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When Musharraf chose Palestine over Kashmir

September 02, 2010 19:26 IST

Former Prime Minister Tony Blair was stumped for words when Pervez Musharraf asked him to resolve the Palestine issue instead of Kashmir during his visit to Islamabad in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks.

In his just-released memoirs, Blair also recalls how Musharraf blamed Gen Zia ul Haq for furthering radicalism in Pakistan through his policies, heightening the Kashmir issue and making reconciliation with India harder.

Pakistan President Musharraf, Blair writes, was then in a "difficult position" because his government "had worked" with the Taliban government and the borders between Afghanistan and Pakistan were porous.

Yet, Blair writes, "He was an ally of ourselves and the US, of course". Describing his visit to Pakistan on October 5, 2001, Blair writes: "I was ushered into Musharraf's study in the Presidential Palace. All through the meeting a bodyguard hovered near the door, coming in and standing over us each time the servants brought in tea or refreshments".

He says Musharraf himself was clear in his condemnation of the Taliban and in his offer of help and support. "He knew the attack had changed everything".

Recalling his conversation with the President, Blair writes that Musharraf told him that in the 1970s General Zia-ul-Haq had made the fatal error of linking Pakistani nationalism to devout Islam.

The connection between the two, Musharraf explained, had furthered radicalism in the country, heightened the issue of Kashmir and made reconciliation with India harder.

Blair says this was something "I reflected upon a good deal in later years".

Gen Zia, who overthrew Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto's government in a coup, ruled Pakistan from 1977 to 1988.

Blair then quotes a conversation with Musharraf: "Surely," I said, "economic development is the key challenge for Pakistan".
"Of course," he said, "but the reality is today Pakistani politics is about nuclear weapons and Kashmir".

"What can we do to help?" I asked, expecting an answer to do with aid or India.  "Do Palestine," he immediately shot back.
  "That would help".

Blair writes that he came away from the meeting pleased with Musharraf's support, but adds that he was "uneasy at how clearly he (Musharraf) felt the ultimate success of the mission was in the balance".

In another section of the book, Blair writes: "The truth is that the India-Pakistan dispute over Kashmir did erupt into sporadic violence and there was terrorism coming out of Pakistan.

"But, though elements of state organisations might be involved, that was a long way from saying the Pakistan government was a terrorist government, Pakistan was a rogue state".

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