Interview with Pervez MusharrafNovember 1, 2009
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MARCO WERMAN: Afghanistan’s neighbor, Pakistan, is in the middle of a major military offensive against the Taliban. The Pakistani army is trying to take control of the militant stronghold of South Waziristan along the Afghan border. Army officials say 16 soldiers have died so far while more than 100 militants have been killed. Pakistan’s former president, General Pervez Musharraf is visiting the US right now and came to our studio. I asked him if the offensive in South Waziristan is the solution to Pakistan’s problems with the Taliban.
PERVEZ MUSHARRAF: It’s not the solution but it’s one part of the solution. I’ve always said that solution lies in a triple directional strategy – military, political, and socio-economic. So the military part is being executed well after having dealt with Swat and [INDISCERNIBLE] they’ve now gone to South Waziristan. So I think it’s good – the using of concentrated force in a peace [INDISCERNIBLE] objective.
WERMAN: And do you think the operation Swat was effective?
MUSHARRAF: Yes I think it was successful.
WERMAN: But recently there were 40 killed in a suicide attack and so it raises the issue, it’s one thing to take a region; it’s another thing to hold it.
MUSHARRAF: Well even if you hold it that doesn’t mean that you can guarantee that no suicide attack will take place. I know that the law enforcement agency, the army’s opening a [INDISCERNIBLE] there. It will be there. So it will be held. But that doesn’t mean that no bullet will be fired by any terrorist. Because if a person is there to carry out a suicide attack it’s really very difficult to avoid it.
WERMAN: There’s been a slow steady drumbeat of Afghan officials along with NATO accusing Pakistan of not doing enough to stem the movement of militants sympathetic to al-Qaeda and the Taliban across the border into Afghanistan. Why has this offensive in South Waziristan taken so long and why didn’t you engage in an equally forceful offensive in the same area?
MUSHARRAF: It was I who moved the two divisions in North and South Waziristan back and I think immediately up to [INDISCERNIBLE]. Who has been catching all these al-Qaeda people? Who did that? It was in my time. Hundreds of them have been caught. So how do you say that we hadn’t operated? They are there since long and they have been operating there.
WERMAN: So why, again, why the need for another offensive? Why this upsurge in violence?
MUSHARRAF: Yeah it’s because all these eight years there has been an upsurge of Taliban activity. A Taliban who were finished after 9/11. They had an upsurge in Afghanistan. [PH] Mula Omar and all his [INDISCERNIBLE] are reestablished in Afghanistan in the same region from where they dominated or they controlled 90 percent of Afghanistan. So after 2004 – 05 there was an upsurge. We saw the downward trend in al-Qaeda because of Pakistan’s actions and an upward trend, swing, in the Taliban support. And therefore now the situation is al-Qaeda is down. Who did this? Obviously Pakistan forces operating in Pakistan, in [INDISCERNIBLE] and mountains. But the Taliban upsurge has come about in Afghanistan and that has a great impact in Pakistan because there are now Pakistani Taliban in South and North Waziristan much stronger links with across the border and they are acting. So this is now a different ballgame all together.
WERMAN: Now as a former military leader – I mean you were a military leader who came to power in a coup. You stepped down as head of the army in 2007. You recognized at the time the merit of a civilian government in Pakistan. Now in Afghanistan yesterday a runoff election was announced to take place on November 7th. What is at stake for Pakistan with this vote in Afghanistan?
MUSHARRAF: Well I don’t think it directly affects Pakistan.
WERMAN: You don’t?
MUSHARRAF: It does affect Afghanistan.
WERMAN: But what affects Afghanistan, affects Pakistan ultimately.
MUSHARRAF: Well yes indirectly, indirectly. I think one would require if we are to win in Afghanistan we have to have a credible, legitimate government in Afghanistan. And that is not the case. But Pakistan’s interest is in a legitimate, acceptable government to all the ethnic minorities of Afghanistan for the sake of Afghanistan because if we can have better peace in Afghanistan it will be of advantage to Pakistan certainly.
WERMAN: You’ve been quite critical of President Hamid Karzai. What happens, in your opinion, to the region if he is president again? If he wins this runoff election.
MUSHARRAF: Well I think I’ve been critical, yes, because of certain observations that I had in his criticizing Pakistan, in his supporting elements who are instrumental in carrying out terrorism in Baltistan. So there are certain things that I disagree with him. These were my observations and my accusations against him. So I used to criticize him on that. The other thing is that he used to throw the entire blame on Pakistan – that whatever is happening in Afghanistan is because of Pakistan. And I think the world must understand that this is absolutely the opposite. Whatever is happening in Pakistan is because of Afghanistan. The same [INDISCERNIBLE], the same Taliban, resurgence of that force in Afghanistan.
WERMAN: But in fact it’s very hard to say where these militants are coming from. They could be coming form Pakistan as well as Afghansitan. So both countries are in fact … .
MUSHARRAF: No they are coming … . No actually there’s no doubt at all. Absolutely. I have no doubt at all. Taliban under [INDISCERNIBLE] control 90% of Afghanistan. There is support to them in Pakistan. There are safe havens in Pakistan. And there are Taliban elements of Pakistan also. But if anyone thinks that they are all coming from Pakistan this is what the misperception that exists in Untied States and this misperception is fanned by people like President Karzai unfortunately. And this is misleading the world.
WERMAN: Pervez Musharraf, former president of Pakistan. Thank you very much for your time.
MUSHARRAF: Thank you.
WERMAN: Hear more about Pervez Musharraf’s current US visit and about his plans for a return to Pakistan at our website. You’ll also find a link to the former Pakistani leader’s newly launched Facebook page. It’s all at http://www.theworld.org
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