SPIEGEL Interview with Pervez Musharraf: Obama 'Is Aiming at the Right Things'

In a SPIEGEL interview, former Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf, 65, discusses the dramatic situation in Pakistan, where army troops are fighting Islamist extremists in the Swat Valley, his people's ambivalent relationship with the United States and his country's failures in combating the Taliban.

SPIEGEL: Mr. Musharraf, there's a bon mot that states that ruling Pakistan is like riding a tiger. You were in power for nine years. Are you bored now?

Musharraf: I recently was in Saudi Arabia, China and London giving lectures. I have engaged the famous Walker Agency ...

SPIEGEL: ... which Bill Clinton, Tony Blair and Gerhard Schröder all work with ...

Musharraf: ... In Prague, I am giving a lecture on leadership in front of high-level managers at a company which owns Pizza Hut and KFC.

SPIEGEL: Pakistan is in a major state of crisis. Close to 2.5 million people have fled the areas of fighting in the northwest and the Swat Valley. There are attacks almost daily. Is Pakistan on the verge of collapse?

Musharraf: This is wrong. Nothing can happen to Pakistan as long as the armed forces are intact and strong. Anyone who wants to weaken and destabilize Pakistan just has to weaken the army and our intelligence service, ISI, and this is what is happening these days. Lots of articles have been written claiming that Pakistan will be divided, that it will fall apart or become Balkanized. I personally feel there is some kind of conspiracy going on with the goal of weakening our nation.

SPIEGEL: Who do you believe is behind this conspiracy?

Musharraf: I won't tell you exactly because then you will ask me for evidence. I can only tell you that India, for example, has 16 insurgencies going on and nobody is making a big thing out of it. But the West always focuses on Pakistan as the problem.

SPIEGEL: United States President Barack Obama has promised a new beginning. He wants to chase and fight the Taliban and al-Qaida in Pakistan as well as Afghanistan and has enlargened the territory of operations. What do you think of this new strategy, which he calls AfPak?

Musharraf: I am totally against the term AfPak. I do not support the word itself for two reasons: First, the strategy puts Pakistan on the same level as Afghanistan. We are not. Afghanistan has no government and the country is completely destabilized. Pakistan is not. Second, and this is much more important, is that there is an Indian element in the whole game. We have the Kashmir struggle, without which extremist elements like Lashkar-e-Taiba would not exist.

SPIEGEL: This group is believed to have been responsible for the terrorist attacks in Mumbai. Why should the US strategy also include India?

Musharraf: There are many Indian extremists who have links with extremists in Pakistan. So if the world is serious about combating terrorism, then don't leave India out. Originally, Richard Holbrooke was supposed to be the US special representative for all three countries, but the strong Indian lobby in America prevented that.

SPIEGEL: Are you disappointed by Obama?

Musharraf: No, he is aiming at the right things. He is showing intentions of improving the dialogue with the Muslim world, which is good. He is right when he says that more forces must be deployed in Afghanistan. There is an intention of increasing funding for Pakistan, which is also good. But he also has to understand the reality in Pakistan and I am not sure he does.

SPIEGEL: And how is the situation?

Musharraf: One of the realities is that the Indian intelligence service RAW is interfering in our country. For example in Balochistan, our largest province bordering Iran and Afghanistan. One of the most brutal insurgents against our forces, Brahamdagh Bugti ...

SPIEGEL: ... the grandson of Nawab Bugti, a tribal leader who was killed three years ago in a battle with the Pakistani army ...

Musharraf: ... he is sitting in Kabul, protected by the Afghan government and provided with weapons and money by the Indian intelligence agency RAW. He has his own training camps and sends his fighters to Balochistan where they terrorize people and damage the civil infrastructure. RAW is also interfering in the Swat Valley, I know that. Where do all these Taliban fighters in Swat get their arms and money from? From Afghanistan. The Indian consulates in Jalalabad and Kandahar only exist to be a thorn in the side of Pakistan.

SPIEGEL: Let us talk about the role of the ISI. A short time ago, US newspapers reported that ISI has systematically supported Taliban groups. Is that true?

Musharraf: Intelligence always has access to other networks -- this is what Americans did with KGB, this is what ISI also does. You should understand that the army is on board to fight the Taliban and al-Qaida. I have always been against the Taliban. Don't try to lecture us about how we should handle this tactically. I will give you an example: Siraj Haqqani ...

SPIEGEL: ... a powerful Taliban commander who is allegedly secretly allied with the ISI.

Musharraf: He is the man who has influence over Baitullah Mehsud, a dangerous terrorist, the fiercest commander in South Waziristan and the murderer of Benazir Bhutto as we know today. Mehsud kidnapped our ambassador in Kabul and our intelligence used Haqqani's influence to get him released. Now, that does not mean that Haqqani is supported by us. The intelligence service is using certain enemies against other enemies. And it is better to tackle them one by one than making them all enemies.

SPIEGEL: Are the Americans and the Pakistanis still even pursuing the same goals?

Musharraf: The Americans are hated in the country today. The US drone attacks, which we have been living with for months now, are most unpopular -- there is no doubt about it. Regardless whether they are killing terrorists, Taliban or al-Qaida figures or not, there are too many civilian victims. The deployment of drones has to be stopped.

SPIEGEL: The US military eliminated several high-ranking al-Qaida figures through drone attacks. What would be a possible alternative?

Musharraf: We have to find a way or method with which the Pakistani army could conduct these attacks itself. There would immediately be much better acceptance amongst the populace and we would cause less collateral damage and there would be fewer civilian victims.

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