Hours after the 9/11 aerial strikes, he was asked to make a choice. “You are with us or against us,” the then US secretary of state Colin Powel told him. Pervez Musharraf , then the president of Pakistan, didn’t have much of a choice. He joined forces with the US in the war on terror as Osama bin Laden forged ahead with his mission: Talibinisation of Pakistan. Nearly a decade later, the US’s hunt for its most wanted man has ended in the heartland of Pakistan, barely 50 km from capital Islamabad where bin Laden was shot dead in a special operation. Musharraf, who now lives in exile, in Dubai, is a worried man. One can’t discredit Pakistan and still fight terror, he tells Soma Banerjee.
What would you have done if you were the head of state in Pakistan today?
This wouldn’t have happened if I were the head of state. It is Pakistan’s security forces that should initiate such a military action, not foreign troops. During my regime, our forces have hunted down high-value targets, aided by the US and other countries, but each operation inside the country was carried out by Pakistani soldiers. It is embarrassing for Pakistan if it was unaware of the American operation against Osama bin Laden in Abbottabad.
What is your message to the world, the sub-continent (India and Afghanistan) and to terrorist groups?
Pakistan has played the role of a frontline state to save the world from terror. Secret agencies of all countries had been struggling unsuccessfully to trace Osama bin Laden for the past ten years. Now, just because Osama is killed inside Pakistan, it doesn’t mean that the world should forget our sacrifices. Some countries have said that Pakistan is a haven for terrorists. I would like to clarify that the world cannot achieve desired results against terrorist elements by discrediting Pakistan.
Do you think the US could have conducted this operation without the knowledge of Pakistan’s government?
I am not certain whether Pakistan’s ruling government was informed or not about this operation. However, in view of the prevailing information, it seems that the leadership of Pakistan was not taken into confidence prior to this operation. No doubt the American military operation has achieved great success, but they have also violated Pakistan’s sovereignty by trespassing into the country’s territory.
Is the world a safer place after bin Laden’s death?
The death of Osama will not hurt the nefarious activities of radical elements. On the other hand, they will become more cautious. The death of Osama bin Laden cannot be considered as a satisfactory achievement for becoming relaxed.
Is this more of a symbolic achievement?
No doubt, bin Laden’s killing was a great achievement, but as I have already pointed out, we need to become more cautious and to annul the war on terror the world should acknowledge the sacrifices that Pakistanis have made.
What are the mistakes the US have made in Afghanistan?
The US has committed enormous mistakes in Afghanistan and Pakistan has had to face the music as a result of these mistakes. Time is now ripe to correct those mistakes. An American exit at this juncture from Afghanistan will further heighten the crisis in Afghanistan. Economic Times