Pervez Musharraf, President of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan

Pakistan: Meeting the Challenge of Peace and Development

September 16, 2005 12:45 PM

Q & A

by President Lee Bollinger

President Pervez Musharraf: Thank you very much.

Lee Bollinger: The president is pleased to take question. Please go to the
microphones. I would like to give special priority to students at Columbia to ask
questions. So please line up and ask whatever questions you would like of the

John Sherman: Mr. President, thank you for speaking with us today. My name is
John Sherman, I'm a student at the law school here. I wanted to ask you just
briefly what your government's plans are for the election in 2007.

President Pervez Musharraf: The plans are very noble. We will hold them. We
will hold elections for the national assembly, the (inaudible) assembly, and may I
say that is the first time the assemblies will complete their tenure. The first time in
the history of Pakistan and we've also held the local government elections now,
this is again the first time that we've introduced system in 2001 and they had a
four-year tenure. They completed their tenure now and elections are being held
for the mayor and we call them (inaudible) in the local government. In 2007, the
national assembly, which was elected in 2002, completes its five-year tenure and
there will be elections, that is what will happen.

Lee Bollinger: Thank you, yes.

Dan Shinoy: Thank you, Mr. President for coming today. My name is Dan
Shinoy, I'm a student at the college here. As I read the newspapers, I'm trying to
understand a little better what happens inside Pakistan and it can all be a little
confusing at times. And you've been very forthright in opposing extremism and
you said as much in your speech. But inside Pakistan, the impression I get is that
your strongest allies are the Islamist parties in Pakistan and that you have not
reached out as much to the more mainstream secular parties led by people like
Ben-Izeer and Nafar Sharif so I guess my question really, is, what's the
reasoning behind this and does this hurt your ability to fight extremism?

President Pervez Musharraf: You've touched my raw nerve, I think, with that.
Ben-Izeer and Nafar Sharif, yes, indeed, there are 11 years of democracy that I
related to you. They looted and plundered the nation, but billions of dollars
against Ben-Izeer, there's a case on in the Geneva courts. She is to appear, I
think, today or tomorrow, I think, yes, in September, 19 September in three days
to answer for the plundering that they've done and laundering of money that
they've done. Similarly, Nafar Sharif and they brought this nation to a state where
it was being declared a failed state and a defaulted state. It was totally a
destroyed state. SO therefore, economically, and in all the sectors of Pakistan
governance, it was a destroyed state that I just inamorated to you in my speech.

Now, the question that goes is, should you, for the sake of whatever views of
democracy anyone holds, bring these people and allow them to again destroy the
nation? And again start looting and plundering? As far as we are concerned, as
far as I'm concerned, I am not at all against their parties. The people's party,
which is Ben-Izeer's Butos Party, is there in Pakistan. They are free, they are
fighting the elections. We are having the political activities. They come on the
television and speak against me, all of them, they write against me in the
newspapers. So also (inaudible) is totally free to operate. So are we concerned
about two individuals when you are talking of moderates, or are we concerned
about democracy, through giving freedom to their parties?

I believe it is their parties who need to be given freedom and they are totally free
to do anything, fight elections, they have fought these elections in the local
government, they are going to fight in 2007, I think their parties are great parties,
people's party's a great Pakistani party, it must be there. But if you're talking of
individuals, I don't know whatever your relationship with those two are, I am
afraid I don't encourage individuals who loot and plunder and destroy my nation.

Dennis Lowe: My name is Dennis Lowe. I'm a perpetual student and a member
of the advisory board for the Middle East Institute at Columbia. My question is:
the resolution of the war in Afghanistan really required the dissolution of the
Soviet Union. Otherwise, you would still be fighting. Just as you said, Palestinian
and Israeli conflict is central to many of the countries and many of the extremists.
An establishment of a mere Palestinian state, depending on what it is, may
satisfy you and other, but not necessarily the people who are extremists or
otherwise. What do you think is necessary for the establishment, what kind of
state, I guess, do you think it will be necessary to appease or if that's the word, to
quiet down the extremists globally?

President Pervez Musharraf: I think we have to understand what is the root of
extremism and terrorism. In my belief, the root, the root to the root lies in political
deprivation. You'll look at it anywhere in the world. Whether you're talking of
Bosnia, or Kosovo, or Chechnya, or Palestine, or Kashmir, it is political
deprivation. It is political demands that the people are having and they are being
deprived of their rights. Therefore, there is a sense of hopelessness, there is a
sense of powerlessness, and therefore they go for extremism and terrorism. So
now, if you can resolve that root and resolve the dispute, I think all the effects on
terrorism and extremism, even in Iraq, even in Afghanistan, even in Pakistan,
where they exist, would be affected. Because the source is gone.

So what are they demanding now? So wherever in the world there is political
deprivation, if we today resolve to bring it to conclusion, solve them peacefully
and amicably, terrorism and extremism itself will go down. So all these
organizations, whether it is (inaudible) or any other organization, it has it's root in
the Palestinian problem, they will gradually disappear themselves. Other issues,
obviously, are lack of education, and poverty. I know of suicide bombers who
have key around their neck and this key is key to heavens.

Now the man is illiterate enough to be indoctrinated that he has the key to the
heavens and he's miserable enough in this world to say that "Let's leave the
world and open the key to heaven and have a good time there." So this is the
root to the problem, which needs to be addressed by the world. Through the
millennium development goal of the United Nations, regionally and domestically
by every government and every leader of the world, so that we can get to the

Tyson Brody: I'm Tyson Brody, I'm a freshman in the college. And I just wanted
to know how you respond to numerous allegations that members of the inter-
service intelligence community continue aid to Muhaj-jeen and Taliban elements
they trained in the first place?

President Pervez Musharraf: My reaction is that these people are not prepared
to believe us, I really can only, I think I'm speaking the truth. So they should
believe whatever we are saying. And the other thing is, let's say the effects that
we've created. Who has arrested 700 Al Qaeda people? Has anyone done it,
other than Pakistan? Who has arrested (inaudible), all these big names,
(inaudible), I can keep naming them. Who has done it? Who's arresting these
people and informing, through the interrogation, United Kingdom, United States,
that these are their contacts and then leading on to the arrest of dozens of more
people in the U.K., in the USA and other countries. Pakistan does that.

Who has gone into the mountains to fight Al Qaeda and suffered 250 dead
casualties? Pakistan has done that. So, sir, if nobody believes that, if Pakistan is
not doing anything against terrorism and extremism, who in the hell in the world
is doing anything? So we are in the lead role, fighting terrorism, extremism. What
can be said against Pakistan is maybe on occasion is we are lacking the
capability, we haven't, the steps we took are maybe not effective enough, but we
should never doubt intentions. When you doubt intentions, that is really creating
divisions within yourself. And when such accusations arise, being a soldier I
know when a force is operating together, the first signs of disintegration is, when
you start accusing each other within yourself.

Never should that happen, a homogenous force, we are part of the coalition.
Never start accusing each other. Reinforce each other. Advise each other on
improving the capabilities, but don't accuse on intentions, that disturbs and that
creates the divisions and then we start pulling in different directions. Pakistan is a
part of the coalition, everyone knows it. The United States government knows it,
but sometimes in the media is different and the government is not telling us
anything, media is speaking totally something else. So let me assure you, that
nobody in the official channels is accusing Pakistan of lack of determination, lack
of action, they only thank us and express gratitude to me. But in the media,
sometimes you (inaudible) I'm under great pressure. I'm not under any pressure
from any side. People come and praise me, and thank me for what we are doing.

Burt Oxholm: Mr. President, Thank you very much for New York and Columbia.
My name is Burt Oxholm and I'm a senior at Columbia and I guess I just wanted
to ask you to elaborate a little further on when you spoke of rooting out
extremism by reaching into the hearts and minds of the youth or the masses of
Pakistan. I was wondering if perhaps, you could perhaps, I'm sure it's very
complicated, but outline some specific measures that you or your government
has taken, and also comment on the role of religious leaders in Pakistan and how
they are either helping or hindering that effort.

President Pervez Musharraf: There is, I said in my speech that there is a
strategy that we are implementing. It has six spots. Three in the short term and
three in the long term. The short-term perspective of our actions are number one.
There are some banned extremist organizations, who tried to resurface,
reemerge with different names. We have checked that. We have checked their
collection of money, funding. And we are coordinating internationally to freeze
and control the underground of international funding of these organizations and
we have exactly specified who are the people we are talking of and we are
moving against them and arresting them. About 60 to 70 percent of them have
been arrested. Those who are in the leadership of these banned organizations,
that is in the immediate context.

Number two, we are addressing the issue of Mosques, loudspeakers to spread
hate and militancy and aggressiveness. We have asked the law enforcement
agencies, the intelligence organizations, the local government to do that and we
are moving against anyone who is doing that. And I know that there is a lot of
reduction in this hate campaign being done by these individual extremists or
groups. The third area, which is of immediate concern, there's a lot of literatures
floating around. Books, pamphlets, handbills being distributed of hate, sectarian
hate, religious hate. Asking people to go for Jihad all over the world. Militancy,
that is banned and we have specified them, we have checked them, we have
sealed them, we have arrested the people who are writing, who are distributing,
who are publishing. These are the three immediate areas.

The three long-term objectives are: correct the curriculum and syllabus in our
education institution. It is only concentrating on rituals. And rituals too, which are
in conflict within the sects of Islam, so we need to do away with that. We need to
concentrate more on real values of Islam, the teachings of Islam as it pertains to
the character of individuals and the responsibilities to the society, to the nation,
the family, more than their rights, which are enshrined in this great religion of
ours, Islam. That is what we are doing. Through real Islamic scholars, we are
modifying the syllabus and curriculum. The fifth area is the (inaudible) issue. We
are trying to mainstream the children of these (inaudible). (inaudible) are
organizations where poorest of the poor have free board and lodge.

So that is the positive of the (inaudible). The world thinks that everything in
(inaudible) is wrong. No sir, that is not the case. People should realize what
(inaudible) is. The poorest of the poor get free board and lodge. It's the biggest
envy of the world. But however, yes indeed, the children should be mainstream.
They should be taught all subjects as per the curriculum of the boards, and not
be confined to religious education alone. So that is the (inaudible) that we are
implementing. So that they are children. The poorest of the poor get mainstream,
maybe I give them scholarships to go to better schools and colleges and then
they get absorbed as doctors, or for that matter, joining the military. The sixth
area is the area which is the longest term strategy. And that is, let us project the
real values of Islam to the world and understand it a better way within ourselves.

Therefore, I'm calling it an Islamic renaissance through an institutional
arraignment where we research Islam, we project the right values of Islam within
ourselves for creating more homogeneity and harmony and let the world know
what Islam in its real sense is. Islam is not what we're seeing, what these
terrorists are showing, therefore we think we can start an Islamic renaissance
from Pakistan. Let Pakistan be the source of light on Islam, that is what we are
doing. So these are the six point agenda that we have. It has a short term
connotation and long term. We know this is the right line to pursue.

Lee Bollinger: Mr. President, your staff has said two more questions is all I'm to

David Ribner: Mr. President, my name is David Ribner, I'm a senior in the
college, I want to thank you for coming today. In your remarks, and some of the
answers to the questions, you've noted Pakistan's successes in the war on
terrorism. And I'd like to thank you and your country for its role on the global role
of terrorism. However, I'd like to address one specific issue, which continues to
dog the war on terror in Afghanistan and that's the porous border in between
Afghanistan and Pakistan. Recently there have been reports in the media that
Pakistan is now going to build a fence in between the border. And I just wanted
to know that if that is going to affect the movement of Al Qaeda terrorists in
between Afghanistan, Pakistan. In addition, what other Pakistan can take in
conjunction with the United States and other coalition forces in Afghanistan to
stop the movement of terrorists in between the two countries?

President Pervez Musharraf: That's one of the tasks of the military, which is
operating. Our military, which is operating, they have two tasks: to eliminate any
Al Qaeda or Taliban in our area, eliminate them with force, launching of
operations. The other is to block their infiltration into Afghanistan and carrying out
actions there. Now that has two areas there we thought we had already
established over one thousand posts, so that we check there. But this is a
mountainous area. In spite of all that, people can go across, because the
inaccessibility of the area, which doesn't' lend it to proper holding and blocking.
When we are talking of the fence, yes indeed, that is the idea that we have
floated. But a fence, if you, being a military man, I know, an obstacle is useless if
it is not manned, if it is not held.

Therefore, we are talking of selective fencing. Selective fencing in the area where
we think infiltration is going on. And then manning that through means, through
force, or surveillance or through patrolling, that will check infiltration in a better
manner. Other than that, there is intelligence coordination, which is already
taking place and intelligence you must know, is at three levels, one is human
intelligence, which needs to be developed, the second is technological
intelligence, which you hear whenever anyone is talking, and the third is
surveillance where you see whatever is happening on ground. There is
coordination taking place in all these three areas of intelligence, because this war
against terrorism is more intelligence oriented and less operation oriented.
Getting intelligence is more difficult, so we are coordinating on that also. And
lastly, whenever we operate on either side, we coordinate at the tactical level
with each other, so that effects here being produced are complemented by action
on the other side.

I think there's a good amount of coordination going on. If you talk to General
(inaudible), he will tell you what we are doing. In fact, he gave an interview to
whom did he give the interview? BBC? Where he said Pakistan is, what did he
say? The unsung hero. General (inaudible), who's in charge, sanctum, he's a
great friend, I'm going there the day after tomorrow, he said this about me and
about Pakistan: "The unsung hero against the war on terrorism." So let us not be
unsung, you start singing as far as Pakistan is concerned.

Lee Bollinger: Mr. President, the last question.

Ruhad Sashdev: Hi, President Musharraf, thank you very much for coming to
Columbia to talk to us. My name is *Ruhad Sashdev, I'm a student at the law and
the business schools here. I, like you, believe that the Israel/Palestine conflict is
the foundation for the civility in the Middle East and now around the world. Do
you believe that President Bush's unprovoked attack on Iraq will help or hinder
the effort to resolve this conflict?

President Pervez Musharraf: He's already attacked, so I don't want to, he's not
going to attack again. I would like to comment on that. All that I can say is yes,
the operation in Iraq have complicated the world, definitely. And we need to go
on, I'm a person who believes in reality and action and the future. I don't want to
look at the present, and then work out the future. I'm not a man who keeps
bogged down in history and what were the affects of the past, it has happened.
So why talk about it? Why talk of spilled milk? It is done and finished, let's forget
it. We need to work out what needs to be done now. We've done something.
Whether right or wrong, we must work out a strategy. And leadership involves
changing courses of history. Leadership does not involve going with the current
on whatever the world is thinking, whatever nations are thinking, we need to
change the course of history, that is real leadership.

And we expect the leaders of today ought to be capable enough to change
history, to change the course of streams and we hope that is the case. In my
interaction with President Bush, I know that he has a very strong desire, he has a
strong commitment and a sincerity to close fronts, to close the Palestinian front,
to close the Iraqi and Iran front. Easier said than done. You can't just wind up,
pack up and go. You need to have a strategy of how to pack up and go. And that
is there. And I think I'm, it is, maybe, it's not a short-term effort. It will take time,
but I think the Palestinian dispute and the Kashmir dispute in our area are ripe for
solution today. And if the world can put in its effort and the concerned leaders
have shown sincerity and flexibility and boldness. Boldness is a very important
element. If a man is sincere and he's flexible, but he's not bold, he won't do
anything. So that is what is required today of leadership and I hope things go well
for the world.

Lee Bollinger: President Musharraf, thank you for very much for your generous
time and thoughts.

President Pervez Musharraf: Thank you very much, especially the students.
Thank you very much for this very patient hearing and it was lovely, it was a
great experience to have interacted with you. I wish I could stand here for hours
more and take all the questions of the youngsters who were lined up. Maybe
some other time, thank you very much.

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