expecting from the West in general and from France in particular in this fight against terrorism ? Weapons, equipment, economic aid… ?
Well, thank you very much. We have good intelligence cooperation. Especially with the US, but with all the Coalition forces operating in Afghanistan. We also need strategic and tactical cooperation. We have good cooperation there too. The media doesn’t know this. But we have three-party conferences and there is all-round cooperation. If we are launching an operation, we inform them and vice-versa. Things go smoothly. But your question was about assistance. We don’t mind assistance in the form of military training. I believe France’s most valuable contribution would be in the social and economic field. We are involved in a social and economic development for the tribal agencies, and need resources there. The Americans are willing to give us US$ 150 a year for five years. We have also agreed to build ROZs (Reconstruction Opportunity Zones) with the Americans whereby businesses can settle there duty-free. We would similar arrangements with France, even though social and economic assistance would be most welcome. Military assistance in the form of equipment is welcome any time as well.
You came here to reassure Europe. What are you going to tell President Sarkozy, and are you going to be inviting him to Pakistan for an official visit ?
Yes, indeed. It would be an honour. He very graciously rang me after Benazir Bhutto’s assassination. He showed solidarity with me and with Pakistan. He also showed an understanding of the situation. I appreciated our conversation. I invited him then and he promised he would come, and I will be inviting him again. I had a very good relationships with President Chirac and would like to develop the same…
Do you think chaos in Iraq could spread to Pakistan if you don’t get more assistance ?
No. As I said, we appreciate equipment, weapons, social and economic support. But, if you are talking about support in the form of ground forces, no. We have a huge military force. The people would fiercely object to foreign forces.
Do you fear the war in Iraq would have a negative impact on Pakistan ?
Going back to the Al Qaeda connections… At this point, I don’t even know exactly what Al Qaeda is. It has become more of a phenomenon. I am very sure that Osama bin Laden is not issuing operational instructions as it were. It has become more of an phenomenon. There may be links between Al Qaeda in our mountains and Al Qaeda in Iraq. There may be people crossing over using clandestine routes. But they are in small numbers. So I don’t think Iraq will have an effect. The West must realize that, right or wrong, we are in Iraq and Afghanistan now. We can’s just quit. We mustn’t destabilise them more. have to be there and finish the job in Afghanistan and Iraq. If we leave, we will destabilise the whole region, which would be irresponsible.
Thank you, Mr President. Rounding up, how would you sum up and help us understand the challenge in the world and in Pakistan today ?
I would say it is certainly dangerous. I wouldn’t say Pakistan is the most dangerous place, though. Suicide attacks made it a dangerous place over the past few months. But similar things have been happening in Sri Lanka and nobody called it the most dangerous place on the planet. There are 19 insurgencies in India and nobody called it the most dangerous place on the planet either. Why is Pakistan always targeted as the most dangerous ? I don’t think it is. It has been dangerous over the past few months due to the suicide attacks.
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