|You are in: Programmes: Breakfast with Frost|
BBC BREAKFAST WITH FROST INTERVIEW: BENAZIR BHUTTO, Former Pakistan Prime Minister MAY 26th, 2002
Please note "BBC Breakfast with Frost" must be credited if any part of this transcript is used
DAVID FROST: Pakistan is conducting a series of nuclear-capable missile tests, a move which is heightening the tension with India over the disputed territory of Kashmir. So far the tests have been of medium and short range surface-to-surface ballistic missiles. More tests are expected over the next few days. All this comes at a time when there's been a huge troop build up on the so-called line of control which divides Kashmir between Pakistan and India. Pakistan's president, General Musharraf, has said that his country doesn't want war, but was not afraid to face a military challenge. India has said that it doesn't consider the missile test to be significant. But with both countries holding nuclear weapons, the fear in the region is that it would still take little to start a conflict of unforeseen consequences. And we're joined now by Pakistan's former prime minister, and indeed former two times prime minister or two times former prime minister, Benazir Bhutto is here. Benazir, wonderful to see you. Can we - straight from the threats that we were hearing about there, the threat to peace and so on, how serious is this particular situation at the moment, how close to something nuclear?
BENAZIR BHUTTO: I think this is the most serious threat that Pakistan has faced in its history. Indian patience seems to have run out and the two countries are facing each other with nuclear-tipped missiles that could destroy the lives of 30 million people or more. So in my view it's a very serious threat to peace in South Asia and to the people of South Asia.
DAVID FROST: Is there anything which the rest of the world can do? That America can do - that should do, or what?
BENAZIR BHUTTO: One of the difficulties is the lack of credibility that Islamabad presently enjoys. Every six months there seems to be the threat of war triggered by militants in Kashmir that tests the patience of India, and India says that it would respond in military means. I think what the West really needs to do is encourage the democratic process in Pakistan - elections have been promised for October this year - and the West could tell India to wait until those elections are held; ensure that the elections are fair and depend on a democratic government to build peace. David, I believe that democracies do not go to war, that's the lesson of history, and I think that a democratic Pakistan is the world community's best guarantee of stability in Asia.
DAVID FROST: When can you go back there? Ever?
BENAZIR BHUTTO: Well I can go back if General Musharraf allows me to contest the elections. My party has been having negotiations with his regime and negotiations have bogged down on General Musharraf's refusal to allow the two former prime ministers to contest the elections. We feel that Musharraf should set aside this condition and have a grand reconciliation within Pakistan that sets the stage for reconciliation in South Asia. We fear that hard-liners will otherwise continue to dictate the agenda.
DAVID FROST: And in that particular situation, presumably he'd have to give you both clearance that you weren't going to be arrested, once you stepped off a plane, with charges from the past about corruption or whatever. You'd have to have that guarantee wouldn't you?
BENAZIR BHUTTO: That's right. He'd have to give us that assurance that we could go back and play a role which otherwise hard-liners are filling. There's a report on the wire services today that a secret bomb factory in the northern area is producing uranium. So many of us in Pakistan feel they've already got one front open with India and the proliferation issue could open another front with the world community and endanger Pakistan's wellbeing. We need national reconciliation and national unity.
DAVID FROST: Who is the pressure greatest on in this crisis? Is it greater on the president of Pakistan or the prime minister of India?
BENAZIR BHUTTO: I think Pakistanis feel that the pressure is more on Pakistan because there is the Kashmir issue, which we feel has been neglected. But the world community has greater pressure on Pakistan which needs money from the West. India's economy is largely self-sufficient and it's Indian patience that is now wearing thin.
DAVID FROST: But I don't think we could - you can't really think of either President Musharraf or the Prime Minister actually doing a first strike, could you? A nuclear first strike?
BENAZIR BHUTTO: I think a nuclear first strike by India has been ruled out, by the Indian authorities. And a nuclear first strike by Islamabad has not been ruled out. It is possible, but in my view not probable. Every Pakistani knows that if they fire a nuclear device there will be one fired at us in retaliation. But who can take the chance? I certainly don't want to take the chance.
DAVID FROST: Exactly. And where is your husband today?
BENAZIR BHUTTO: David, my husband is still in prison, in the sixth year, without any conviction. There isn't a single precedent in South Asia of any person being held more than two years without a conviction and this is the sixth year of my husband's arrest. I am repeatedly told that the military can't afford to release him because I am the greatest threat to their agenda - and I say why? I have been prime minister twice, I have got a record, if the people of Pakistan support me, the military should reach an accommodation with me.
DAVID FROST: So how long have you been married?
BENAZIR BHUTTO: We have been married 14 years, of which I have been in opposition for eight, and the entire eight years Asif has been behind bars and I've had to raise my children more or less as a single mother.
DAVID FROST: Do you see that changing?
BENAZIR BHUTTO: Well I have political commitments and I'm committed to a democratic Pakistan. And as long as democracy remains in danger I don't see that happening. But my fear is what's happening to Pakistan. When I was the prime minister it was one of the ten emerging capital markets of the world and now people talk of it in terms of terrorism and extremism.
DAVID FROST: Well it's very good to have you with us, thank you very much for your comments from such a close, close situation. Thank you very much for being with us.
|E-mail this story to a friend|
Links to more Breakfast with Frost stories
To BBC Sport>> | To BBC Weather>> | To BBC World Service>>
© MMIII | News Sources | Privacy