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Musharraf: ‘Pakistan is Not a Perpetrator of Terrorism’

New America Media, News Report, Viji Sundaram Posted: Jan 18, 2009

Editor's Note: At a recent Stanford University appearance, former Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf adamantly defended his country, asserting that Pakistan is in fact "a victim" of terrorism and that the roots of terrorism lie in illiteracy and poverty. Photo by Som Sharma. Viji Sundaram is an editor with New America Media.

PALO ALTO, Calif. – Sounding every inch like a military general, former Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf lambasted those who accuse his country as “a perpetrator of terrorism.” He asserted that Pakistan is in fact “a victim” of terrorism.

“Pakistan faces terrorism with all its facets,” the 65-year-old asserted before a packed gathering at Stanford University’s Memorial Auditorium on Jan. 16. “It is wrong to think of it as a perpetrator. Events since 1979 (the year the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan) have made it that way.”

But he noted that stamping out terrorism in Pakistan “is absolutely critical if we are to win the global war on terrorism.”

Musharraf resigned as president in August 18 last year in order to avoid charges of impeachment that were to be leveled against him by parliament later that week.

He ruled Pakistan since he seized power in a bloodless military coup in 1999, ousting the democratically elected Prime Minister Navaz Sharif. Two years later, he appointed himself president.

A few months before he resigned, Musharraf imposed emergency rule and fired nearly 60 judges, including Pakistan’s chief justice, to keep them from overturning his re-election as president.

Musharraf’s rule of Pakistan was marked by civil unrest and an uneasy alliance with the United States. He has survived more than one attempt on his life.

In his hour-long speech at Stanford, Musharraf reiterated over and over again that Pakistan has been given short shrift by the West. He said that though Pakistan and Afghanistan played a key role in ending the Cold War and the disintegration of the Soviet Union in 1989, it was Europe that gathered the spoils.

“What did Pakistan and Afghanistan, the main contributors of the victory, get?” he asked rhetorically. “Nothing. Everyone abandoned us and said, ‘You are on your own.’ ”

Musharaff said he himself has been trying to eradicate terrorism from Pakistan even before 9/11, when the United States sought his help to capture Al Queda operatives and their leader, Osama bin Laden, who is believed to be hiding near Pakistan’s border with Afghanistan.

But the fight against terrorism in Pakistan is made complex by the fact that terrorism shows itself in that country in three different ways, he said: One, as terrorism itself. Another, as the militant Taliban; and the third as “Talibinazation,” which Musharraf defined as “the Taliban spreading their views into the frontiers of Pakistan.”

“With the passage of time, there’s a link between all of them,” Musharraf asserted.

He defended Pakistan’s war on terrorism, and said no other country in the world has managed to “eliminate 700 al-Queda operatives, including 45 key figures.”

That being the case, he said, for the United States to say that Pakistan has done very little with the $10 billion in U.S. aid is unreasonable, just as it is to suggest that the money has been misused.

“A trillion dollars has been spent on Iraq,” Musharraf said. “The $10 billion is a pittance for a country that has taken a lead role in fighting terrorism.

“We are together on strategy, but don’t dictate to us how it has to be done in our country,” Musharraf said, his voice rising. “It’s in the interest of Pakistan, whose people are tired of suicide bombers, to end terrorism. We’re not doing it for you.”

He said unless the world takes a “holistic approach” to its war on terrorism, nothing much would come of it. Curbing terrorism in the remote border region with Afghanistan will not happen with military might alone, he said.

He likened terrorists to a tree, with terrorist organizations being its branches.

“Branches and leaves will keep growing unless we uproot the tree,” Musharraf said.

The roots of terrorism, he said, lie in illiteracy, poverty and not being assimilated into society, all three phenomena faced by many Muslim youth globally.

Musharraf acknowledged that many of the terrorist attacks “unfortunately” had Muslim involvement mostly because the world has been removing the leaves and branches and not taken out the root.

“The anger and frustration in Muslim youth is exploited by those who have a political agenda,” Musharraf asserted. “They indoctrinate them for terrorism,” misrepresenting the teachings of Islam.

And Musharraf warned: “Identifying terrorism with Islam is extremely dangerous to the cause of fighting terrorism.”

Musharraf acknowledged that the terrorists who brought down the World Trade Center in 2001 and were behind the 2004 Madrid train bombings and the 2005 London subway blasts were neither poor nor illiterate. Those were done out of a “sense of powerlessness arising from unresolved disputes,” he said.

Musharraf said he believes that unless political disputes are resolved, especially the important ones like those involving Palestine and Kashmir, terrorism will never end.

When asked how that could be done, Musharraf said that “forces” from the European Union, which has more credibility than the United States, should “come into play.”

“A Palestinian state,” he said, to applause, “has to be created.”

As for Kashmir, over which India and Pakistan have fought three wars and several minor disputes, Musharraf said there has to be “a give-and-take on both sides.”

He said he had moved the peace process along while he ruled Pakistan, first with Indian Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, and later with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

“Fleeting opportunities did come our way,” but neither country took advantage of them, he said, declining to elaborate.

It was not until someone from the audience questioned him about it did Musharraf even talk about the recent Mumbai attacks, which have further strained relations between the two nuclear-armed neighbors.

Investigations by both India and the United States point to the Lashkar-e-Taiba, a Pakistan-based militant group, being behind the attacks.

“If the Lashkar-e-Taiba are involved, they must be punished,” Musharraf said in response. “But at the same time, aspersions must not be cast on the Pakistani government.”

Musharraf’s talk, organized by several sponsors, including the Stanford in Government and the ASSU Speakers Bureau, is his second in a national speaking tour.

Related Articles:

Five Questions for Pervez Musharraf

Musharraf Was ‘Irrelevant’ Anyway

Kashmir May Be the Key to Obama’s Counterterrorism Policy

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