SPIEGEL Interview with Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf 'Shots Either Hit You or They Do Not'

Part 2: 'You Should not Underestimate the Capability of a Nuclear State'


SPIEGEL: Why was your security apparatus unable to prevent the assassination?

Musharraf: The beginning of the rally was well organized. Her arrival and her public address were secure. Her getting into the car was not a problem. But what happened inside the car? Everybody else in the car was safe and uninjured. But she stretched herself out of the car. Somebody should have told her not to do this.

SPIEGEL: You have asked Scotland Yard to help with the investigation, but you have refused to allow an international probe by the United Nations that the Bhutto family has asked for. Why?

Musharraf: What does the UN have to do with this? There is a killing and we will investigate ourselves. If we lack forensic or technical details we ask Scotland Yard. But you should not underestimate the capability of a nuclear state that has 160 million people and a very well organized military and intelligence service. We are very capable.

SPIEGEL: Mr. President, about a year ago, you said Benazir Bhutto had plundered and robbed the country and that she would never play a role in Pakistani politics again. What made you change your mind and allow her to return?

Musharraf: The statement that I made was based on facts. My personal likes or dislikes cannot affect national interests. But many people wanted her back in the country. If they want to vote her into a political office -- what can I say about it? Should I have stopped that democratic process, which the West is so keen on? You in the West have an obsession with democracy, human rights and civil liberties. But do not get me wrong: We also want democracy ...

SPIEGEL: ... and when will you deliver?

Musharraf: Please understand: Pakistan is not Germany. We are a developing country, give us some time. Do not try to impose your kind of democracy on us.

SPIEGEL: You have survived two assassination attempts. Do you consider yourself the possible next target?

Musharraf: Shots either hit you or they do not. I have been lucky that the would-be assassins did not get me. But I also take measures and I know how to protect myself.

SPIEGEL: For a long time the Taliban, who today work closely together with al-Qaida, were supported by the ISI in order to promote Pakistani interests in Afghanistan. They conquered Kabul and they were ousted after Sept. 11, 2001. Now they have become powerful again in southern Afghanistan. Will they gain the upper hand?

Musharraf: I am certainly fighting the Taliban -- they are dangerous people. But we also see hopeful trends. In many places the local militants -- who sympathize with the Taliban -- are turning against foreign militants and al-Qaida.

SPIEGEL: What do you think Western countries and their forces, as well as President Hamid Karzai, should do to stabilize Afghanistan? Should they embrace the Taliban and negotiate or should they try to eliminate them?

Musharraf: During the 1990s, Pakistan was the only state worldwide that recognized the Taliban government …

SPIEGEL: … besides Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates …

Musharraf: ... and not because we liked them -- it was a strategic decision. But when I came on the scene in 1999, I told everyone, including President Bill Clinton during his state visit in Pakistan, that the best strategy against the Taliban is to recognize them and try to change them from within. Nobody agreed. Then came the problems with Osama bin Laden. Everybody asked me to help the West to get him arrested or deported, but by then it was too late. I sent four or five missions to Mullah Omar from here, without any result.

SPIEGEL: What can be done today?

Musharraf: You cannot ignore (the fact that) a majority of 55 percent ...

SPIEGEL ... of Afghans are from the Pashtun tribe, and that the Taliban recruits the lion's share of its members there ...

Musharraf: ... Afghanistan has always been ruled by the Pashtuns. There should be a change of strategy right away. You should make political overtures to win the Pashtuns over.

SPIEGEL: In your biography "In the Line of Fire," you said your uniform is like a second skin. After 46 years you have removed this powerful skin to become a civilian president. What did you lose -- your second "home" or the source of your power?

Musharraf: My second home. If the army chief works in total harmony with the president and the prime minister, then three men can do the job better than one.

SPIEGEL: Many influential Americans in Washington seem to be looking for a new strong man in Pakistan and appear ready to drop you. What makes you sure that you can count on the loyality of your successor as army chief, General Pervez Kiyani?

Musharraf: After 46 years in the army you learn to judge people. You fight wars, you are often in danger and you experience hard times. And there is something even stronger than personal loyalty -- loyalty to a cause, for a vision. Kiyani and I share that vision on Pakistan, on the Taliban, on al-Qaida, on politics, on human rights and on the media. We are two of a kind.

SPIEGEL: After eight years of ruling this country, what do you see as your greatest achievement and your most dramatic failure?

Musharraf: My greatest achievement has been the economic revival of Pakistan. When I took power, we were in danger of going bankrupt and becoming a failed state. I do not see complete negative development, but some things could have perhaps gone better. Finishing and curbing terrorism and extremism -- there is still a lot to be done on this front.

SPIEGEL: We still do not understand why you imposed a state of emergency on Nov. 3, 2007. Your message seemed to be: You can choose between chaos and me. Which measures would you not have been able to take to tackle extremists without emergency law?

Musharraf: The unlimited utilization of the military was an issue, the media issue was critical, also the judiciary. The chief justice was corrupt, involved in nepotism, and he interfered directly in cases that were out of his jurisdiction. The nail in the coffin came when he challenged the sovereignty of the parliament, which legally elected me as the president.

SPIEGEL: Your extremely negative assessment of Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry of the Supreme Court is not shared by all Pakistanis. Many view him as a couragous defender of the constitution and have harshly protested against your politics. Are there any circumstances under which you could imagine resigning from your post as president?

Musharraf: Yes.

SPIEGEL: Which?

Musharraf: First of all, there is my own disposition. Following the developments of the last seven or eight months, to resign would be the easiest thing. I like playing golf, bridge and tennis, and I feel like socializing more often than is possible in my position. I like relaxing. Believe me: On the day I think the people, the majority, dont want me any more and the day I think I have no contribution to make to this country, I will not wait a second. I will leave.

SPIEGEL: Mr. President, we thank you for this interview.

Interview conducted by Erich Follath and Susanne Koelbl in Islamabad.

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