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America Strikes Back: Interview of Najmuddin Shaik, Pakistani Ambassador to United States

Aired October 8, 2001 - 16:32   ET


AARON BROWN, CNN ANCHOR: Christiane Amanpour is in Islamabad, and has been talking to officials there, and Christiane joins us now -- Christiane.

CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Aaron, it's 1:30 a.m. here in Pakistan. There have been reports of small demonstrations in about three areas here in Pakistan. There was one near Islamabad, one in Lahore and one in Peshawar, near the Afghan border.

Again, we're told small demonstrations, which at least the one near Islamabad fizzled out fairly quickly some time ago.

Also, we've been told by a military source here that Pakistani air space was used in and is being used in the attack on Afghanistan, although the official government spokesman will neither confirm nor deny that, but does say that the agreement with the United States had been to create special air corridors for any kind of military air strike on Afghanistan.

Now, I'm joined now by the former Pakistani ambassador to the United States, Mr. Najmuddin Shaik.

Let us ask you first about that videotape that everybody's talking about. Obviously, the question is when was it filmed? You don't believe it was filmed today, do you?

NAJMUDDIN SHAIK, PAKISTANI AMBASSADOR TO THE UNITED STATES: Oh no. No. I'm sure this was filmed two or three days after the September 11th attack. It reflected a triumphalism, it reflected a feeling of victory or for having imposed on the United States the same sort of agony that, according to Osama bin Laden, the Arab states have been suffering for a long time.

There was no indication in this of an apprehension regarding an American retaliation. And I think it probably was filmed as early as that, because at that particular time, I don't think he knew when the retaliatory attack would take place.

AMANPOUR: Now, let's ask about the situation inside Pakistan, clearly everybody watching Pakistan, being that it's such a crucial ally to the United States. Do you believe that the government has a hold on the situation here? There have been a few scattered demonstrations tonight. SHAIK: No, I think that so far the Pakistan government has been able to exercise control. This was a pattern from the fact that the Friday, the congregations and the demonstrations after the Friday congregations have dwindled in size rather than increased in size, despite the efforts of the religious parties.

Now, what happens tomorrow morning will depend very much on how accurately military installations or targets of strategic value have been hit in the bombing raids.

If there are few or no civilian casualties, then I think the situation will remain under control.

AMANPOUR: We've been hearing from our sources inside Afghanistan that at least four major cities, the areas around them have been hit, and all of our reports have indicated that they are around airfields and military bases. One even suggested perhaps, one of those suspected terrorist training camps.

Also, President Bush, Mr. Rumsfeld, Prime Minister Blair have all made the humanitarian situation and the situation about the Afghan civilians a major portion of their speeches tonight. How important is that for public opinion in this region?

SHAIK: I think that's going to be extremely important, the second point with regard to the humanitarian assistance, and the fact that there are going to be drops of 37,000 packages sometime tonight or early tomorrow morning, will make an enormous difference here because it will establish that when there is talk about four facets to the action; political, diplomatic, military, and humanitarian, then there will be a genuine content to the humanitarian.

And, this will give a degree of confidence in the statements, that this is not a war against Afghanistan. This is not a war against the Afghan people, and that this is directed against Osama and his associates, and perhaps that the Taliban are being targeted as part of the process of targeting Osama and his associates.

AMANPOUR: Now, as you hear the words coming out of various Western capitols, even out of your own government who finally made the leap that is probably the end of the Taliban-controlled Afghanistan, how do you see a broad-based alliance shaping up?

SHAIK: Well, I think one must take care that in the reconciliation -- but that in itself is not enough. If you take a look at the Northern Alliance for instance, the Northern Alliance (inaudible) who is the Uzbek (ph) commander, he (inaudible) but I think had a certain amount of respect for him. For Fahim (ph) he would have only contempt.

AMANPOUR: (Inaudible) the legendary commander who was assassinated.

SHAIK: The legendary commander, the late (inaudible). Oh, (inaudible) made no secret of his hatred for him, but he had a sneaking respect for him. For Fahim (ph) he doesn't have hatred, just contempt.

AMANPOUR: Doesn't have success. But briefly, is it going to be workable? Are they going to be able to get all these people to agree?

SHAIK: Well, that's exactly the point I'm making, that left on their own as people of equal stature, considering themselves as people of equal stature, the prospect of getting together is rather remote. On the other hand, if they do have a figure that they recognize as more than primas impreparus (ph), this must be somebody who is clearly above them.

AMANPOUR: First among them.

SHAIK: Well, not first, not among equals. He must be clearly superior. In that case, the prospect does exist, and of course, this raises the question of only one figure.

AMANPOUR: The former king.

SHAIK: Yes, the former king. I don't think it's going to be for a very long time, but he can provide a period in which some sort of (inaudible) or tribal council can be called and something of a coalition can emerge.

AMANPOUR: Mr. Ambassador, thank you very much indeed. And clearly, everybody is looking to this post-military campaign Afghanistan. Tonight after it was announced that the military action had started, the Pakistani Cabinet met. There was a statement issued by the Foreign Ministry saying that they hoped that very soon, the international community would make every effort to form a national reconciliation government to pour aid and economic reconstruction into Afghanistan.

They also said that they regretted that the Taliban had resisted all their efforts to get them to agree to the international communities' demands, but now military action was underway. They hope that it will be swift and that it would stick to the military aims and the aims enshrined within the U.N. Security Council resolutions. Those are the aims against terrorism, and also that it would cause minimum damage to the Afghan people. Aaron.

BROWN: Christiane, again, it's about 1:30, 1:40 in the morning in Pakistan. People get up. The papers will be out and that will tell us a good deal about how Pakistan is going to react to all of this.

AMANPOUR: That's exactly right, and some of the parties have called for demonstrations tomorrow, and it does remain to be seen whether, now that military action has started, this is a turning point or not in terms of whether they will be able to bring demonstrators out into the streets in bigger numbers than they have been able to over the last month or so.

So far, the demonstrations, the anti-American demonstrations have been much, much smaller than this government feared.

BROWN: Christiane, thank you -- Christiane Amanpour.

Kamal Hyder, who reports for us from inside Afghanistan, in areas controlled by the Taliban principally, though we won't go any farther than that -- Kamal, are you able to provide us with any more detail on the nature of the attacks, the targets?

KAMAL HYDER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, the nature of the job, I think clearly illustrates that the key objective is airfields. A little while ago, Kandahar, our Kandahar Bureau told us that there were unconfirmed reports of yet another strike, from people living closer to the airport, and if true, that would be the third wave.

A lot of us at the moment in Eastern Afghanistan is not reporting any further strikes. There are also now reports indicating that there was a strike in Farah Province, which is above Kandahar on the way to Iraq. And, of course, the confirmation about the blast or the direct hit at the fuel depot on Iraq's airbase.

BROWN: OK. And, just run that, just one point there, are they saying that the -- the people that you're taking to, are they saying there are no more attacks going on? They're not hearing any attacks now? Or, they're continuing? I lost that in the background noise here.

HYDER: Yes, I was saying that Kandahar is the only place where there may have been a third attack, but no confirmation. The airport is about 30 kilometers from the city. Unless the explosions are very large, it's not clear. It is possible that they may have been secondary explosions, not clear, but at this moment Kandahar is the only place reporting possibly a third strike.

No reports coming in from Jalalabad. Southern Jalalabad has not been giving us more information which means that Jalalabad is quiet. No reports of Jalalabad Airport being hit, but that missiles or the two fighter bombers that attacked in Jalalabad area, struck targets to the south of the city where allegedly there may be camps run by Osama bin Laden.

BROWN: Hyder, thank you. We'll stay in touch.




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