SPIEGEL Interview with Pervez Musharraf
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BERLIN: Former military ruler Pervez Musharraf has said that Pakistan had trained underground militant groups to fight in Kashmir.
Musharraf’s remarks came days after he announced his return to active politics from London where he has been living in self-imposed exile.“They (underground militant groups to fight against India in Kashmir) were indeed formed,” Musharraf told German magazine Der Spiegel in an interview.
Asked why did Pakistan train militant underground groups to fight India in Kashmir, the former president said Nawaz Sharif’s apathy to the Kashmir issue was one of the reasons, so was the fact that the world had turned a blind eye to the dispute. “Yes, it is the right of any country to promote its own interests… when India is not prepared to discuss Kashmir at the United Nations and is not prepared to resolve the dispute in a peaceful manner,” Musharraf said.
Musharraf indicated he had no regrets for the Kargil intrusion that led to an armed conflict with India in 1999, and argued that each country had a right to promote its national interest. Musharraf slammed the international community, particularly the West, for persistently ignoring the Kashmir issue, and for singling out Pakistan for all blames. “The West was ignoring the resolution of the Kashmir issue, which is the core issue of Pakistan. We expected the West — especially the United States and important countries like Germany — to resolve the Kashmir issue. Has Germany done that?” the former military ruler asked.
Musharraf also dubbed nuclear scientist Dr Abdul Qadeer Khan as “characterless” and rejected his claims that the Pakistan Army had monitored and organised clandestine atomic deals with countries like Iran and North Korea.
“(AQ) Khan is a characterless man,” Musharraf told the German magazine when asked about the nuclear scientist whom he had put under house arrest on charges of proliferation of nuclear technologies to “rogue” countries like North Korea and Iran.
“I would be a traitor if I had ever given our nuclear weapons to the United States. This capability is our pride and it will never be compromised,” he said. NNI adds: Musharraf ruled out the possibility of imposition of martial law in Pakistan and said that the time of military coups is over. He said whenever the country is in turmoil, every body looks to the army, but he would suggest that time of military occupation is over. He said the latest political developments have shown that the Supreme Court has set a bar on itself not to validate a military takeover.
Musharraf said he does not want to comment on the present government, but everybody can see what they are doing. “Pakistan is experiencing a deep economic decline — in other areas, as well. Law and order are in jeopardy, extremism is on the rise and there is political turmoil. The non-performance of an elected government is the issue,” he said.
The former president said he made Kayani chief of the army, because he thought that he (General Kayani) was the best man for the job.
To a question, he said: “We unfortunately have a culture of vendetta and vindictiveness in Pakistan. But there is no case of corruption or fraud or anything against me at the moment. My political opponents, especially Nawaz Sharif, would love to create a case against me — that I am corrupt or have committed fraud or some such. They do their best to achieve that, but they haven’t succeeded. Even if they did, I would reply in court. Risks need to be taken.”
To another question, Musharraf said: “We poisoned Pakistani civil society for 10 years when we fought the Soviets in Afghanistan in the 1980s. It was jihad and we brought in militants from all over the world, with the West and Pakistan together in the lead role. After the withdrawal of the Soviet troops, the West left Pakistan with 25,000 mujahedeen and al-Qaeda fighters, without any plan for rehabilitation or resettlement. While you were mostly concerned with the reunification of Germany, we had to cope with this. Now you expect Pakistan to pull out a magic wand and make all of this suddenly disappear? That is not doable — this will take time.”
About the resolution of the problem, he said the West made three blunders so far: “After the Soviet withdrawal from Afghanistan, they abandoned the region in 1989. Then, after 9/11, they fought the Taliban instead of strengthening the Pashtuns who could have taken on the radical Taliban. Now you try to negotiate with so-called moderate Taliban, but there is no such thing as a moderate Taliban. There are Taliban and Pashtuns. But as I have always said: All Taliban are Pashtun, but not all Pashtun people are Taliban. Again, you should reinforce the ancient Pashtun clans who are not ideologically aligned with the Taliban to govern Afghanistan and to fight the Taliban. That’s my strong advice. The fourth and worst blunder would be to quit without winning. Then militancy will prevail not only in Pakistan, India and Kashmir, but perhaps also in Europe, the United Kingdom and in the United States. That’s my belief.”
About al-Qaeda chief in Pakistan Sheikh Fateh al Masri, who was recently killed in a US drone attack in North Waziristan and sheltering of al-Qaeda leaders by the Haqqani network, Musharraf said: “If you hear the new statements from the West that they plan to withdraw their troops and leave Afghanistan in 2011, then Pakistan should think of how to handle the withdrawal scenario. Pakistan needs to find a strategy for its existence, how to tackle the situation with Siraj Haqqani, Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, the Pakistani Taliban and Mulla Omar. When the West quits, we will be on our own with them.”When asked about the fear when he returns Pakistan he may face the same fate as Benazir Bhutto, the former military ruler said it won’t stop him.