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The Rediff Interview/Chaudhary Shujaat Hussain

April 18, 2005

Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain is one of the most influential figures in Pakistan today. A former prime minister -- he served only for 45 days -- he is a trusted aide of Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf and the man assigned to negotiate an end to the festering dispute in Balochistan with Nawab Akbar Bugti, leader of that province's Jamhoori Watan Party.

On a recent visit to India, he met Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh, Congress President Sonia Gandhi, President A P J Abdul Kalam and Leader of the Opposition L K Advani.

In an exclusive interview to Senior Editor Sheela Bhatt and Sushant Sareen, executive editor, Public Opinion Trends, Shujaat Hussain discussed Kashmir and the current state of India-Pakistan relations. The second of a two-part interview:

Part I: 'Both sides are sick of hostility'

Do you think the American decision to sell F-16 aircraft to Pakistan is a case of bad timing?

This is an old affair. We had paid money to them for the F-16s and we will get them.

There is a lot of speculation about the American role in the peace process. It is said they are nudging both India and Pakistan to move forward. Do you agree with this assessment?

When they (American leaders) come they do talk about it. But when they come to India they ask the Indian government that along with the peace process you also include other things. This is not right.

You are talking about the nuclear issue.

Yes. The nuclear programme is a reality. Why talk about it now? Why ask how it was made, why it was made, where has it been stolen from? Everybody has stolen technology.

Mushahid Hussein, his colleague and former infomation adviser fto then prime minister Nawaz Sharif, intervenes: 'Beg, borrow or steal, that was the philosophy'.

They are now chasing Pakistan about the Dr A Q Khan network. They should now just let go off these things. The Indian government should not act as the spokesman of the Americans on this issue.

But India has a good nuclear record. The Indian government is not a proliferator.

No. All I am saying is that the Indian government doesn't need to become the spokesman for others.

What are the pitfalls that lie in the path of peace between India and Pakistan?

There should be no delay. Any delay will cause damage to the process. The faster we move forward, the greater the benefit.

Aren't these very big and complicated issues?

No, I don't think these are such big issues. Even bigger problems have been settled.

What are the old associations you have in India?

There are two or three families with which we have very old relations. There is the Talwar family, then there is a Sachdeva family.

There is talk you are operating on the Jat biradari network -- Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh, former Haryana chief minister Om Parkash Chautala, now Haryana Chief Minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda. There is also the Punjabi network at play.

Some people have accused us that we are working towards a Greater Punjab. Talking on the basis of the biradari gives a push to the process. It gives a sort of informal push to the process. Personal relations help.

When will India get its long-pending demand for MFN status? You are a businessman -- when do you think this will come about?

It's a political issue, but I think we have moved beyond MFN.

At your meeting with Sonia Gandhi you mentioned that your father too was a victim of political terrorism, and your brother-in-law too has been a victim of terrorism. How do you see the politics of violence which is afflicting the region?

I am against any form of terrorism. Who can be more anti-terrorism than me? I have suffered from it.

You are also the head of the parliamentary committee that is looking into the affairs of Balochistan. To what extent do you think you have been successful in bringing down the temperature and lead towards a stable political situation there?

As of now we have only negotiated on the situation in Sui. But without taking names I must say that whenever something happens there, normally there is foreign intervention behind it.

The kind of arms that have been recovered from there -- these are not manufactured locally. I don't want to level accusations against anybody because I don't want to spoil the environment. But somebody is supplying those people with weapons.

Some articles in the Urdu press have suggested that just when you reached an understanding in your negotiations, some people within the ruling party sabotaged it by instigating your interlocutors not to listen to you. Do you think this factor is at play?

Some people did try but they have not succeeded.

Will there be military action in Balochistan?

No. All my efforts are precisely to avoid military action there.

There is talk that just as President Musharraf supported the Americans in their war in Afghanistan, the Americans now want Pakistan's support for the war against Iran.

President Musharraf never sided with America in the war on Afghanistan.

But he did support America in the context of the global war on terror.

No. Not even in this context. He did what he did to save Pakistan. The Americans had Pakistan in their sights and would have attacked it.

Mushahid Hussain intervenes and says the Americans would have combined with India to attack Pakistan.

The impression that the Americans are going to target the Iranian nuclear programme is gaining ground. What would be Pakistan's position on the issue?

Pakistan will never be party to such a plan. When we never became a party to American plans earlier, why should we now become party to their designs?

There is a BBC survey that says while the common man in Pakistan is anti-America, the ruling elite is pro-America.

What do you mean by ruling elite?

You are part of the ruling elite. Mushahidsaab is part of the ruling elite, General Musharraf, Benazir are all part of the ruling elite.

Others might be pro-America, but our party is not. I don't know if someone at the lower level is afraid but when the Iraq resolution was moved in the UN Security Council Mexico and Pakistan were the only two countries which had not taken a position. At that time the party -- Jamali was the prime minister then -- the party decided we should abstain.

I went to the cabinet meeting for the first time to brief them despite the fact that I was not a member of the cabinet. I told the cabinet that we must abstain. Later the resolution was withdrawn from the Security Council for redrafting.

On the issue of sending troops to Iraq again our party took the stand to send no troops. Incidentally, I was the prime minister at that time and I took the decision not to send troops to Iraq.

There are a lot of rumours about a deal struck with the government by Benazir Bhutto's People's Party.

There is no deal, only dheel (relaxation or giving space). Benazir too has said the same thing.

Where will the dheel lead things to?

This was just an initiative so that there is a positive response from the other side. So far there has been no real response from their side.

When will Nawaz Sharif and Benazir Bhutto return?

No one has stopped Benazir from returning. She has gone on her own free will.

Photograph: Ranjan Basu/Saab Press

Image: Uday Kuckian/Rahil Shaikh

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