(This interview with former President Musharraf had been conducted in 2011 in London. Parts of it appeared in the same year on Limes, Italian Review of Geopolitics and L'Espresso. This is Part 2 of the entire two-part series of the full chat. Read Part 1 here.)
Now, we are talking of a different issue. Mumbai, India and Pakistan. The confrontation between Pakistan and India started with a first war in 1948 and ISI and RAW of India always clashed since then. What happened in East Pakistan? It became Bangladesh. How? RAW was involved and later, Indian Army attacked. What happened in Siachen? Indian Army came in.
And what happened in Kargil?
Yes. What happened in Siachen? So, therefore, we must not take isolated incidents. If you talk of Kargil, I will mention Siachen and East Pakistan. What happened there? Why are you not asking how it is that Pakistan was broken into two? It did not happen in Kargil. So, isn’t that more serious? Why don’t you go and ask India why do they do that?
But a war is one thing and a terrorist attack is different altogether. I mean Mumbai has been a terrorist attack.
Again no comparison with isolated incidents. Terrorism is being carried out in Baluchistan by a person called Brahumdagh who is a grandson of Akbar Bugti who lives in Kabul and now probably shifted to somewhere else. He used to go to Delhi. He was received by RAW. They were giving him arms and money. Six truckloads of weapons, including anti-aircraft missiles, rocket launchers and mortars were caught across the Chaman border coming from Kandahar by the first cousin of this man sitting in Kabul who is close to RAW and meets RAW in India. So why is all this happening? RAW & ISI are always in a clash. We cannot take one incident and blame ISI. We have to take all incidents and everything must stop. But it will stop when both sides stop otherwise this kind of confrontation carries on.
Last year I met Mr Mohammed Hafiz Saeed who said he cannot rule out the chance of nuclear war with India.
No. Why I rule it out because Pakistan maintains a deterrence capability in the conventional force. If Pakistan did not have that, then the possibility of nuclear confrontation was there. Because if Pakistan’s integrity is being compromised or at stake, then probably its government would obviously go for nuclear option to threaten India. But as long as Pakistan’s conventional forces have the deterrence which means that India cannot attack Pak because we have large forces.
And even if they attack, we have the capability of defending ourselves and may be even defeating the Indian forces if our strategy is correct with the conventional forces. Therefore, our unconventional modes will not arise. For 10 months when India was on our borders in 2002, we moved our troops to the border confronting each other, our nuclear weapons were not mated. It’s not like NATO or Warsaw Pact where (nuclear bombs) are mated with missiles ready to be fired for pressing a button. That is not a situation in Pakistan and India. The nuclear weapons are not mated with missiles with the delivery system. So, therefore, it is not what he is saying unless something happens that Pakistan’s integrity is at stake and India is doing that then, of course, danger of nuclear confrontation may be there.
Pakistan has been called the most dangerous place in the world: how the situation can be fixed?
It can be fixed. We have to understand the problems and resolve them. We have to fix the economy which is very important because if economy is not doing well, people will remain unhappy. In 1999-2000, the economy was in total shambles and we had technically defaulted. We were being declared a failed state. We turned it around in six years.
Pakistan was declared as N-11 countries among 11 economically viable countries of the world. Pak has the potential and resources. The problem is only a vacuum in the leadership. The other is extremism and terrorism. Domestic extremism, sectarian religious extremism we have controlled. We totally muzzled it up. I banned these organisations and that too before 9/11.
But they are still sitting in Pakistan. Jamaat-ud-Dawa (JuD) is there, Dawood Ibrahim is there.
Yes. Hafiz Saeed is there. No, Dawood Ibrahim is not the problem. Brahumdagh is sitting in Delhi. So leave Dawood Ibrahim, I don’t know where he is. This is again a conflict between RAW & ISI. Don’t bring that in. That is a different subject altogether.
I know where he (Dawood Ibrahim) is: in Karachi. Everybody knows where his house is.
I know where Brahumdagh goes. I have seen his photographs. He is received in Delhi. I know where he is hiding in Kabul in a house. So, these are other issues.
And where is Mullah Omar?
That I don’t know. But I am reasonably sure that he is in Afghanistan. Recently, in papers it came that he was recently killed. The spokesman of the Taliban after the death report of Mullah Omar, said that he was in Afghanistan in Kandahar.
You were talking of stabilising Afghanistan. Who would stabilise Pakistan?
Somebody must! We will try to do it. We have to win the next election and then only we could do that – I am talking about myself. I have my views of dealing with the situation but we will implement those views only if we win elections in Pakistan and form the government. The aim is to win the next elections and we have to focus on that.
But the person who wins must be endorsed by the Army.
No. They will endorse anyone. These are misnomers and misperceptions about the Army as if it has to endorse. Anybody who wins will be endorsed by the Army.
The Army ruled Pakistan for most of its existence.
Yes. Almost half, 29 out of 64 years. We have to go into details as to why the Pakistan Army has ruled because Pakistan has been going down. In 1999, Pakistan was being declared a failed state. When Ayub Khan came in 1957 or 1958, Pakistan was in a very poor state. 10 years of Ayub Khan’s era, leave my era aside, were the golden years of Pakistan history from all points of view.
Unfortunately, our dilemma in Pakistan is that democratic governments do not perform. Not one democratically elected government has performed in terms of welfare of people, development of the states which is government responsibility. None of the democratic government did that. Therefore, Pakistan used to go down and people would go to the Army – do something, save Pakistan and the Army comes in. We have to get out of it. We have to ensure that democratically elected government performs. When governments don’t respond, the Army intrudes .
What is the solution?
Break this vicious cycle and ensure that the people first and foremost, have prosperity and jobs. The rest will come as a result. Pakistan has all the potential to rise again. The problem is the lack of real leadership, the lack of political and economic vision. This needs to be fought for, focus on the upcoming elections. If the people can get rid of the current government in the next election, everything can change. That is the only hope. The next one to use Saddam Hussein's words, will be the mother of all elections.
Lessons From Past. Hits & Misses
Until 2006, you were one of the most popular leaders in the world with an eighty-six percent approval rating in the polls, and just over a year later you were forced to resign. What was the turning point, the mistake that proved fatal?
Firing Supreme Court Justice Iftikhar Chaudry. This is the main reason indeed, the only reason for the change in the popular mood towards my government and me personally. Otherwise, everything was going in the right direction as usual, all socio-economic indicators, the economy, showed a situation in perfect order. On the other hand, the allegations against Chaudry had been made by the then Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz who had forwarded a number of formal reports to me. I acted in full compliance with the law; according to those reports, my action was proper. The episode, however, was exploited politically by the opposition which stirred up the lawyers' movement and all the street demonstrations that followed. Added to this was the return of Benazir Bhutto who returned to Pakistan in violation of an agreement that set her return home until after the elections. Benazir was killed, Nawaz Sharif returned to the country, and the rest is history.
You have recently been formally accused of being involved in Benazir Bhutto's murder.
Ridiculous and unfounded accusations. I am the one who had the most to lose as the facts have shown from Benazir's death. These accusations are just pathetic attempts to try to dissuade me from returning to the country. But I am more and more intent on re-entering, and going to court to exonerate myself.
Why did you decide after three years to form a new political party and re-enter Pakistan to participate in the upcoming elections?
For the sake of Pakistan, certainly not for myself. I want to come back because Pakistan is badly governed and on the verge of collapse, and I want to have this last chance to recover the situation.
Do you really think you have any chance of winning in an election contest?
I really think so. Of course, I can't be sure, but I think I have a good chance. By allying myself with like-minded parties, and especially by trying to regain my popularity. I think I have already made some big strides, given how the current government acts, it is not that complicated to regain support. The only salvation for Pakistan is to change the state of affairs, to create an alternative that is considered credible by both the Pakistani people and the rest of the world. I think I have the capacity and the ability to do that. If I fail, I will give up. But it is better to have tried and failed than to give up in the beginning.
You can also count on the support of the Army, of course.
The Army will support whoever wins the election. There is a perception of the Army outside Pakistan that is completely wrong. The Army will support anyone, as is its duty. The Army is about defense not politics.
What will happen in the future?
Pakistan has all the potential. It lacks leadership. If people of Pakistan are raised for the next elections and they come out and break the status quo – that is the solution.
No risk of any Islamic revolution?
I don’t think so. Revolutions take place in a society which is homogenous. We have a society which has many diversities – ethnic, tribal, feudal, education, sectarian. Therefore, unified action towards one cause is not possible.
(Francesca Marino is a journalist and a South Asia expert who has written ‘Apocalypse Pakistan’ with B Natale. Her latest book is ‘Balochistan — Bruised, Battered and Bloodied’. She tweets @francescam63. This is an opinion piece and the views expressed are the author's own. The Quint neither endorses nor is responsible for his reported views.)