Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Pervez Musharraf on the Daily Show

Pakistani President General Pervez Musharraf was the featured guest on tonight's Daily Show with Jon Stewart. Musharraf made headlines a few days ago with the claim that Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage threatened shortly after 9/11 that the United States would bomb Pakistan into the Stone Age if they refused to cooperate with us against al Qaeda and the Taliban. Musharraf also just published a memoir, In the Line of Fire.

Here is Jon Stewart's interview with Pervez Musharraf:


Jon Stewart: Now, I know it is customary in Pakistan to offer tea to a guest for hospitality's sake, so I have brought you — this is a jasmine green tea. (Thank you very much.) May I pour? (Yes, indeed.) Thank you, sir. (Very thoughtful of you.) Is this a tea that is recognizable to you? (Yeah, it is.) It's good? Is it a bargain tea? Have I insulted you in any way? (No, no, you didn't, but it is good tea.) This is an American delicacy: it's called a Twinkie. It's made up of a collection of things that are not edible, but when put all together, becomes edible; we don't know how they do it. So, please, to you, to your health, sir. Thank you so much for joining us; we really appreciate it. (Thank you.) Mmm! It's quite good. Is it good? Where's Osama bin Laden?

Pervez Musharraf: I don't know. Do you know where he is? You lead on, we'll follow you.

Stewart: Thank you very much, sir. I have to say this: I have to confess, I know not that much about the history of Pakistan, your history. This is a remarkable tale, told in very plain-spoken language, about a really difficult, volatile situation that you confront in Pakistan, holding together people that are moderate, people that are more extreme, people that are tribal, and trying to connect it all. How has that been to hold that together?

Musharraf: A difficult job, indeed, and especially made more difficult because international perceptions are pulling in one direction and domestic perceptions sometimes pull in the different direction, so I've had to learn the art of tightrope walking many times, and I think I've become quite an expert at that. I do a lot of —

Stewart: The diplomatic aspect of appealing to — It was very interesting to me to read your thought process after 9/11. You received a phone call from Colin Powell the next day, saying Get on board, or get off board

Musharraf: Yes, "You're with us or against us."

Stewart: Two days later, Richard Armitage, who's Undersecretary, calls and says, Oh, by the way, if you don't, there are some bunker-busters with Pakistan's name on it, but your thought process was very logical. Walk through us what you were thinking.

Musharraf: Thought process was basically the interest of my own country, the international interest of Pakistan, and the security of Pakistan, and in that, one did, of course, take into consideration that we're a nuclear state, and destabilization of a nuclear state would cause disturbance to the whole world, obviously, and one has to take very deliberate decisions that you do not cause such an upheaval. But basically, may I say, all said and done, primarily it was our — Pakistan's — national interest on which I based the decision. It happened to be in the interest of the world, also, and therefore we are pursuing it with all the vigor.

Stewart: It was interesting to me that one of your first thoughts was, Can we take these guys? in terms of America, when they said that — you know, I wasn't expecting that. I wasn't expecting one of your first thoughts to be, All right, so let's see, let's say we do go to war with America. Okay, hmm, hmm, hmm [hand gestures], and you drew it out on the board, and you thought, Nyeh.

Musharraf: Well, let me admit that we did take into consideration everything: should we adopt a confrontationist approach? And should we cooperate at all? Now, if we did not cooperate, then obviously somebody else would cooperate. They are going to — We knew that the United States was going to reach out to whoever did this terrible terrorist act of 9/11, and they happened to be in Afghanistan. There is no way of reaching Afghanistan except through Pakistan, so therefore, whether we are on board or not, they would be treading through Pakistan, whether through its airspace or through its land. Therefore this had to be taken into consideration, certainly.

Stewart: Why is it that the north and western provinces, the Waziristan and those areas, that are so difficult to gain control of, you recently made a truce with some tribal leaders in that area. I was thinking in America the idea of, say, making a truce with Florida — because we wouldn't; they don't deserve it! — but here you are, the leader of the state, and you're going to them. What is required in a truce with these leaders? Is it saying, We'll let you be, as long as you don't hurt the national interest?

Musharraf: First of all, we need to understand with whom are we reaching the truce, and then we need to understand what is the greatest danger that is confronting us there. Today, the focus has shifted from al Qaeda to Taliban in that area. Now, what is the greatest danger? Taliban are the people, they are the locals, they are the Pakhtun ethnic group, whereas al Qaeda were not the locals, they were outsiders, and they easily recognizable. These people are from the people, and now the greatest danger is that this Taliban movement gets converted into a Pakhtun people's movement. So therefore the important thing at this moment, as I see it, the strategy is, wean the people away from the Taliban. Wean the non-Taliban Pakhtun away from the Taliban Pakhtun. Now that is the basis of whatever we are doing.

Stewart: Will they no longer, then, give hospitality to the al Qaedas who live in that area, the bad Taliban, so to speak?

Musharraf: Yes, indeed. This is an agreement not to support the Taliban, but to fight the Taliban, to confront the Taliban.

Stewart: Well, that was interesting in the book. You are one of the primary targets of al Qaeda. You describe two assassination attempts — both on the same bridge, by the way. I'm not, again, a leader of a country — I'd come up with a new way to go to work. But the same bridge — this is al Qaeda trying to — apparently feeling that you have been successful in combatting them and terrorism.

Musharraf: Yes, indeed, we have been successful, because we have eliminated them from our cities. We caught over 600, about 680 of them, from the cities. They are no more in our cities, and therefore I keep travelling through the same bridge every time. Almost daily.

Stewart: Are the extremists in Pakistan a noisy minority? You seem to be at the forefront of the threats, yet you seem much calmer about it than we are.

Musharraf: Yes, I am, but [Stewart puts his head in his hands and then eats a Twinkie; Musharraf chuckles.]

Stewart: We're going to take a commercial. We're going to come back with a little more, Mr. President. (Thank you.) Thank you so much again for joining us. We'll be right back.

[commercial break]

Stewart: Welcome back, we're here with President Pervez Musharraf. In your book, it's an incredible autobiography of a life, a very interesting life. There is no mention of Iraq; is that because you felt like it was such a smart move and has gone so well that to mention it would be gloating?

Musharraf: No, I think we were so overly concerned with our area — I have mentioned about, in a passing reference to Iraq, and I know that the situation, whatever the reasons of going there, I won't get involved in a debate on that, but it has led certainly to more extremism and terrorism around the world.

Stewart: So, we're safer?

Musharraf: No, we are not. We are not safer, but I believe in looking at the present and trying to work out strategies for the future: that's what we should concentrate on.

Stewart: When you met with the President, you met with our President a few days ago, are you able to speak candidly with him about what you feel is working and what isn't, and does he seem open or paying attention or does he, let's say, have the TV on?

Musharraf: Well, first of all, we didn't discuss Iraq, if you are meaning that, but we did discuss Afghanistan, and the environment around on our side of the border. He was listening carefully.

Stewart: 'Cause he sleeps with his eyes open; I just want you to know that. All right, Mr. President, we're delighted that you're here, but we have to put you on the Daily Show Seat of Heat. Let's say, if there were an election held in Pakistan today — and not, clearly, for your job, because you're doing a wonderful job — for, let's say, the mayoralty of Karachi, or ombudsman, or something, and we put up two candidates: George W. Bush and Osama bin Laden. Be truthful: who would win a popular vote in Pakistan?

Musharraf: I think they'll both lose miserably.

Stewart: You're off the Seat of Heat, sir; well done. In the Line of Fire: A Memoir, it's on bookshelves now. President Pervez Musharraf.
Just a quick plug for the project I'm currently volunteering for: World Can't Wait: Drive Out the Bush RĂ©gime, with the Day of Mass Resistance, 2006-10-05. The Bush Administration is undermining the moral basis of our war on terror, undermining Constitutional principles such as the separation of powers, abrogating our international obligations, funneling our tax dollars to corporations and wealthy individuals, wasting the blood of our soldiers, and making America and the world less safe. We the People need to do more than meekly stand on the sidelines tut-tutting and waiting for someone to speak out.

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