Tags: Musharraf | Helps | U.S. | Ensure | Survival | Pakistan

Musharraf Helps U.S. Ensure Survival of Pakistan

Monday, 17 September 2001 12:00 AM

Reading from his own handwritten transcript, one of those present quoted Fazlur Rehman, chief of Jamiat-e-ulama-e-Islam (party of the holy men of Islam) as telling Musharraf: "We will fight against the U.S.A. The army will be against you. We shall go to the mountains and come back at night to launch hit and run attacks."

Ajmal Khattak, president of the National Alliance Party, read his notes exclusively to UPI on Monday.

The 76-year-old Khattak, sitting under a lazy overhead fan in a ramshackle house in a back alley of Rawalpindi, the capital's twin city, showed this reporter his sheafs of notes in Pushto. UPI consultant Ammar Turabi translated.

Khattak said the exchanges at a six-hour meeting that lasted until 12:30 a.m. Monday had grown "very heated."

In addition to Reman, he quoted from altercations between Musharraf and Sami ul-Haq, co-president of the same Islamic party, and Qazi Hussain Ahmed, chief of Jamat-e-Islami (an Islamic alliance of six religious parties). Rehman continued his intervention by shouting: "The United States with all its military might could not cope in Vietnam. It was defeated. The Soviet Union could not cope with Afghanistan, and it was also defeated. It was that defeat that led to the disintegration of the Soviet empire. Pakistan must not surrender to the United States. If Saudi Arabia, a close American ally, is not cooperating, why should Pakistan say yes?"

Khattak said Musharraf told Ahmed, "If the Taliban does not surrender, we will have to use force."

The NAP leader was convinced Musharraf was referring to the Pakistani military in addition to U.S. military might.

"The United States is coming in to cleanse the whole area of Taliban and its foreign allies working with Osama bin Laden," Khattak quoted Musharraf as saying. "That way they will finish what they walked away from after the Soviet withdrawal from Afghanistan in 1989."

Former Pakistani President Farooq Leghari, head of the center-left Millap party, was one of the 30 political leaders present. He told UPI: "I hope this time the United States won't leave Afghanistan in the lurch. After whatever takes place in the days and weeks ahead, Washington must underwrite a Marshall-type plan for the region that must include debt forgiveness for Pakistan. This $37 billion burden is crushing us and has stopped all real growth. Ten years ago, 17 percent of our population was living below the U.N. poverty line. Today it's 50 million people out of 140 million. And most of the other two-thirds are barely above the line." Pakistan has a $37 billion debt with the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund.

Musharraf, according to Khattak's notes, defended his total cooperation commitment to Bush by explaining: "If I had not committed, Russia, India and Israel would do us great harm. Our nuclear facilities would have been in jeopardy, and the economy would be completely down the drain.

"They would say they had to stop an 'Islamic bomb' from traveling. The entire world is scared of an Islamic bomb. United States, India, Israel and Russia would pre-empt if we do not cooperate fully in the war against transnational terrorism. Even if we take America's side, our nuclear facilities are still at risk. The Kahuta [nuclear weapons facility] is in danger.

"To safeguard our nuclear program we must back the United States without reservations. If we don't support the United States, we ourselves won't survive. Nor will Islam. It is my responsibility to safeguard our national security. I did not compromise with the United States. It was a matter of Pakistan's survival."

The tall, gaunt Khattak continued to read from his notes. He quoted Qazi Hussain Ahmed telling Musharraf: "If you get into this, the army will split. America's pride is shaken. She is a wounded giant and is under heavy public opinion pressure and telling us that America will be destroyed if we don't take this action. The United States is even saying the whole world economy is in danger of collapsing.

"Well, I say we shouldn't be afraid of America. We should not assist them. Even Europe and Asia won't support Pakistan. You are committing a grave mistake. The Army will go against you. Why are you fighting your own people? You're not able to think straight. You're being selfish. That is not courage. It is emotional, excited thinking."

Another dissenter present was Sami ul-Haq, Osama bin Laden's closest friend in Pakistan, who runs the "University for the Education of Truth," a fundamentalist institution that educated and trained nine out of the Taliban's top 10 leaders. He told Musharraf: "America is not the power of God. God himself is. We don't need anyone else's help."

Musharraf interrupted, "if we are not prepared to help, India is. So if you want to commit suicide, I do not."

Rehman added, "We fundamentalists should bring in China and Iran to help us against Bush's coalition."

Musharaf replied: "Don't fool yourself about China and Iran. The won't be on your side. They are more tired of Taliban than I am. Even if we don't cooperate, Washington will go ahead with force anyway."

Earlier Sunday, the political leaders were in Lahore for an All-Party Conference when Musharraf called them to an emergency meeting in Islamabad. They raced for the airport and caught the afternoon flight to the capital. They convened at the Presidential Palace at 6:30 p.m. Sunday and argued for six hours.

"Why was the president consulting them after he had already made the commitment to Bush?" one delegate demanded to know.

"Time was of the essence and President Bush was on the phone," Musharraf replied.

Leghari told UPI that Bush now accepts Musharraf's position on Kashmir, on the urgent need for debt relief, and on the pre-nuclear status quo ante in the U.S.-Pakistan relationship.

"I asked Bush about broken promises in the past," Musharraf confided to the politicians. "Bush replied that the administration had turned a new page in our relationship and that I could count on his solemn word. He said the United States is going to use every means to finally cleanse the whole region with precision technology.

"How can I say no to this after what happened in New York and Washington? Pakistan did not contribute troops to president Bush's Gulf War coalition 10 years ago. And look at the results since then."

Khattak said Musharraf told the gathering that Bush, "asked Pakistan for immediate assistance on logistics, military intelligence and anything the United States decides to do."

Gradually, the radical Islamic hotheads seemed to back off. Rehman said to Musharraf, "do everything to safeguard our national security and find a way out."

Khattak himself said, "While I do not agree with the new policy, we are willing to give him the benefit of the doubt."

A high-level Pakistani delegation, led by the chief of Inter Service Intelligence, Gen. Mahmood Ahmed, was in Kandahar, Afghanistan's religious capital, Monday to confer with Taliban "Supreme Leader" Mullah Mohammad Omar. The ISI chief was in Washington last week to hear what the United States expects from him.

Stories that Ahmed was delivering an ultimatum to Omar to surrender Osama bin Laden within three days or face massive U.S. retaliation were treated with skepticism by Pakistani politicians. One general told UPI that ISI "is against any attack on Taliban."

It is generally assumed among ranking Pakistanis that U.S. B-2 bombers, each capable of delivering 16 precision-guided bombs to different targets simultaneously, will soon destroy the Taliban's critical infrastructure: telephone exchanges, power grids, both installed by Pakistan; helicopters and a handful of aircraft on the ground; and airports.

This, in turn, goes the assumption, will be followed by U.S. airborne troops, dropped where Pakistani intelligence has spotted Taliban leaders and bin Ladin's followers. U.S. paratroopers would then be withdrawn via Pakistan and flown to Diego Garcia, a U.S. base in the Indian Ocean.

But no one really knows what will happen in the days and weeks ahead. More worrisome than the uncertainty is what the mullahs are telling the faithful at prayer time in Pakistan's tens of thousands of mosques from Karachi to Chitral in the Northwest Frontier Province. The UPI driver, a devout Moslem, heard one mullah say, "Just one American soldier on Pakistani soil and we will send American diplomats packing, some without heads."

Copyright 2001 by United Press International.

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Reading from his own handwritten transcript, one of those present quoted Fazlur Rehman, chief of Jamiat-e-ulama-e-Islam (party of the holy men of Islam) as telling Musharraf: We will fight against the U.S.A. The army will be against you. We shall go to the mountains and...
Musharraf,Helps,U.S.,Ensure,Survival,Pakistan
1392
2001-00-17
Monday, 17 September 2001 12:00 AM
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