I am a marked man: Musharraf
* President says US could lose terror war
* Muslims feel targeted by the West
* Quitting as army chief could risk Pakistan’s ‘renaissance’
NEW YORK: President General Pervez Musharraf said on Monday he was a “marked” man because of Pakistan’s campaign against foreign and local extremists, and this had restricted his movement.
“But I haven’t become a hermit,” he said in an interview with ABC TV. “I have told them (Al Qaeda) that I don’t want them in Pakistan. You will be eliminated. Either you surrender, or we eliminate you. But then they have access to our extremist lot, unfortunately, and they equip them and finance them. So, the extremist lot - a nexus between Al Qaeda and our extremists - they are the main people who are against me,” said the president, who was a target of two assassination attempts last year.
Gen Musharraf warned that the United States might lose the war against terrorism if it did not address “root causes” of terrorism - political disputes such as Palestine, poverty and lack of education. “We may be winning battles, but we may lose the war,” he said. Poor and illiterate people who feel aggrieved because of political disputes are easy targets for indoctrination by militant groups, he said.
He said the US was not popular among Pakistanis because it “abandoned” Pakistan after the Afghan war against the Soviets.
Gen Musharraf also said no country had asked to interrogate nuclear scientist Dr AQ Khan, and even if they did, Pakistan would not allow this because it “it undermines our own capability”. In an interview with the New York Times, Gen Musharraf said he was certain that he had dismantled the nuclear trafficking network of Dr AQ Khan, but was not certain that he had discovered the full extent of his activities.
Gen Musharraf admitted that he had promised to step down as army chief by the end of the year, “but the issue is now far greater than this”. He said he was freeing Pakistan of extremism and this “renaissance” might be lost if he kept his pledge. “This was a culture, a society which was moving towards extremism and fundamentalism, and I am trying to reverse this trend and give voice to the vast majority of Pakistanis who are moderate,” Gen Musharraf said. “Now these are not easy things which can be done by anyone.”
He said Pakistan was making significant inroads into Al Qaeda, an effort that required “continuity”.
He said a recent seizure of computer disks in Lahore had shown that Al Qaeda was thinking of uprooting to Somalia or Sudan, which was proof of Pakistan’s commitment to the war on terror and a refutation of criticism that it was not doing enough. “Who else is doing enough? Who else is doing anything, by the way? Only Pakistan is doing enough,” he said.
At a dinner at the US Chamber of Commerce, Gen Musharraf provided further hints that he would remain army chief, saying important domestic and international issues required continuity. “While I haven’t decided whether I’m going to remove my uniform or not, it doesn’t cause concern. I’ll take a decision in a few months.” He said reforms in Pakistan such as the devolution of power to local governments, and possible changes to the Hudood and blasphemy laws, also required continuity.
The president reiterated that the US must act on Palestine, saying this would help overcome Muslim perceptions of a Western anti-Islamic bias. “Muslims today are feeling as if Islam as a religion is being targeted. This needs to be undone.” The president also highlighted Pakistan’s recent excellent economic performance and urged American businessmen to invest in its growing economy. He also spoke at a UN Economic and Social Council meeting on globalisation where he underlined Pakistan’s poverty alleviation effort.
Speaking to reporters on his way to the UN General Assembly session on Tuesday, Gen Musharraf ruled out any talks for re-adjustment of the Line of Control in Kashmir and said Pakistan wanted a purposeful dialogue with India to address the lingering dispute.