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Examining Events in Pakistan; Interview with Pakistan's Foreign Minister.

Aired January 16, 2013 - 15:00:00   ET


CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN HOST: Good evening, everyone, and welcome to the program. I'm Christiane Amanpour.

It seems that every time we turn to Pakistan, another wheel has come spinning off the bus. Pakistan seems to lurch from crisis to crisis. There are more suicide bombings and Taliban threats.

There's the ongoing assault on young women and girls, starkly evident in that horrific attack on the teenager, Malala Yousafzai, who had simply stood up for the right to go to school and who says she's not coming back to Pakistan.

Shiites are demanding action now after the worst-ever sectarian violence this past week with extremist Pakistani Sunnis massacring up to 100 of them. In all 400 Shiites have been slaughtered in the past year.

And there are new tensions with neighboring India over Kashmir and that is just for starters because now seemingly out of the blue steps a fiery Islamic preacher who's doing his best to upend the political system.

These massive crowds have followed 61-year-old cleric Tahir Ul-Qadri from Lahore last month to Islamabad today, where he and his followers are camped out on the doorstep of Pakistan's parliament. This incredible image, TV cameras and journalists hoisted high into the air to catch Qadri blasting President Asif Zardari and all his ministers from inside this bulletproof bubble.

And later in the program, I'll interview Ul-Qadri from that security container.

So what is going on in this all-important nuclear armed nation? The United States is alarmed about the internal chaos at a time when stability on all Pakistani fronts is key to its successful withdrawal from Afghanistan. So here to discuss all the challenges that her nation faces is Pakistan's foreign minister, Hina Rabbani Khar.

Thank you, Foreign Minister, and welcome back to the program to this program. Nice to sit here with you face to face to ask you, are you worried about this internal turmoil that seems to be ravaging the country right now?

HINA RABBANI KHAR, FOREIGN MINISTER, PAKISTAN: Internal turmoil, are you talking about Mr. Qadri?


KHAR: Well, Mr. Qadri happens to be a non-entity in Pakistan. I mean, (inaudible) just showed 30,000 people over there, Christiane -- 30,000 people -- collecting 30,000 people is no big deal.

AMANPOUR: Well, I --


KHAR: Let me -- let me just share with you, I represent one seat in the parliament out of -- out of 272 elected seats. You know how many votes I got to make it to that seat? Eighty thousand.

AMANPOUR: All right.

Well, the police estimates and the crowd estimates are up to 80,000. And Foreign Minister, I know you're putting the best face on it. But I've been to Pakistan and I've seen demonstrations. And I haven't seen the crowds that big.

So are you concerned? Does he have a reason to be drawing all these crowds? He's talking about corruption and the government --


KHAR: You know, as far as corruption is concerned, it's a concern. It's a concern of the government and that's why the government has tried to do whatever it can and will continue to do and so will the governments which follow.

Now please let's look at the credentials of this man, because I don't want to dedicate too much of my time, frankly speaking, on somebody who lacks as much credibility as this one does.

And as you may have seen, everybody who has credibility in the country is distancing himself from this character who has launched himself in Pakistan to deliver the Pakistanis from their own elected leaders, so to speak, and who happens to be an entity who cannot even context elections according to Pakistan's constitution.

And two months before a first-ever smooth transition after completion of term in Pakistan, 60 years, this person arrives. So had he arrived 21/2 years back, I would have thought, OK. The government, you know, he wants to deliver the people from the government. The people are already getting a chance to elect their new leaders.

AMANPOUR: When will the date of that election be?

KHAR: The term of the government ends on March 16th. Anytime before that, the data collections must be and will be --

AMANPOUR: Must be set?

KHAR: -- yes, and it will be 60-90 days after our term ends, which is March 16th.

AMANPOUR: You say that everybody is sort of keeping their distance. I mean, from what we know and from what I'm seeing, people are sort of sitting on the edge of their seats. Certainly the Pakistani are prayers, the sort of chattering classes, the people who are the elite are wondering what the heck is going on, who is behind Mr. Qadri?

I interviewed him three years ago, when he was talking against terrorism and had a very rational message about deradicalizing young men, certainly in the Islamic world. Do you think, as is suspected by many in Pakistan, that he's backed by the military?

KHAR: Well, the military gave a statement through ISBR again distancing themselves from him and clearly not. So there are all sorts of conspiracy theories about him. But he does have an organization which is fairly well-organized. So for him to be able to manage, you know, 30,000- plus-ish people, may not be such a big deal, so to speak.

AMANPOUR: He seems to be bringing these crowds with him. We'll see where it goes. Do you worry -- you just said this comes at a time when the elected civilian government might have its first-ever peaceful transition, democratic transition, in the history of your country. Do you worry about a potential coup coming out of this turmoil before these elections happen?

KHAR: Well, that would be the worst-case scenario ever. And I would not worry about it because I think Pakistan has now become a country where the civil society, the media -- the politicians themselves, by the way, politicians in Pakistan get no credit ever.

Give them some credit. Look at how, despite being a small majority in parliament, we were able to do two, three constitutional amendments that required the opposition itself to be part of it. No, he's talking about electoral reform, the demanding electoral reform.

I think he didn't -- he missed out the information while he was residing in Canada for the last 11 years that there was a constitutional amendment in Pakistan, which brought out the electoral reforms like never before.

So it's interesting, because all his demands happen to be unconstitutional. All his demands and his way moving forward seems to be denting the perseverance and sustenance of democracy in Pakistan. So there does seem to be something wrong somewhere. But let's see what happens.

AMANPOUR: Exactly. Let's see, with those big crowds.

Another key issue, a very underreported one is the constant attack against your Shiite minority in Pakistan. They have been massacred -- we've said 400 in 2012 alone. I mean, that is a lot of people. And now they're out there over this past week, they've refused to bury their latest dead until they got demands from the Pakistani government. They demand protection.

And it took the prime minister a long time to go up there to Quetta. Are they right? I mean, do they need to be taken care of better by the government?

KHAR: Christiane, everybody in Pakistan needs to be taken care of.

AMANPOUR: But particularly this group?

KHAR: But particularly (inaudible) group is being targeted by a certain terrorist group, yes, they do need to be taken care of. And I think absolutely (inaudible) try and sit here and explain it out. I'm not going to justify the fact that they are being targeted --

AMANPOUR: And they're not getting enough help so far (ph).

KHAR: No, we need to ensure that they do get enough help and I can assure you that as government we are trying to do that. What do we need to do? We need to go after the people who are attacking them and we also need to ensure that they continue to be part of society.

You know, Christiane, you can't -- you've seen the Arab world. In Pakistan, in my school, in the parliament, in my workplace, I don't know who are the Shia or who's the Sunni. So the broad majority of Pakistani, this is not an issue. Ethnicity is not an issue.

However, there are these strange elements who will try and make that an issue and create chaos through that. But we are very clear that we need to --

AMANPOUR: To step up the game.

KHAR: And you mentioned --


AMANPOUR: -- needs to step up the game?

KHAR: Absolutely the government needs to step up the game. There's no question about it. And the prime minister went there, by the way, on day three. Day two, of course, we had a whole delegation of very important federal ministers went there.

But these -- consider also the fact that, on their demand, the chief, elected chief minister was removed. So that just shows the sensitivity of the government toward their plight and the commitment to protect them.

AMANPOUR: Let's talk about the broader issue, then, because the extremist groups that you mentioned, some of them are linked with the greater Taliban sort of theory here.

President Karzai has just been in the United States talking to President Obama about the future of his country in a post-U.S. withdrawal. This is what he said about the violence and about the violence that we've just been talking about in Pakistan.


HAMID KARZAI, PRESIDENT OF AFGHANISTAN: That's immense suffering in Pakistan as well. And I'm sure the establishment in Pakistan, the decision- makers in Pakistan understand that radicalism is now hurting them so very, very much, unfortunately.



KHAR: Of course --

AMANPOUR: Do you understand that?

KHAR: And I don't think President Karzai needed to say that to make sure that we -- of course we do. You see, Christiane, I think, you know what, when we have a tendency to go into the blame game and the trust deficit mode is when we are trying to oversimplify a rather complicated situation. And I'll tell you what the turning point for Pakistan was.

The turning point for Pakistan was the reaction of the world, together with the U.S. and Pakistan and some Middle Eastern countries, to the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. We armed them with the extremist mindset.

We put the seeds of the extremist mindset. We armed them with Kalashnikovs and the narcotics that has not left the region for the last 30 years. So therefore we always talk about the unintended consequences of decision-making.

AMANPOUR: Well, let me ask you to focus on this, then, because, yes, that's true. But it has been going on. I mean, you know, the Taliban does have sanctuaries in Pakistan.

I interviewed General Stanley McChrystal, the former commander, ISAF, in Afghanistan, and he's been talking to others as well about this issue.

He said to an interviewer that "Pakistan did not believe we were going to succeed."

He's talking about Afghanistan.

"They felt we were going to lose and they were trying to hedge their bets."

He basically was saying that you were taking -- your country -- actions that may have been not in your own country's interests, but you were hedging your bets, supporting the Haqqani, supporting the Taliban because you didn't think the U.S. had a winning strategy.

KHAR: I would like to ask General McChrystal that if we think the U.S. did not have a winning strategy or we were not fully against any extremist elements where -- and violent elements -- then why is it that ever since 2001, you know, before 2001, there was how many suicide bomb attacks in Pakistan, only one.

After that, in the last three years, there have been more than 200. Why would we expose ourselves to such danger? We had lost 30,000 civilians, 6,000 -- who are the -- 6,000 military, paramilitary and law enforcement forces, then losing their lives to if not to these militants?

So when I said we try and oversimplify a complicated situation, if Pakistan has the capacity to deliver it for the 48 nation states in Afghanistan who could not maybe achieve what they wanted to achieve, and they think Pakistan entirely could, then why is it that Pakistan is not first delivering it to itself and to its own people and within its own region?

And, Christiane, because it is typically said that Pakistan never takes any action against terrorists et cetera -- do you remember the Malakand (ph) (inaudible) operation?


KHAR: Do you also remember -- do you also know that when this government came into power, we had control over only 30 percent of Fata (ph). Today, we have control over 70 percent of (Fata). We still have the 30 percent to go and I'm saying that's a long way to go. And we have to go there. But please look at the (inaudible). Do not undermine or underestimate the gains in any way.

AMANPOUR: I'm sure there are gains, and we've reported them. But the fact of the matter is there are still -- and there is still a major Taliban threat and Al Qaeda-related elements.

On that issue, I want to ask you another thing that was said by President Obama, when he was standing with President Karzai. He basically said that obviously there will be no peace in Afghanistan or in that sort of region without Pakistan as well. And he said, quote, that "we welcome recent steps that have been taken in that regard by Pakistan. And we look for more tangible steps."

What is he talking about? What steps? Regarding the Taliban particularly?

KHAR: Sure, regarding the Taliban. Until recently, there has been repeated requests from the Afghan authorities to -- for us to assist them in the reconciliation process. And we (inaudible), please, you put up your road map and we will be able to assist you, because we don't want to follow -- fall in the same trap as before.

And I don't want Christiane Amanpour to be telling me why did Pakistan do it in Afghanistan again? We want Afghans to want it and then we will do it for them. So they put up a road map in which they put up a list of things that they expected or wanted Pakistan to do to assist them. Now that included Taliban prisoner release.

That included us trying to get direct contacts with the Taliban. That included us trying to assist them in putting up (inaudible) conference and a host of other things. We hosted the high peace (ph) council led by Saladin Rabbani (ph). You were happy to go forward on each one of those and deliver --

AMANPOUR: Are you now prodding and is the ISI prodding the Taliban to make contact, to go into negotiations --

KHAR: Absolutely. Absolutely. And you know that currently, or so far, the only authorized, you know, person to talk on behalf of the Taliban, so to speak, has been with the Qatar process.

So it will be very useful for the Americans also to prod them to have direct contact with the Afghans. But there have been one or two meetings where they have been Afghan government representatives, Afghan opposition representative and the Taliban.

AMANPOUR: So you're fully vested?

KHAR: We are absolutely fully vested --


KHAR: -- for the sake of the Afghans. But before that, we are fully vested for our own sake, because you know that instability in Afghanistan has permeated through the borders and affected us.

AMANPOUR: Do you believe there will be a cease-fire by the Taliban in 2014? People are saying that they want that.

KHAR: Christiane, it really depends on what you're willing to negotiate on and I, frankly speaking, for one, I, you know, I can say it, these personal belief that if you are not going to make them stakeholders in the political process post 2014, then you can't really realistically hope for a cease-fire. So --

AMANPOUR: (Inaudible) stakeholders in a --

KHAR: Absolutely. You have to. Otherwise, why -- what is their incentive to have a cease-fire? Why would they have a cease-fire?

AMANPOUR: Back into the government?

KHAR: Well, stakeholders in the political process, you know, whatever that entails.

AMANPOUR: Of course, that brings up the issue of respect for women's rights. But before I get there, I want to ask you this, because it's happened recently. You've had, in the last several days, the worst outbreak of violence between you and India over Kashmir since you signed that cease-fire nine years ago.

You said that they were warmongering.

Are they?

KHAR: Well, Christiane, as somebody who has looked at our relationship with India and our relationship with Afghanistan as the two major focuses of our -- of the foreign office of Pakistan for the last two years, and who has taken pride in being able to normalize relations with India, who has taken pride in representing a government which has made a gesture that was not made by Pakistan for the last 40 years in normalizing trade relations with India?

It was deeply disturbing, deeply disturbing. And I say this with all honesty. For me to see such hostile comments coming in and commentary coming in from all facets, you know, from the political leaders, from the military side, from the media, now I --

AMANPOUR: Can you confirm that -- can you confirm that steps have been taken by yourself and by -- and by India to deescalate these tensions?

KHAR: Let me say, from us, from our side, the extension was never escalated for it to be deescalated because you saw most statements came in from anyone. The -- we have reportedly -- because it's got claims and counterclaims. We have reportedly (inaudible) incident. Three of them killed, our people. One out of them, they claim, killed theirs.

Now what is what I want to say on your program, Christiane, is that despite being deeply disappointed, we consider Pakistan and India to be extremely important countries within south Asia and the entire border region. We therefore consider these countries to show and we hope that both these countries will be able to show responsibility to the commitment to the peace process.

And therefore, I have said this today, that we would think that the best way to deal with this rather than raising the rhetoric and, you know, any sort of negative commentary is for a political level discussion. And I'm open to a dialogue with the foreign minister of India.

I invite him for that matter, for a dialogue, a dialogue at the political level so we can resolve the cross a lucy (ph) issue and to ensure that we continue to respect the cease-fire. This is crucial. This is absolutely crucial because if we start acting in this manner, then we're going back into the history. And we're not ensuring that the future is different than the history between the two countries.

AMANPOUR: Well, Foreign Minister, I would love to host you and your Indian counterpart together here at this table.

KHAR: Well, will be a pleasure.


AMANPOUR: And thank you very much for joining me.

KHAR: Thank you. Thank you (inaudible).

AMANPOUR: And when we come back, we'll talk to the mystery man behind all this turmoil inside Pakistan when we get back.



AMANPOUR: Welcome back to the program. And digging deeper now into the internal threats facing Pakistan, Tahir Ul-Qadri is the religious cleric at the epicenter of the political unrest in Pakistan right now. And he's spending yet another night camped out in a bulletproof security container in front of the Pakistani parliament with massive crowds in the tens of thousands cheering him on.

Ul-Qadri is calling the government a bunch of corrupt liars. It's a message that goes down well with some of the masses, especially since even as he was preaching that message outside parliament, the Supreme Court called for the arrest of Pakistan's prime minister this week.

I spoke to him on this program back in March of 2010, when he issued a fatwa condemning terrorism. By and large, he's been out of the public eye since then until now. I spoke with him moments ago from Islamabad.


AMANPOUR: Mr. Ul-Qadri, welcome back to this program. Let me ask you first what is your precise aim?

TAHIR UL-QADRI, PAKISTANI-BORN ISLAMIC THEOLOGIAN: My precise aim for this march (ph) is support democracy in letter and spirit and place in Pakistan so that the electoral process may become truly and really neat and clean, free, fair, just, honest and free of all corrupt practices as required by the constitution and law of Pakistan.

AMANPOUR: Mr. Ul-Qadri, how long are you prepared to sit in that metal bulletproof box there?

UL-QADRI: Till we are successful in our constitutional democratic and lawful demands to be (inaudible).

AMANPOUR: Mr. Ul-Qadri, as you know, this is the first time a civilian elected government of Pakistan has reached this far into its term. It's nearly at the end of its term and it says there will be elections between March and May.

Your critics say that you are about to put into crisis the first-ever civilian elected democratic process in Pakistan. Why would you be doing this now when the government's term is nearly up and it says there will be elections? Why the timing?

UL-QADRI: This is the most appropriate time for that. If I had started this populist reformist movement for electoral -- election system before today, let me say one year before, then they would have said that he has interrupted. And they are not allowing us to complete our mandate. So we have given them full time of five years.

This time is now approximately coming to its end. So they couldn't deliver, they couldn't protect the lives of the people. They couldn't eradicate the terrorism from the country. They couldn't provide the basic necessities to their people. They couldn't provide the people the rule of law.

AMANPOUR: Mr. Ul-Qadri, there are many questions about who is backing you. Many people suspect that the military might be. You have called for the military to play a significant role in what you call an interim caretaker government until there are elections. Why would you call for the military to do that?

UL-QADRI: No. That is totally wrong accusation. I totally deny it. I am against every kind of military dictatorship. I am against every kind of authoritarianism. I am against theocracy. And I am against elitism, too. I am totally for democracy and constitutionalism. I have no connection with military establishment and we have not contacted me, the (inaudible) or anybody else. Nobody's behind me.

Who is behind me? 180 million people, the poor people, those who have been deprived of human rights. Those left who are not getting the food to eat, those who are not getting the clothes, those who are not getting the house, not getting the jobs, not getting the rule of law, those who are not getting the justice, those who are being killed, all these people are behind me.

AMANPOUR: Why are you asking for the military to take a leading role in organizing an interim government?

UL-QADRI: I have not said that military should take a leading role. My demand was that all critical parties inside the parliament and outside the parliament, they are the stakeholders. There should be a consensus of opinion on impartiality of the caretaker government and take (inaudible) election commission of Pakistan.

And there is a disagreement, then the military involvement of military and judicial, not up to the extent of constituting the caretaker government.

AMANPOUR: Are you demanding that President Zardari and his government step down? Or can they go to elections?

UL-QADRI: No, no. Everybody's allowed to go elections. I am a democratic person. I am not toppling the government. I am not asking anybody to get down. My only agenda is the electoral reforms.

AMANPOUR: Mr. Ul-Qadri, thank you very much for joining me.

UL-QADRI: And thank you very much, too.


AMANPOUR: And when we come back, a final thought after a break.



AMANPOUR: And finally tonight, we've focused on the upheaval in Pakistan. But across the border, its neighbor and rival, India, is searching its own troubled soul.

Today marks the one-month anniversary of the gang rape and murder of a young student in New Delhi, a crime that outraged the world and sparked protests against what some have called a misogynistic culture of sexual harassment and abuse in India.


AMANPOUR (voice-over): As in Pakistan, the soul of a nation is at stake. Perhaps that's why as many as 100 million people are expected to flock to the banks of the Ganges River in the northern part of the country over the next two months.

It's the largest religious gathering in the world and it happens only every 12 years. Holy men, hermits and pilgrims come to wash away their sins and their numbers have grown as India's robust economy has grown. Perhaps the quest for wealth and progress and all the societal ills they also bring have prompted a national need for healing and atonement.

That's it for tonight's program. Meantime, you can always contact us at our website, Thanks for watching and goodbye from New York.