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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

PRESS CONFERENCE BY PRESIDENT OF PAKISTAN

Department of Public Information . News and Media Division . New York

24 September 2003

Citizens of Pakistan were empowered and living in a real democracy, General Pervez Musharraf, President of Pakistan, told correspondents at a Headquarters press conference this afternoon.

Highlighting points from his address to the General Assembly this morning, he said he had proposed a two-pronged strategy, called “enlightened moderation”, to make the world a better place. On the one hand, Muslim nations were encouraged to promote human emancipation and shun extremism. On the other hand, the West was called on to help alleviate poverty in the Muslim world and justly resolve political disputes which involved Muslims.

He also touched on relations between Pakistan and India, specifically focusing on the Kashmir dispute. Telling correspondents that he had proposed an action plan for improving the strained relationship, he said the strategy involved a ceasefire on the Line of Control, an enlarged United Nations force to patrol the area and greater restraint with respect to acquiring weapons. The ball was now in India’s court, he said.

Asked whether the Taliban was regrouping in Pakistan, and if so, why the country was not doing more to stop it, he responded that no such regrouping, in a conventional military sense, was taking place. Reacting to a suggestion that the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) could offer military assistance in the area he said that, if NATO came, it would get bogged down in an inhospitable area.

He stressed that Pakistan had a large, efficient army, which, unlike NATO, had been hardened by three wars. It was more than capable of handling the situation. The problem, however, lay in defining enemies, who were hiding in small groups and therefore difficult to tackle with standard military procedures. Nevertheless, there was an intelligence operation underway, which involved infiltrators, the monitoring of cellular phones and the Internet, and aerial surveillance. Emphasizing that people should not think of Pakistan as dragging its feet and not acting, he maintained that his country had done more to fight terrorism than any other in the world.

Responding to charges that Pakistan was not a perfect democracy, given the way he had come to power, he said his country had a senate, provincial assemblies, and a new third tier of government, namely local assemblies. Additionally, he had introduced a system of checks and balances to create a sustainable democracy, something that had never functioned before in Pakistan. He also cautioned correspondents not to judge democracies based on the values of their own countries. After all, every country had its own environment, and democracy had to be tailored accordingly.

Asked whether the resolution the United States was putting together would encourage Pakistan to contribute troops to Iraq, he said he would first need to see the finished version. Given the Pakistani public’s aversion to sending troops there, he said a multinational force involving other Muslim soldiers might make his countrymen more comfortable with the idea. Wary of being seen as an accomplice to occupation, he also said he wanted the people of Iraq to request the entry of Pakistani forces into their country.

Asked if he was disappointed that India’s Prime Minister, Atal Bihari Vajpayee, had avoided him in New York, Mr. Musharraf replied that it was his personal custom to completely reject people who did not care to meet him. Nevertheless, he expressed hope that India would accept his action plan. Later, he added that he was not keen to meet with Mr. Vajpayee, and he certainly did not want to give the Indian leader the pleasure of rejecting him.

Told that, despite Pakistan’s close relations with the United States, Pakistanis and Pakistani-Americans in that country were often targeted for detention and deportation, he responded that, after the traumatic events of 11 September, people of all nationalities were being interrogated. Suggesting that people sometimes exaggerated their problems, he expressed confidence that the United States was taking action in a balanced way and that the situation would improve.

Questioned about details of his meeting with United States President George W. Bush this morning, he said he had not been pressured to send troops to Iraq. On the contrary, Mr. Bush had understood Pakistan’s domestic concerns. Regarding India, he said he had asked the United States to facilitate dialogue between the two neighbours.

Questioned about recent Indian arms purchases and a resulting imbalance between India and Pakistan’s conventional forces, he maintained that he was following a strategy of deterrence, in order to ensure Pakistan’s safety. Claiming that he knew about the purchases, he said he had discussed them, especially the F-16’s, with Mr. Bush.

Questioned about his inability to curb cross-border terrorism in Kashmir, he said Mr. Vajpayee should stop making such accusations. After all, nobody in the world could guarantee the total security of those borders. Declaring that India’s 700,000 troops in Kashmir had failed to seal that border, he asked how Pakistan’s 60,000 troops could be expected to do so, especially given the region’s mountainous terrain.

Asked about the search for Osama bin Laden, he said his troops were working with United States and Afghan forces to find him. Although he did not know the whereabouts of Mr. bin Laden, he speculated that perhaps he would turn up during raids against Al-Qaeda and Taliban.

When a correspondent referred to the election of an Islamic fundamentalist government in Pakistan’s Northwest Frontier Province and suggested that democracy might not be good for Pakistan, Mr. Musharraf replied that, despite being a soldier, he felt that democracy was needed. He added that, although some parties passed religious laws, people were probably not paying any attention to them. Stressing that the people of the aforementioned province would democratically remove their government if they did not like it, he also reminded correspondents that provincial governments were subject to national laws.

Asked if he spoke to Mr. Bush about India’s relations with Israel, he responded that he had not. Nevertheless, he said Israel should know that he was concerned about its ties with his neighbour, especially in the area of defence.

Asked whether he had talked with Mr. Bush about the war on terror’s negative effects on Pakistan’s economy, he said the United States was already providing much economic assistance to his country. He added that investment in Pakistan had increased and that the national economy was doing very well.

Asked why India and Pakistan had to be involved in discussions regarding Kashmir, given that United Nations resolutions called on Kashmiris to decide their own future, he replied that, although Kashmiris should be included in all talks on the matter, the solution had to be acceptable to both India and Pakistan. In that regard, he said his proposal for resolving the conflict involved communicating, accepting the centrality of Kashmir in the India-Pakistan conflict, eliminating whatever topics were unacceptable to the three parties, and selecting a viable solution from the many that had been presented. Nothing could be more flexible and realistic than that, he said.

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