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The Rediff Interview/Benazir Bhutto

September 03, 2003

The Pakistan government is considering filing a case of treason against former prime minister Benazir Bhutto for revealing in an interview to India Abroad that General Pervez Musharraf harboured ambitions of capturing Srinagar long before the Kargil war. owns India Abroad, the widely circulated newspaper published for the Indian-American community.

In an exclusive interview with Senior Editor Shyam Bhatia in London, Bhutto had disclosed that Musharraf, then her Director General of Military Operations, outlined a plan to infiltrate Kashmir and start a war that would end up, he believed, with the Pakistani conquest of Srinagar. presents the now controversial interview which was published in the August 22 issue of India Abroad.

Is it true that you have met Condoleezza Rice because the Bush administration wishes to build bridges with you?

No, I would love to meet her. I did meet her before she was National Security Adviser. I have tremendous respect for her being a woman and rising to such a high position. I think the Bush administration is very sensitive about contacts with the opposition. These days Musharraf is a key ally of the West.

I am sorry about this because I think the more the West supports Musharraf, the stronger the extremist forces grow and the moderate forces are being marginalized, that's not good for Pakistan.

How long can Musharraf last?

As long as the army supports him, not as long as America supports him. The American support is one factor because the army will say, 'we need weapons or money and so we need Musharraf.' Right now they think good, he's getting us the money and our ideological perception continues.

Since 1977 our security establishment was hijacked by Zia-ul Haq's officers. They think Pakistan should have a puppet government in Afghanistan so that we can get strategic depth all the way up to the Amur river. They think that through nuclear brinkmanship they can bring India to its knees because they think no matter how intense the insurgency gets in Kashmir what can India do?

Ultimately, if India tries to have a war, the world community will have to intervene to stop it going nuclear and if the world community does not come in, India knows if it crosses into Lahore, Pakistan will throw a bomb.

India might retaliate but it will still mean so many people in India will die.

They have this strategy and they think having Musharraf on top allows them to pursue this strategy.

There is also rising anti-Americanism in Pakistan.

There is rising anti-Americanism for different reasons. One of them is that Musharraf is a dictator and people feel angry that the West talks about freedom but turns a blind eye to the empowerment of Pakistanis.

The second reason is that we have a very large Pakhtun population and the bombing in Afghanistan led to many civilian deaths and people knew each other across the border, so there is that grief.

The third thing is that we have a large military class wedded to the idea that Afghanistan is critical to Pakistan because of strategic depth. This class also has a pensioner class and there are constituencies within that who are anti-American.

Does Musharraf have an exit strategy?

No he does not. He thinks if he remains head of the army nobody will throw him out. He fails to remember that army chiefs in Pakistan have not had a very nice life. Yahya Khan went to Ayub and told him, 'Go home sir' and he had to.

General Gul Hasan went to Yahya and said, 'Go home sir,' and he had to. General Zia died and if he was killed it had to be by his own men.

General Asif Nawaz died and again if he was killed it is because his own men wanted a change. [Jehangir] Karamat resigned and Musharraf himself was about to be killed in a plane crash.

General Musharraf is a pretty bright man, isn't he?

That's what people say, but from what I remember of him, I was quite disappointed by his analytical skills. He was my Director General Military Operations and he presented me with his plan in front of 50 officers about how the mujahideen would infiltrate an area similar to Kargil. How they would bring about a war and the Indians wouldn't be able to dislocate us and they would be forced to start a second front at which point the international community would intervene and we would take Srinagar.

I said to him, 'General, what would happen on the day after you took Srinagar.' He replied, 'I don't know what you mean, I don't understand your question.'

I think he personally doesn't like me because of that confrontation we had in GHQ on the Kargil issue. But believe me I had to have that confrontation because if I did not, the blood of 3,000 soldiers would be on my hands.

After I was overthrown they went ahead with their folly and 3,000 of our young boys, the best in our army, died, so many on the Indian side died, there was so much bitterness. The whole world had to intervene to stop it escalating into a nuclear war.

How did you find Musharraf personally, all those pictures of him with his dogs and his whisky?

He was quite a jolly officer initially. I don't know about the whisky drinking and dog loving because I did not see him with his dogs or his whisky. But he was my translator for the Turkish delegation, he was very sharp. He was also very close to General Hamid Gul, who was one of the corps commanders. When they had this exercise 'Zarb Al Momen,' he was my conducting officer.

We had this fracas on the Kargil war games proposal and I don't know if he has ever got over it. But we politicians learn that there are no such things as personal feelings in politics. It's the interests of the country, of the party, of the people.

Nawaz Sharif and I were at daggers drawn. Believe me what we suffered at his hands I will always remember, but I have put it behind me. He suffered too and now he is a changed man. He very much opposes the military exploitation of our country.

Do Pakistanis hate all Indians, or is it just Hindus they dislike?

It changes from times of tension to times of less tension. When there is tension and there are troops on the border they hate everyone who is Indian, irrespective of whether they are Muslim or Hindu.

When there is no tension people really welcome Indians. Indian films are very popular, Indian goods are smuggled across all the time, people are desperate to get Indian visas and travel to India to visit their families or the Taj Mahal.

Overseas the Pakistanis, Indians, Bangladeshis see themselves as South Asians, they work together, they socialise together, there is no hatred at all.

There must be others in Pakistan who are broadminded?

If you leave it to the people they want to be friends. Sometimes I think your country and my country, the military need wars so they can go on buying weapons. I don't know, but as far as people to people links are concerned, there is a lot of love and affection.

When l first talked of peace in 1987 between India and Pakistan there was so much criticism. I was called an Indian agent and an Israeli agent. Now I see that everyone is falling into line.

So Kashmir is the stumbling block?

It's for negotiation. When I was prime minister the Indian government had agreed to put Kashmir as an agenda item and we had two agenda items.

One was Kashmir and the second was Indo-Pak. We said we would not let lack of progress on one issue impede progress on the other.

After India went nuclear in 1988 the Pakistan People's Party had a reappraisal. We said we don't want to follow tit for tat with India. We should follow our core interests, but not copy India. India wants a bomb, we want a bomb. India wants a missile, we want a missile etc. We said we must dissociate from tit for tat.

The second thing we said was that if we disagree on the territorial unity of Kashmir, we can till work for the social unity of Kashmir by working for safe and open borders. If we have safe and open borders people can travel and trade. Ultimately I feel we have to ask ourselves with all that population what can we do to pick ourselves out of this mess for the future.

The only way forward for us is to try and see what the European Union did and to have a kind of tariffs and common market. If we open up, people will come and visit Pakistan, more hotels will be built, more people will get jobs. It's the same in your country.

Do Pakistanis feel they should rule in New Delhi?

I don't know about that but I have met people who are very bitter about India and I am sure you have the same on your side who have witnessed massacres. People who witnessed the massacres find it difficult to let go.

But generally those who did not witness massacres all want to talk about their homes in India. Indians are the same. Mr I K Gujral [former Indian prime minister] has told me of his homes in Jhelum and Mr Advani has told me of Karachi and Hyderabad.

Part II: 'The military wants to eliminate me'


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