Musharraf: 'Hope is very dim'
(CNN) -- Pakistan has been performing a delicate balancing act since the September 11 terrorist attacks against the United States. While pledging support for the U.S.-led war against terrorism, Pakistan remains the lone country maintaining a diplomatic relationship with Afghanistan's ruling Taliban.
Pakistan's president, Gen. Pervez Musharraf, sat down for an exclusive interview with CNN's Christiane Amanpour.
AMANPOUR: That day when President Bush called you after those terrible events, what was your first response to him? What were your first words?
MUSHARRAF: That I, first of all, certainly condoled all the tragedy that has struck the United States. I condoled the loss of lives in the United States and expressed our cooperation in fighting terrorism around the world.
AMANPOUR: Will you allow U.S. troops, U.S. military hardware, support, logistics to be based on Pakistani soil?
MUSHARRAF: Well, we have -- certainly we've been asked for intelligence and information sharing. We've also been asked for utilization of our airspace and logistics support. And we have said that we will certainly cooperate in all these three areas.
Since we haven't gone into the detail, I wouldn't like to go into the modalities of our tactical details.
AMANPOUR: But as a last resort, if it becomes absolutely necessary, would you allow U.S. forces to be based here?
MUSHARRAF: Well, as I said, certainly we need to consider. And we have said that we will cooperate in these three areas of logistic support and use of airspace. We need to get into the details of the modalities as they come along.
AMANPOUR: What is your bottom line? What are you not prepared to do in any military campaign?
MUSHARRAF: Well, I would not like Pakistani troops to be crossing the borders into Afghanistan because I don't think that is a requirement from our troops also.
AMANPOUR: Has the U.S. presented you with an operational plan yet?
MUSHARRAF: No, not as yet. We don't know anything about the operation plan.
AMANPOUR: You know there have been reports of special forces from the U.S. and the U.K. already taking part in reconnaissance in Afghanistan, and there's been reports that thousands or hundreds of U.S. troops have been based here already.
MUSHARRAF: Well, I see these in the news, yes. So there's no such information. I don't at all know those who are based in Afghanistan, but I'm certainly very clear that nobody's based in Pakistan as yet.
AMANPOUR: Are you personally convinced that Osama bin Laden and the al Qaeda network is, was responsible for what happened in the United States?
MUSHARRAF: Well, frankly, we haven't been -- there's no evidence that has been shared with us as yet. So therefore, all that I know is from the television. I don't have any details myself.
AMANPOUR: And are awaiting, are you expecting a full sharing of the evidence from the United States?
MUSHARRAF: Well, yes, we have indication that parts of the evidence which can be -- which do not have any confidentiality, maybe, could be shared with us.
AMANPOUR: And do you believe that, to sustain this coalition, there needs to be a public presentation of the evidence?
MUSHARRAF: No. I really don't know what the confidential part of this evidence, so if there is confidentiality in it, in the interest of justice, we certainly would understand that. But those parts which would facilitate in better understanding of the people at large should be shared, I would say.
AMANPOUR: Many people say that you were taking a huge risk by standing with the United States in this matter because of the very vocal segment of the population that simply supports and sympathizes with the Taliban. Will they destabilize Pakistan?
MUSHARRAF: No, I don't think so. Those who are against whatever my government and myself am doing are a very small minority. These are generally, if not all, religious extremists, and they do not form the majority of Pakistan certainly. Therefore, certainly I have no doubt that there is no destabilization within or there's no opposition, there's no mass opposition to me and my government on whatever we are doing.
AMANPOUR: Now, there are many who say that successive Pakistani governments that simply allowed hard-liners and extremists to gain too much ground. Is now a time for you, for your government to redress that balance?
MUSHARRAF: Well, I wouldn't say that. We are concerned about extremism, religious extremism and in the garb of religion, these terrorists acts, sectarian terrorists acts that are being done here in Pakistan.
So we certainly -- I certainly would like to address this issue. We're already addressing them as a part of our law and order improvement in Pakistan. And I would like to certainly go along and see what effects these religious extremists and sectarian extremists have, and I would certainly like to move against them.
AMANPOUR: Some of the so-called madrasas, the religious schools here, are in effect breeding grounds for terrorism. We've heard of the mullahs who preach hate, who say that it's OK to kill Americans, who say that you can do all this for heavenly reward. Isn't that the real enemy? Isn't that the kind of message that needs to be stamped out now?
MUSHARRAF: Well these are -- I would like to elaborate on this issue of madrasas in Pakistan. These are misunderstood organizations, may I say. There are about 7,000 or 8,000 madrasas in Pakistan, and they have about 600,000 to 700,000 students in these madrasas.
But let me very clearly say that actually those who know what is going on in madrasas would support this point that I'm going to tell you, that this is the biggest welfare organization anywhere in the world is operated today. They get -- about 600,000 to 700,000 children of the poor get free board and lodge, and they get free education.
Now, the issue is that in many of these madrasas, education is only religious education. But in many of them, they get other forms of education also.
So what we need to do actually, and we are doing -- we are following an education strategy for madrasas where we have -- we want to teach other subjects other than religion also in these madrasas so that we won't -- we will then absorb these students, these religious students from madrasas into the mainstream of life in Pakistan.
But what I certainly would like to say is that there are influences within these madrasas by political extremists or religious extremists just like they have in any other university or college or educational institution of Pakistan. So therefore, one shouldn't think that all madrasas in Pakistan really are under the influence of religious extremists and they are teaching some kind of terrorism. No, that is not the fact.
AMANPOUR: But the fact is that, in some of them, they are. And if you are aware of this continued hate speech, which is the birth place, the breeding ground, for this kind of fanatical anti-Americanism and terrorism, will you stamp it out?
MUSHARRAF: Yes, certainly. Any madrasa which is preaching terrorism or militancy will certainly we would like to move against it.
AMANPOUR: There's talk of support within some of your own ranks in the army, some of your own intelligence services for the Taliban. You yourself, in your speech to the nation, spoke about the security of your strategic assets.
Have you taken special precautions to protect your nuclear facilities? And would you and could you self-destruct them, destroy them, if you were afraid they would fall into the hands of the wrong people, fanatics?
MUSHARRAF: No, I'm very, very sure that the command and control set-up that we have evolved for ourselves is very, very secure, is extremely secure, and there is no chance of these assets falling in the hands of extremists.
The army is certainly is the most disciplined army in the world, and there is no chance of any extremism coming into the army. We have an excellent command system, we have excellent traditions. And I don't see this doomsday scenario ever appearing.
AMANPOUR: Are you still concerned about potential U.S. or other support for the Northern Alliance, those anti-Taliban forces in northern Afghanistan?
MUSHARRAF: Not concerned, really, to the extent that we must understand what Afghanistan requires. We must understand we are interested in Afghanistan's peace and stability and unity of Afghanistan. We are interested in having a friendly Afghanistan. And we certainly are interested in having government which takes into consideration the ethnic layout, demographic layout of Afghanistan.
To that extent, I really don't know what is the extent of support that is going to be given to the Northern Alliance. Our concerns are in having whatever I've told you.
AMANPOUR: Let's talk about the Taliban. There has been a great deal in the past of Pakistan's support and sustenance for the Taliban; a great deal of sympathy amongst certain big segments of your population.
Do you think now that, either by military action or the march of history, this is the beginning of the end for the Taliban, that time is running out for them?
MUSHARRAF: Well, may I say that this term "Taliban" is being used rather loosely, I would say, in that "Taliban" really means a religious student. Now, there are millions of Taliban. I would say all these children in the madrasas are Taliban really.
AMANPOUR: The ruling militia then, the Taliban militia as we know them in Afghanistan -- is time running out for them?
MUSHARRAF: Well, as it appears because of all the coalition-forming against them, certainly there's a danger of damage coming to them.
AMANPOUR: When you say a danger, is the Taliban, ruling militia, a liability to Pakistan now?
MUSHARRAF: Well, they are governing their own country. We have had diplomatic relation with them. We are the only country left having diplomatic relation with them.
To the extent of a degree of views in the world, we, Pakistan, acting against world views on Afghanistan, we have suffered for their sake, but that was because of our national interests. Certainly Afghanistan is a country which concerns us the most, so whatever our diplomatic relation with them were based on our national interests. So I can say that diplomatically certainly we suffered internationally because of our support to them.
AMANPOUR: And their very close alliance with Osama bin Laden has obviously now backfired on Pakistan, hasn't it?
MUSHARRAF: Well, as I said, we were interacting with the Taliban in Afghanistan because of our national interests, and we are directly concerned with whatever is happening in Afghanistan. So to that extent, our policy towards the Taliban and Afghanistan was absolutely correct.
It's a different matter whether we suffer diplomatically or not. Now the situation is very different, and we are still interacting with the Taliban to moderate their views, to change their views in accordance with the dictates of the world opinion. We are still carrying on doing that.
AMANPOUR: And do you think that's likely? So far, two missions that you've sent, putting your own personal prestige behind them have failed.
MUSHARRAF: Yes, I would say yes. We haven't been able to succeed in moderating their views on surrendering Osama bin Laden or even -- we would very much have liked that the eight foreigners against whom they are holding trials, maybe they need to be released.
We haven't succeeded as yet, but we have our doors open. And some progress has been made, and we hope a little more progress could be made.
AMANPOUR: Do you have any realistic hope that the Taliban government there will do what's expected of them?
MUSHARRAF: Expected of them in what form?
AMANPOUR: Well, isn't the demand that they hand over Osama bin Laden, close down the terrorists camps there?
MUSHARRAF: I think the passage of time as the situation is, the hope is very dim, I would say.
AMANPOUR: No hope?
MUSHARRAF: One can carry on engaging with them. And there is a little bit of flexibility being shown after the edict by the Ulamah, by the Shura in Afghanistan. But the signals that come out certainly are not very encouraging.
AMANPOUR: President Bush said Osama bin Laden is wanted dead or alive. It appears he's not going to be handed over. Do you think it's time for Osama bin Laden to be shot down?
MUSHARRAF: Well, I think certainly Afghanistan is suffering, the people of Afghanistan are suffering. And as I said, because of this, even Pakistan diplomatically has been suffering.
So I think in the interest of the people of Afghanistan, a resolution to this impasse on Osama bin Laden must be resolved certainly. I would urge the Taliban to do that, and that is why we keep interacting with them.
AMANPOUR: And terrorism in your own country -- there's been incidences where Pakistan has been fingered for harboring terrorists or having their own terrorists groups. You know, one of them is on the list of the United States terrorists groups.
What are you going to do to make sure now, as part of this U.N. resolution, that there's a complete crack down on any opportunity for terrorism from here?
MUSHARRAF: Well, when you talk of terrorists groups here in Pakistan, there is no terrorist group in Pakistan. You are talking of probably Harakat-ul-Mujahedeen, which has been banned.
AMANPOUR: Which you've just closed down.
AMANPOUR: The offices.
MUSHARRAF: No, Harakat-ul-Mujahedeen is not here at all. They are operating in -- they were operating in Kashmir, in Hel Kashmir. And we have no contacts at all with them whatsoever. So they don't have offices here.
The other office which was -- what was the name of this office? That has nothing to do with Kashmir. The trust that has been -- the accounts which had been frozen, that has nothing to do with Kashmir. And if at all they are involved in terrorist acts, we certainly will take all actions against them.
AMANPOUR: The United States and some European countries and other countries have offered you now relief from sanctions, some debt rescheduling, some economic relations again. Is this significant, or is it so far symbolic, a drop in the ocean? Do you expect more?
MUSHARRAF: Well, this is not a deal that is going on, so I wouldn't like to say that there's some exchange or we have made a deal for whatever we are providing and you give us this much. I haven't gone into this.
And I only expect certainly that we have been faced with a difficulty, and, as you yourself said, that we are again a frontline state. We were a frontline state for 10 years when we fought the Soviets with the allies, and now again we are a frontline state.
This has its fallout on Pakistan. I'm sure United States understands our difficulties and certainly whatever is happened does not address all our difficulties at all.
But there's no deal as such. I would leave it at this.
AMANPOUR: But are you expecting more?
MUSHARRAF: Well, again, I wouldn't say that there's a deal. One certainly expects the United States to understand our difficulties and help us in removing those difficulties, overcoming those difficulties.
AMANPOUR: Is one of the difficulties the fact that, so far, no Islamic state has openly joined the military coalition, unlike during the Gulf War when many Islamic states did? Do you think that that's a necessity if there is military action?
MUSHARRAF: Well, I had told everyone, I even have conveyed to President Bush, that certainly a United Nation umbrella would be extremely helpful in removing certain doubts or putting certain doubts at peace. And also we are trying to have an OIC foreign ministers conference, which is being held, I think, in a few days time on the 9th of October, I think.
These will go a long way toward removing this anxiety in the minds of some people that maybe we are the only Muslim states. But all of the Muslim states have also voted in favor of the U.N. resolutions which do call on cooperating for the fight against terrorism around the world and also the perpetrators of terrorism and those who abet terrorism.
So therefore, Muslim countries are onboard on this issue of fighting terrorism. So to that extent, all Muslim countries are onboard.
AMANPOUR: Are you afraid that the delicate balance that exists in Pakistan right now could topple one way or another if a military action starts?
MUSHARRAF: Delicate balance within...
AMANPOUR: Within your own country. We've talked about the vocal minority.
MUSHARRAF: No, I don't think so. I think I have the support of the entire people of Pakistan. It's only the religious extremists, as I said, who have this extreme views.
Other than that, I place -- I divide Pakistan into three groups actually: the religious extremists, who are in a very small minority. Then the other is the middle class, the upper-middle class, and the upper class of Pakistanis, who certainly have moderate Islamic values. They are moderate Muslims. They don't believe in extremism and they are fully,always have been in support of whatever we are doing.
The other left, the third party is the lower-middle class and the working class of people of Pakistan, whom I tried -- who maybe did not have the full comprehension of the situation. And I tried to address to the nation, to this third group of people, and I think I managed to explain to them what the reality is. And I'm very sure that I've converted opinion in my favor.
And therefore, the only people left are the religious extremists who are in a small minority. I'm sure they don't hold sway on whatever will happen in Pakistan.
AMANPOUR: Well, you sound very confident, Mr. President.
Just one last question: Despite this crisis, are you committed to returning this country to full democracy next year?
MUSHARRAF: Yes, I still remain committed because that is in our national interest. It's not for any other country of the world or any world opinion that I'm doing it. I'm doing it because it's in our national interest. And I will do it. The time schedule and the road map that I've given, I will still go forward on it.
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