Pervez Musharraf was on Fareed Zakaria GPS this morning discussing the Af-Pak situation in two segments. The second segment focused on Pakistan where Zakaria prefaced Q&A by reminding viewers that General Musharraf is an “authentic representation of Pakistan’s military” and that his comments will reveal that the situation in Afghanistan is rooted in a “60 year geopolitical rivalry that we just walked in to, and its between between India and Pakistan“. Sounded like grand stuff.
And Zakaria jumped right in. He began with questions on whether the Pakistan military is as committed to eliminating terrorists in the north who launch cross border attacks as they are to obliterating terrorists in the South who are responsible for domestic assaults. He said the military “never seems to get around to attacking North Waziristan who attacks India or Afghanistan because they were supported in the past”. Musharraff made clear that during his tenure, he insisted on drone technology needed to obliterate terrorists from both regions, especially given Baitullah Mehsud who assassinated Bhutto and that terrorists were never supported by the military or any government policy. He mentioned that ISI “ingress” in terrorist groups is standard procedure practiced by all Intelligence operations, clarifying that “ingress” is not be equated to “support”, rather it’s standard maintenance of contacts with such groups for the states advantage.
When questioned about the widespread notion that Al Qaeda leader Mullah Umar is in Pakistan, Musharraf said it’s “200% wrong” explaining Umar would have no interest in leaving a safe haven in the northern areas where Taliban has de-facto control for Quetta where US and Pakistani intelligence/ military roam rampant. It was a reasonable response and Zakaria’s questions sounded increasingly implicative.
Zakaria probed the notion saying that the “Afghanistan government and intelligence say he’s in Pakistan” to which Musharraff firmly explained “don’t talk about the Afghan government and intelligence. By design, they mislead the world, they talk against Pakistan because they are entirely under the influence of Indian intelligence”.
Wow, he just said it. It’s often documented in Pakistani media that Indian intelligence is widely responsible for insurgencies in northern areas of Pakistan and the province of Balochistan by way of material support, but rarely is that view expressed in mainstream U.S. media. Former Foreign Minister Sharifuddin Pirzada recently explained to me that warming of relations between Delhi and Kabul come at a direct expense of Pakistan because of such subversive, Indian led dealings with Afghanistan. Similarly, Musharraf explained he has provided “documented evidence” of this activity in the past.
From the first question on Pakistan’s commitment to uprooting cross border terrorism, to the question on Mullah Umar, Zakaria elicited Musharraf into discussion of a supposed “geopolitical rivalry” between India and Pakistan wherein Afghanistan is used as a “client state” by either nation as a buffer against, if not to subvert one another. And although I can’t say that is entirely untrue, Zakaria approached today’s interview with this preconceived notion, and overstepped neutrality by implicating Pakistan in the process.