So in the end, 10 years after 9/11 it will end in the same way it started with Talibans in Kabul.
Well, I call this a great blunder, one of the blunders, a missed opportunity after 9/11. Taliban and Al-Qaeda were defeated, their command structure was broken and they ran into Pakistan into mountains and cities of Pakistan. In Afghanistan, there was a wild victory which came with the help of Northern Alliance, which was a minority – Uzbek, Tajiks, Hazaras.Taliban were Pashtun, so there was no Pashtun now in the government in Afghanistan. Now at that time, after the military delivered victory and created an environment where Taliban were all Al-Qaeda dispersed. We should have switched to the political and political means to get Pashtun on board to put a legitimate Pashtun dominated government in Kabul. This we did not do. This the US did not do. Although I have been saying that all Talibans are Pashtun but all Pashtun are not Taliban. So get Pashtun on board because they are the ones who have governed Afghanistan for centuries. Never has any minority done that. Unfortunately, this opportunity was available from 2002 to 2004 when Taliban resurgence started. For two years this vacuum continued, this opportunity was there, we should have taken Pashtun away from the Taliban and put them in Government, we did not do that, so now after 8 years we are doing the same. We have now pushed all Pashtun who are Taliban and now we are trying to deal with the Taliban. This is the blunder that we committed, the missed opportunity between 2002-2004 and now we call them Taliban. I prefer calling them Pashtun.
It seems the only big result of War on Terror has been to completely destabilize Pakistan.
Well Pakistan has been the victim of all that has happened in Afghanistan right from 1979 when the Soviet came, invaded Afghanistan. We fought a jihad against the Soviet for 10 years from 1979 - 1989. We brought Mujahideens from the Muslim world. We sent in Taliban having armed them, trained them. So this 10 years of religious militancy was introduced in Afghanistan and it had its impact on Pakistan. And then, from 1989 to 2001 (9/11) for 12 years, this area was abandoned and there was no rehabilitation, re-settlement of Taliban, of Mujahideen, they became Al-Qaeda and then in 1996, Taliban came up. Pakistan was all alone for 12 years. 4 million refugees came into Pakistan. The religious militancy in Pakistan has been a result of all that has been happening in Afghanistan all these years. And now if we are dealing with the Taliban, unless we deal in a manner that will leave a stable, non-aggressive Afghanistan then it is very good. But if we are leaving it to Taliban who are going to project their aggression or expand & project their religious thoughts, across the border into Pakistan and into India, then it is going to be very dangerous situation.
But Taliban don't go to India: those are Lashkar e-Toiba and jaish-e-Mohammed, not Talibans.
No, But they will start to do it now. In 1989, the Kashmiri freedom struggle started. It continues even now. It has tremendous public support from Pakistan. All these organizations called Lashkar-e-Toiiba (LeT), Hizbul Mujahideen (HuM), Jaish-e-Muhammad (JeM) are the products of the decade of 90s. They still exist and they have public support. Now, previously, they were oriented towards Kashmir, Taliban was oriented towards Afghanistan. Now they are developing a nexus and also extremists in Pakistan society have developed nexus with Taliban. So they have a nexus and it has become one complex situation where we have to resolve Afghanistan and we have to resolve Kashmir dispute also so that these Mujahideen groups which have emerged they go down. So it’s a complex situation now, much more complex than it was in the beginning.
But you played a role in all this. In the rise of Taliban & jihadis.
Yes, I did. My role was to contain them and defeat them. In my time, there was Al-Qaeda, they ran into Pakistan. We moved against Al-Qaeda very strongly. We caught all the dozens of Al-Qaeda leadership, other than OBL have been caught in Pakistan. Our Pakistani troops caught them. There was intelligence cooperation, but action was taken by Pakistan troops always. We did not completely defeat them but we undermined the strength of Al-Qaeda. As I have said, in 2004, Taliban started emerging. Then it was Al-Qaeda we started acting against Taliban. We were containing extremism in our society. And we were also containing Mujahideen groups going into Kashmir because there was a political rapprochement between me and the Indian leadership. We were trying to resolve the Kashmir dispute. Therefore, we have to understand. There is a compartment of Mujahideen activity in Kashmir, there is a compartment of extremists in Pakistan society. There is a compartment of Taliban Pakistan trying to Talibanise and there is a compartment of Al-Qaeda. We have separate compartments and each needs a separate treatment. We were giving a separate treatment - military, political, socio-economic and that’s what I was trying to give. But now with all this nexus coming in, it has become much more complicated.
Who is ruling Pakistan now?
Everyone (laugh). There is a dysfunctional government, unfortunately, a very very complicated situation, extremely complicated situation. As I said on terrorism and more complicated as the economy is going down, economy is failing. So when the economy is failing, you can’t do anything for the people. Whenever, there is energy crisis, people are on the streets. If you are not doing poverty alleviation, employment generation is not there, then people are on the streets. It has become a terribly complex situation. And unfortunately, the government is not showing any capability to deal with the situation.
What about Osama bin Laden’s death?
It is terrible, from the Pakistanis point of view. It is terrible from Pakistan army’s, ISI’s reputation point of view. nother aspect which is more terrible is the violation of Pakistan’s sovereignty. When the American troops came across and killed him and went back. Now, this is a violation of Pakistan’s sovereignty. In Pakistan, I think this has been taken more seriously and this has affected Pakistan army’s reputation more than the killing of Osama bin Laden.
Don’t you think that a deal had been made between Pakistan army and US to capture and kill Osama bin Laden?
What do you mean ‘deal’?
I mean it is quite unbelievable that helicopter came from Afghanistan, carry out operation for 40 minutes and go back to military base and nobody reacts?
It is possible if I were to give my military analysis on this. It is not a garrison. It’s a military academy which is not committed to operations and was doing it own training. There are other training centers in Abottabad who are training the recruits. And secondly, helicopter flying in that area is quite common. At night, 2 or 3 helicopters come from across the border from the West and why they were not seen; it is very much possible because there is no radar coverage in the western border or very very less radar coverage. Our radar coverage at high and low level is on the Eastern border against the main threat from India and not on the Western border. Even if radar coverage is there on the Western border, mountain ranges have ‘dead zones’ where it will not pick up any intrusion. Thirdly, the helicopters were stealth helicopters, as I read in magazines, which cannot be picked up in radar. It is, therefore, possible that helicopters, fly at night and nobody knows whether these are American or Pakistani helicopters. Everybody took it as a normal helicopter flight. After the firing started, the reaction does not take place immediately. Nobody picks up a phone and talks to Army Chief and Air Force Chief and start the jets flying. People go around to investigate who is firing around. This takes time. Certainly, it is possible that the reaction is not there.
You have to thank God Indians did not think to do the same.
Indians are not capable of doing it. They are not strong enough to do this and Pakistan will teach them a lesson if they ever try.
Now Pakistan is completely in the hands of Intelligence agencies. What’s going on with David case since January?
Pakistan is not in the hands of intelligence agencies. I would say a clear direction, a clear policy is not being given to the intelligence. Everyone thinks that it is a government within a government. ISI is as RAW of India, Mossad of Israel, CIA of US – just the same, does exactly the same. Direction and policy to them must be clear. Why were these things not happening in my time because of clear directions? Policy directions were clear. All intelligence agencies used to meet every week under DG, ISI to coordinate on the policies set by the government, by me. If they are doing anything, I told them to do it. The government policies were very clear. Unfortunately, at this moment when the government policies are vague and ambiguous, then the intelligence is itself confused. US people, thousands of people coming with visas without any checks, Black Waters, who is Black Waters. Why should they come to Pakistan? This is violation of our sovereignty. Why should we allow? Don’t we have one own forces. I think this all confusion being created through lack of a cohesive policy and that is the responsibility of the government. If the policy is not there, ISI is functioning on their own – more confusion then. There is no problem with ISI. Government must take control. They are officered by army; officer of Lt.General/Major General can be removed, so how come they do anything on their own. The Govt. must enforce its writ and must be clear in its policies and directives and ISI will fall in line. It has to.
Yes, but Headly has been saying that some ISI members have been directly involved in Mumbai blasts?
Now, we are talking of a different issue. Mumbai, India and Pakistan. Confrontation between Pakistan and India started with a first war in 1948 and ISI and RAW of India always clashed, since then. What happened in East Pakistan? It became Bangladesh. How? RAW was involved and later Indian army attacked. What happened in Siachen? Indian army came in.
And what happened in Kargil?
Yes. What happened in Siachen? So, therefore, we must not take isolated incidents. If you talk of Kargil, I will talk of Siachen and East Pakistan. What happened there? Why are you not asking that Pakistan was broken into two? It did not happen in Kargil. So, isn’t that more serious? Why don’t you go and ask India why do they do that?
But a war is something and a terrorist attack is a different thing. I mean Mumbai has been a terrorist attack.
Again no comparison with isolated incidents. Terrorism is being carried out in Baluchistan by a person called Brahumdagh who is a grandson of Akbar Bughti who lives in Kabul and now probably shifted to somewhere else. He used to go to Delhi. He was received by RAW. They were giving him arms and money. Six truckloads of weapons, including anti-aircraft missiles, rocket launchers and mortars were caught across Chaman border coming from Kandahar by the first cousin of this man sitting in Kabul who is close to RAW and meets RAW in India. So what is all this happening? RAW & ISI are always on a clash. We cannot take one incident and blame ISI. We have to take all incidents and everything must stop. But it will stop when both sides stop otherwise this kind of confrontation carries on.
Last year I met Mr. Mohammed Hafeez Sayed who said he cannot rule out the chance of nuclear war with India.
No. Why I rule it out because Pakistan maintains a deterrence capability in the conventional force. If Pakistan did not have deterrence in the conventional force then the possibility of nuclear confrontation was there. Because if Pakistan’s integrity is being compromised or at stake, then probably Pakistan government would obviously go for nuclear option to threaten India. But as long as Pakistan’s conventional forces have the deterrence which means that India cannot attack Pakistan, because we have large forces. An even if they attack, we have the capability of defending ourselves and may be even defeating the Indian forces if our strategy is correct with the conventional forces. Therefore, our unconventional modes will not arise. For 10 months when India was on our borders in 2002, we moved our troops to the border confronting each other, our nuclear weapons were not mated. It’s not like NATO or Warsaw Pact where (nuclear bombs) are mated with missiles ready to be fired for pressing of a button. That is not a situation in Pakistan and India. The nuclear weapons are not mated with missiles with the delivery system. So, therefore, it is not what he is saying unless something happens that Pakistan’s integrity is at stake and India is doing that then, of course, danger of nuclear confrontation may be there.
Pakistan has been called the most dangerous place in the world: how the situation can be fixed?
It can be fixed. We have to understand the problems and resolve them. We have to fix the economy which is very important because if economy is not doing well, people will remain unhappy. In 1999-2000 the economy was in total shambles and we had technically defaulted. We were being declared a failed state. We turned it around in 6 years. Pakistan was declared as N-11 countries - among 11 economically viable countries of the world. Pak has the potential and resources. The problem is only a vacuum in the leadership. The other is extremism and terrorism. Domestic extremism, sectarian religious extremism we have controlled. We totally muzzled it up. I banned these organizations. I banned these organizations before 9/11.
But they are still sitting in Pakistan. Jamaat-ud-Dawa (JuD) is there, Dawood Ibrahim is there.
Yes. Hafeez Sayed is there. No, Dawood Ibrahim is not the problem. Brahumdagh is sitting in Delhi. So leave Dawood Ibrahim, I don’t know where he is. This is again a conflict between RAW & ISI. Don’t bring that in. That is a different subject altogether.
I know where he (Dawood Ibrahim) is: in Karachi. Everybody knows where his house is.
I know where Brahumdagh goes. I have seen his photographs. He is received in Delhi. I know where he is hiring in Kabul a house. So, these are other issues.
And where is Mullah Omar?
That I don’t know. But I am reasonably sure that he is in Afghanistan. Recently, in papers it came that he was recently killed. The spokesman of Taliban, after the death report of Mullah Omar, said that he was in Afghanistan in Kandahar.
You were talking of stabilizing Afghanistan, who would stabilize Pakistan?
Somebody must! We will try to do it. We have to win the next election and then only we could do that – I am talking about myself. I have my views of dealing with the situation but we will implement those views only if we win elections in Pakistan and form the Government. The aim is to win the next elections and we have to focus on that.
But the person who wins must be endorsed by the army.
No. They will endorse anyone. These are misnomers and misperceptions about army as if army has to endorse. Anybody who wins will be endorsed by the army.
Army ruled Pakistan for most of its existence.
Yes. Almost half, 29 out of 64 years. We have to go into details as to why Pakistan army has ruled because Pakistan has been going down. In 1999, Pakistan was being declared a failed state. When Ayub Khan came in 1957 or 1958 Pakistan was in a very poor state. 10 years of Ayub Khan’s era, leave my era aside, were the golden years of Pakistan history from all points of view. Unfortunately, our dilemma in Pakistan is that democratic governments in Pakistan do not perform. Not one democratically elected government has performed. Performed means - welfare of the people, development of the states – this is the responsibility of the government. None of the democratic government did that. Therefore, Pakistan used to go down and people would go to army – do something, save Pakistan and army comes in. We have to get out of it. We have to ensure that democratically elected government performs. When governments don’t respond, army intrudes .
No risk of any Islamic revolution?
I don’t think so. Revolutions take place in a society which is homogenous. We have a society which has many diversities – ethnic, tribal, feudal, education, sectarian. Therefore, unified action towards one cause is not possible.
What will happen in the future?
Pakistan has all the potentials. It lacks leadership. If people of Pakistan are raised for the next elections and they come out and break the status quo – that is the solution of Pakistan.