Dark Days Ahead for Musharraf

Q&A: 'Pakistanis Know I Can Be Tough’
Newsweek, Jan 12, 2008
Pakistan's President Pervez Musharraf talks about fair elections, Benazir Bhutto's assassination and security in the region.
By Fareed Zakaria

Since Benazir Bhutto's assassination weeks ago, Pakistan has been plunged into one of the worst crises in its history. President Pervez Musharraf, having recently given up control of the nation's army, remains firmly in charge and as reluctant as ever to share power, despite a rising tide of criticism. He spoke to NEWSWEEK's Fareed Zakaria from his camp office in Rawalpindi. Excerpts:

NEWSWEEK: What do you make of reports that the United States is thinking about launching CIA operations in Pakistan with or without Pakistan's approval?
Pervez Musharraf: We are totally in cooperation on the intelligence side. But we are totally against [a military operation]. We are a sovereign country. We will ask for assistance from outsiders. They won't impose their will on us.

How do you take Hillary Clinton's suggestion that the United States and Britain help Pakistan secure its nuclear weapons?

Does she know how secure [the weapons] are and what we are doing to keep them so? They are very secure. We will ask if we need assistance. Nobody should tell us what to do. And I'd ask anyone who says such things, do you know how our strategic assets are handled, stored and developed--do you know it?

Have you told the American government that?
No, why should we? We have said we are totally under control.

Graham Allison of Harvard says that these weapons must be disbursed for them to have survivability, which means that they could also fall into the wrong hands, because there might be a local command structure that is weak.

He doesn't know anything--how disbursed they are, and he shouldn't think that we don't know these things. We are from the military, we understand how to handle things, whether they need to be disbursed or concentrated.

But you understand that due to past episodes there is concern.

Yes, the past has [caused] some concern, but we must understand the difference between past and now. Before we were a declared and overt nuclear state, we had to hide everything. Everything was covert. Only the scientists and the president of Pakistan knew what was going on. Now there is a national command authority. It is the top body, headed by the president and the prime minister, and there are members from the military and the civilian side. And there's a huge strategic planning division, a full secretariat headed by now-retired [Lt. General Khalid] Kidwai. He is in charge of this Strategic Planning Division that is the secretarial arm of the National Command, responsible for development and employment. Then we have army, navy, air force, the strategic force command. If anything happens, indeed it's a failure of everyone from myself to SPD to the Army Strategic Force Command.

But it would need the collusion of several people, up and down the chain.

Absolutely. It's like an army unit. Can one rifle be taken away from an army unit? Can the bullet of a rifle be taken away from an army unit? I challenge anyone to take a bullet, a weapon, away from an army unit.

You've said that Benazir Bhutto took risks. Surely it's normal for a politician to stand in a car's sunroof. If this is taking a risk, then politics is impossible in Pakistan.

This gathering she addressed was maybe 25,000-to-30,000 people. I have addressed gatherings of hundreds of thousands. She was given security. [But] you have to be conscious of security. The man in charge of security should be conscious. The man in charge of her security was her own handpicked superintendent of police. This area was known to be dangerous. There was a death threat, intelligence that there would be an attack, and we told her, yet she wanted to go, she was intent about it. She went into a dangerous place, and if you get out of the vehicle, you are responsible. All the others sitting inside the vehicle were safe.


Do you think you're the right person to fight this war against the jihadis?

The United States thought Benazir was the right person to fight terrorists. Who is the best person to fight? You need three qualities today if you want to fight the extremists and the terrorists. Number one, you must have the military with you. Well, she was very unpopular with the military. Very unpopular. Number two, you shouldn't be seen by the entire religious lobby to be alien--a nonreligious person. The third element: don't be seen as an extension of the United States. Now I am branded as an extension, but not to the extent she was. Pakistanis know that I can be tough. I can speak out against Hillary Clinton. I can speak out against anyone. These are the elements. You be the judge.

For complete Interview, click here

Also see: Musharraf’s Last Stand Newsweek, Jan 12, 2008


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