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Last Updated: Wednesday, 27 September 2006, 15:54 GMT 16:54 UK
In the Line of Fire by Pervez Musharraf
In the Line of Fire by Pervez Musharraf

Heads of state usually hold off publishing memoirs until they have left office behind and are unfettered by diplomatic niceties.

That Pakistan's President Pervez Musharraf has chosen to publish an account of his experiences as premier which includes details of events surrounding the defining moment of our time - the September 11 attacks on New York and Washington - while still in office has caused both consternation and fascination, particularly in the US.

The following extract opens with events the day after the attacks and details the reaction in both Washington and Islamabad, including the claim that one US official used threats to secure Pakistan's co-operation in the so-called war on terror.

In the Line of Fire: A Memoir is published by Simon & Schuster UK Ltd.

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From Chapter 20: One Day That Changed The World

The next morning I was chairing an important meeting at the Governor's House when my military secretary told me that the U.S. secretary of state, General Colin Powell, was on the phone. I said that I would call back later, but he insisted that I come out of the meeting and take the call. Powell was quite candid: "You are either with us or against us." I took this as a blatant ultimatum. However, contrary to some published reports, that conversation did not get into specifics. I told him that we were with the United States against terrorism, having suffered from it for years, and would fight along with his country against it. We did not negotiate anything. I had time to think through exactly what might happen next.

When I was back in Islamabad the next day, our director general of Inter Services Intelligence, who happened to be in Washington, told me on the phone about his meeting with the U.S. deputy secretary of state, Richard Armitage. In what has to be the most undiplomatic statement ever made, Armitage added to what Colin Powell had said to me and told the director general not only that we had to decide whether we were with America or with the terrorists, but that if we chose the terrorists, then we should be prepared to be bombed back to the Stone Age. This was a shockingly barefaced threat, but it was obvious that the United States had decided to hit back, and hit back hard.

I made a dispassionate, military-style analysis of our options, weighing the pros and cons. Emotion is all very well in drawing rooms, newspaper editorials, and movies, but it cannot be relied on for decisions like this. Underlying any leader's analysis has to be a keen awareness that on his decision hangs the fate of millions of people and the future of his country. It is at times like these that the leader is confronted by his acute loneliness. He may listen to any amount of advice he chooses, but at the end of the day the decision has to be his alone. He realizes then that the buck really stops with him - this is no facile cliché.

My decision was based on the well-being of my people and the best interests of my country - Pakistan always comes first. I war-gamed the United States as an adversary. There would be a violent and angry reaction if we didn't support the United States. Thus the question was: if we do not join them, can we confront them and withstand the onslaught? The answer was no, we could not, on three counts.

First was our military weakness as compared with the strength of the United States. Our military forces would be destroyed.

Second was our economic weakness. We had no oil, and we did not have the capacity to sustain our economy in the face of an attack by the United States.

Third, and worse of all, was our social weakness. We lack the homogeneity to galvanize the entire nation into an active confrontation. We could not endure a military confrontation with the United States from any point of view.

I also analysed our national interest. First, India had already tried to step in by offering its bases to the United States. If we did not join the United States, it would accept India's offer. What would happen then? India would gain a golden opportunity with regard to Kashmir. The Indians might be tempted to undertake a limited offensive there; or, more likely, they would work with the United States and the United Nations to turn the present situation into a permanent status quo. The United States would certainly have obliged.

Second, the security of our strategic assets would be jeopardized. We did not want to lose or damage the military parity that we had achieved with India by becoming a nuclear weapons state. It is no secret that the United States has never been comfortable with a Muslim country acquiring nuclear weapons, and the Americans undoubtedly would have taken the opportunity of an invasion to destroy such weapons. And India, needless to say, would have loved to assist the United States to the hilt.

Third, our economic infrastructure, built over half a century, would have been decimated.

The ultimate question that confronted me was whether it was in our national interest to destroy ourselves for the Taliban. Were they worth committing suicide over? The answer was a resounding no. It is true that we had assisted in the rise of the Taliban after the Soviet Union withdrew from Afghanistan, which was then callously abandoned by the United States. For a while, at the embryonic stage, even the United States had approved of the Taliban. We had hoped that the Taliban, driven by religious zeal based on the true principles of Islam, would bring unity and peace to a devastated country. But they were fired by a misplaced messianic zeal inculcated in them by half-baked, obscurantist clerics, a zeal that was contrary to the moderate, tolerant, progressive spirit of Islam of the majority of the Pakistani people.

© 2006 by President Pervez Musharraf

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