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Wednesday, 2 August, 2000, 19:48 GMT 20:48 UK
Musharraf webcast - full transcript

Owen Bennett-Jones
Hello and welcome to this live BBC webcast which is coming from Army House in Rawalpindi. This is the home of the man, who 10 months ago shocked the world by throwing out the democratically elected government and installing himself as Pakistan's military ruler. He said at the time he would restore law and order, eliminate corruption and revive the economy. He promised a new start for Pakistan.

We've received over 2,000 e-mails from BBC web users all over the world and from listeners to BBC World Service radio and viewers of BBC World television.

Over the next hour we will be tackling the key issues which you have raised: the timetable for a return to democracy; the nuclear shadow that hangs over the region; the vexed question of Kashmir and relations with India - and domestic issues: the state of the Pakistani nation.

First of all welcome to you General Musharraf.

Musharraf
Thank you very much.

OB-J
And if you've got a question for the General send it to us now on an e mail and we'll try to include it in this broadcast. We'll also be posting full transcripts on our website. The address is: www.bbc.co.uk/talkingpoint. Now we've had all these calls and e-mails let's get straight on to the first telephone caller.

Rustum Shah, United Kingdom.
My question is General, you came into power with an interim form of government when do you plan to allow democratic elections? Or if you can't give a timeframe what circumstances will need to prevail for Pakistan to have that return to democracy?

OB-J
Ok when do you go back to democracy? We'll take another call just now before the General gets on to that.

Zulfi Ahmad, Virginia, USA
I have a question, a comment and a suggestion for General Musharraf. Comment first: my wife is an Icelandic American wanted me to tell you General that you are doing a wonderful job and keep up the good work. Now the question: General has your drive against corruption slowed down since the officers in Pakistan are one of the most corrupt, we are not seeing any progress that you are going after these officers? Can you please stay longer than three years because the job against corruption is a very, very big job. Now the suggestion: please drop the Taliban issue for now and let the no good politicians fight on it later on. Thank you very much.

OB-J
Thank you very much. Let's just stick to that point about is two years long enough to deal with the corruption?

Musharraf
Well corruption I think is an unending process - dealing with corruption - and certainly one can't say that in two years you are going to achieve miracles but we do intend to bring the men - the big fish - into the accountability net. We also would, I'm sure, achieve the target of making the country and its leaders conscious of the fact that we need to eradicate corruption. So to that extent we will certainly some targets but the process will continue forever I would say because this accountability bureau, I presume, should continue forever in Pakistan.

OB-J
But if you feel, in two years time - in two years and two months time - when your deadline runs, that you haven't done the job won't you be tempted to stay on to finish it off?

Musharraf
Well the Supreme Court decision is quite clear and we have committed to certainly stand by it and we hope to deliver in this timeframe. OB-J
Ok next caller. Rajesh Menon from Malaysia.

Rajesh Menon, Malaysia.
Hello.

OB-J
Hi what's your question?

Menon
Yeah I would like to know how would you consider yourself different from the other military rulers of Pakistan like General Zia ul-Haq?

OB-J
Are you different from General Zia General Musharraf?

Musharraf
I would like to pose a counter question: what is the similarity? There's a lot of difference certainly, there's a lot of difference. First of all I would like to say that I am involved in restructuring or building the Nation - I'm involved in nation building. None of the previous ones were involved in nation building as such - so that is the first difference. We are restructuring every institution here in Pakistan and not maintaining status quo which was being done previously. And secondly, may I say, that I am not using the military for it, this is being done through a civil government - a civil structure - and not through the military, there is no marshal law here - in the hope that in the process the civil governance will improve and they'll be able to improve themselves to run the affairs of the country in a better manner than what was being done before. So this is what we are doing in which I'm very, very different from them. And also that I'm certainly not in for self-perpetuation. The timeframe has been set and we will surely meet that timeframe. I'm not here to perpetuate myself and prolong my stay. There are a lot of other differences which I wouldn't like to get involve with certainly.

OB-J
Alright well Rajesh Menon are you convinced or is he just another Zia?

Menon
No, no can I ask one more question? How

OB-J
We've just lost the line there to Rajesh. So let's move on to a couple of e-mails. I've got a couple here one from Atif in Pakistan: why do we need elections and democracy in this country it hasn't worked in the past? The army's doing a good job, why don't you bring a democratic Islamic government based on Shariah (Islamic law) since democracy has failed to bring stability and prosperity in the country during the last 50 years? And a not dissimilar question from Raja Mani in Hong Kong in his e mail: do you feel democracy, as practised in the West, is suitable for Pakistan when votes can be bought and sold isn't it foolish to give universal adult suffrage to people who don't value their vote?

Musharraf
Well democracy is certainly suitable for Pakistan within the Pakistani environment, so therefore its tactics have to be adapted to the Pakistani environment. So certainly democracy, in its strategic form, is suitable for Pakistan. Now when you're talking of corruption here and buying of votes well corruption is all over the world in the biggest democratic countries also there's a lot of corruption in politics. We know, I don't want to indicate the countries certainly everyone knows that. So a degree of corruption is there in Pakistan also. But as democracy matures I'm sure the situation will keep improving.

OB-J
But there is a disillusionment, isn't there, with the democratic experiment in Pakistan?

Musharraf
Yes there has been disillusionment and disillusionment is not because of the functioning of the people or the functioning of democracy by the masses it's because of the leaders. The leaders have disillusioned the people, so therefore it's the leadership which has to be corrected and it's not the process of democracy that there is anything wrong with.

OB-J
Let's go on to our next caller, it's Yusuf Nasrullah from Boston, USA. Yusuf your question?

Yusuf Nasrullah, Boston, USA
General Musharraf I'm Yusuf from Boston, I have a short comment to make and then two brief questions to ask you. I was amongst the many millions who felt euphoric when you toppled the tyrannical government of Nawaz Sharif and came into power but now I feel that all your actions have just turned into a degenerate witch-hunt against Miss Benazir Bhutto and Mr Sharif and you're only intent on perpetuating the tradition of victimisation of political opponents. Two questions that I have for you are number one: when you are trying to create this political vacuum and void of leadership with which two major political players - Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif - are forcibly evacuated from the political scene who do you think will fill in their shoes - the religious fundamentalists or people like Hussein Ahmed and secondly what is the point of your meeting with totally pointless politicians like General Zia ul-Haq whose father was the most hated marshal law administration Pakistan has ever had and who has never contributed to democracy? That's all.

OB-J
Ok General?

Musharraf
First of all I'm absolutely shocked at your impression that there is - the initial part of question - that probably what I came for I've gone back on it and I'm only involved in victimisation of the main political leaders and that is Nawaz Sharif and Benazir. No court case has been initiated against Benazir as yet in spite of all the corruption that she has done. And as far as Nawaz Sharif is concerned yes there are a number of cases that are going on in the civil courts and we are not influencing the civil courts at all whatsoever, I don't even know what is going on there. That has to be believed. So I'm really shocked at this, I'm not victimising anyone whatsoever. Then aren't there any other leaders left in Pakistan that we are only concerned with these two? They have been tried twice and they have failed the Nation, so what I am saying is only voicing the concern of the people and the impressions of the people of Pakistan that these two have been tested, tried and they have failed both - they have failed the country - and they have no place in Pakistan's politics. And I'll repeat that because this is the voice of the people of Pakistan. For now there is new leadership available in Pakistan certainly. When you say I'm meeting politicians, well a political process has to be put into motion in Pakistan, I don't want to create a void in Pakistan. If you think a void is being created just because of these two well certainly not, I don't believe that at all. New leadership has to be thrown up. So when I interact with people I'm making sure that I interact with people who don't have much baggage on them. Now when you are so critical about General ul-Haq let me - and his father - let me say this is absolutely misplaced and I wouldn't like to agree with your comments on the ex-president Zia ul-Haq certainly.

OB-J
Ok well let's Yusuf Nasrullah go back to you - are you satisfied with that answer?

Nasrullah
Oh well General Musharraf put his point of view in a very convincing manner, I will not say that I am totally convinced by what he has said but I suppose there are restrictions and there are things that guard his own replies so we'll take that but I certainly hope that Benazir and Nawaz Sharif join forces and mount some kind of movement against this because I feel that party based elections and democracy is the only answer and I will not see people - nincompoops - who have no chance of assuming power in Pakistan come just because the major players are removed. This really is like a film in which the hero and the heroine have been removed and we have to now see the dunces and the villains perform.

OB-J
But General isn't there a point in this that if you try to create some kind of political system that excludes the leaders who you know would still attract a large number of votes then it will lack credibility?

Musharraf
Well as I said again I'm here to rectify the wrongs of the past and the biggest wrong of the past have been done by these two and therefore I said that there's no place for them. We have to throw up new leadership. And I hope that in the future the political culture that we are trying to bring in, in which we are starting the political process from the grass root level - at the district level and then going up to the province and national level - I'm sure leadership will emerge from the grass root level. Then you want to change leadership, it can't be done immediately, you can't pick out somebody and bring him as a leader, you have to provide the opportunity for leaders to come out and we are going to create that environment in Pakistani politics. So that leaders are thrown up from the grass root level and they come up and they're given an opportunity in Pakistan to come into the leadership role. That's what we are trying.

OB-J
Ok let's go to Amsterdam. Damian Messing your question?

Damian Messing, Amsterdam
Hello General. Would you compare yourself with President Putin of Russia who's also fighting corruption in establishing law and order to bring back full democracy at the most stable stage of economic development?

OB-J
A Pakistani Putin?

Musharraf
Well every country has its own environment. We have a totally different environment than what Mr Putin is experiencing or facing in Russia, so I wouldn't like to equate myself with him, he's trying his best in his country and I'm trying my best in my country.

OB-J
An e-mail now from Adeel Ahmed from Canada: Sir, you insist you are not vindictive and you believe in the independence of the courts could you please explain then the firing of top judges, including the chief justice, when they refuse to swear an oath of allegiance to you?

Musharraf
Well that is not the case at all. There were about 97, if I'm not wrong, judges who took the oath voluntarily, out of the left it was some whom we purposely did not want to take oath. So therefore about 90 per cent of the people, who are entitled - more than 90 per cent - voluntarily took the oath. So the situation is not that. It is - why we did it was, as I've been saying it very clearly, that there were attempts to create hurdles and obstruction in the smooth functioning of the reform that we want to bring about and therefore this action had to be taken. But subsequently, having done that, the judiciary is much more independent now than ever they were before, they are not politicised, they are pressurised by anybody, so they are functioning absolutely independently.

OB-J
Let's be honest you did have a problem, didn't you, which was to get the Supreme Court to approve of an unconstitutional act - the military takeover?

Musharraf
Well it was their judgement, I didn't interfere with the judgement at all, whatsoever, but the previous - the case of the oath was because, as I said, if anybody in Pakistan tries to create obstructions in the reform and restructuring process that I am bringing about will not be tolerated, he'll be pushed aside. So the Nation is much more important than any individual or any group in Pakistan. I will look after the interests of the Nation first of all.

OB-J
If you'd like to comment on anything you've heard in this programme e mail us now, the website address: www.bbc.co.uk/talkingpoint. Send your e-mails now, we'll try to read some of them out before the end of the programme. Another topic: Kashmir - now then there were killings there again and one of the militant groups has announced a ceasefire. Things seem to be happening in Kashmir, let's take a call from Mo-Been Khan in Karachi. Mo-Been what's your question?

Mo-Been Khan, Karachi
Hello General Musharraf. First of all relating to Kashmir: Pakistan has been involved with the conflict for many years now and as a result we have had to allocate a substantial part of the national income towards the defence budget every year at the expense of providing basic needs to the people of Pakistan. As a Muslim I do believe in the fundamental Jihad but do you think it's wise to meddle in the affairs of the Kashmiri people when we, the people of Pakistan, find ourselves in an economic and political mess and when after 50 years of independence the majority of Pakistani people do not have access to clean water for drinking or access to a health service and as a result committing suicide. When will the development of Pakistan be the number one priority for our government? India's been very successful at poisoning the roots and development of Pakistan by keeping the issue of Kashmir alive but they can paralyse our country economically and make us bankrupt. When will we wake?

OB-J
General?

Musharraf
Ok. Let me say that your perceptions are a bit misplaced. The requirement of the military, the requirement of the armed forces is to ensure the security of Pakistan and the sovereignty and honour and dignity of the Nation. Therefore, it's not a matter of our involvement in Kashmir that we are maintaining the armed forces, it's the threat that we perceive to Pakistan because of which we have to maintain the armed forces not because of Kashmir alone. Now what is happening in Kashmir and why are we involved in the internal affairs of Kashmir? Kashmir is a disputed territory, it's a disputed territory between Pakistan and India, we are not involved there, it's the people of Kashmir themselves who are involved and it's the voice of the majority - vast majority - of the people of Pakistan that we give democratic and help - the moral support, the political support - to the people of Kashmir and that is what we are doing. And we would like to do that because of the cause, because of our own principle stand on the issue of Kashmir. So therefore are own involvement in Kashmir is certainly not the cause of our economic deprivation and also the maintenance of armed forces is not because of Kashmir alone. And let me also tell you that our economy is suffering not because of the armed forces, over 50 per cent of the budget - of our budget - goes towards debt servicing, this is not because of the armed forces, it's because of our poor economic handling of Pakistan.

OB-J
Mo-Been Khan what do you think of that defence of Pakistan's record in Kashmir?

Khan
I do disagree with you on that one because I feel that the security of Pakistan, as you say, is very important but the Kashmir issue is the main reason why are defence budget is increasing every year and is one of the reasons why we have a crippling economy but at the same time the defence budget goes on increasing every year which is also having a knock-on effect on our economic life.

OB-J
Ok, Mo-Been thanks for that.

Musharraf
May I interject here? You are again misinformed. The defence budget has been reduced this time. I cut off seven billion rupees and gave it for poverty alleviation and we haven't increased the defence budget now. And the defence budget proportion starts looking bad when your economy keeps going done, as the economy keeps going up the percentage of defence expenditure off of the budget will keep reducing certainly and that is the answer to your question.

OB-J
Ok let me get on to the events that are sort of unfolding in Indian administered Kashmir at the moment, in the last few days. We've got an e mail here from R Jaya Kumar in India: what's your view on the latest developments regarding the offer of discussion and ceasefire by Hizbul Mujahadeen - that's one of the militant groups in Kashmir. Another one from Naeem Ilyas in Pakistan: what is the role of the Pakistani government in the latest developments in Kashmir - the announcement of the ceasefire by Hizbul Mujaehdeen?

Musharraf
Well there's no role of the Pakistani government and this is an indigenous effort that is going on, as we keep saying. And it is totally indigenous, a decision has been taken by Hizbul Mujahadeen and one sees a window of opportunity in whatever is happening around. It is up to India and Pakistan together to take this opportunity and start - initiate - the process of dialogue towards an ultimate resolution of this longstanding dispute, we must not waste this opportunity that has come our way.

OB-J
An opportunity? You support the ceasefire?

Musharraf
Well certainly an opportunity is there but I wouldn't like to comment whether we support it or not - an opportunity has been created and we must make use of it because I don't think it's going to last forever.

OBJ
Let me put it like this: are you prepared to use your moral, political, diplomatic pressure that's talked about here so much to persuade the other militant groups in Kashmir to join this ceasefire?

Musharraf
There has to be reciprocity. As I said, it's not a one way traffic going on, there has to be an initiation of dialogue, there has to be reduction in the forces in the Indian forces, there has to be reduction in atrocities and then this reciprocation will certainly encourage anyone else there to maybe join the bandwagon. However, after the initiation of dialogue there has to be a progress towards a peaceful resolution. At the moment what we are seeing from the opposite side - look at the rhetoric from the other side, look at the Prime Minister's comments, he is talking of - talking only to the Hizbul Mujahadeen, he's talking of keeping the Kashmir issue within the Indian constitution, so therefore the sincerity of purpose, of resolving this issue, on a tri-pack tied basis between India, Pakistan and Kashmir, which is the matter of resolving it, is not being seen at all.

OB-J
You seem to be saying you've nothing to do with it, lots of people here think Pakistan's fully on board this process.

Musharraf
Well everyone has his own view but I'll again say that Pakistan government doesn't have anything to do with it.

OB-J
Samir Saxena, in Bombay, India, your question?

Samir Saxena, Bombay, India
Good evening General. My question is a very simple and straightforward one. India has not threatened or shown any sign of hostilities or aggression against the people of Pakistan, we haven't even provoked you. It will cost our economies a lot to get into a war so why is Pakistan always up against us in every way, be it the media or directing their weapons against us?

Musharraf
Ok well you want me to go into the history of Pakistan, let me very briefly say in 1948 the Indian armed forces entered Kashmir. In 1965 the Rann of Kutch operation was initiated by India. In 1971 the Indian forces attacked East Pakistan - that was a part of Pakistan - they came across the border and attacked Pakistan. In Siachen in 1984 Indian forces entered our area and attacked Siachen. So what are we talking, what are we talking? It's always been India who's been offensive and therefore this degree of suspicion is certainly there. So it's not our rhetoric it's Indian actions - historically - that have led to this kind of tension between India and Pakistan. And however, I've been saying let's forget about history, let's forget about the past, I want peace and I agree with you to the extent when you say that it's leading to economic problems on both sides - on expenditure on armed forces - I am for the reduction of armed forces, I am for a no war pact between India and Pakistan. So let India come forward, I am for resolving this dispute of Kashmir, let India come forward, I am for talking to, at any place, to any leadership of India. So I'm offering all kinds of peace initiatives but the ball, may I say, is in the Indian court.

OB-J
Is that how you see it in Bombay, Samir?

Saxena
Well the thing is we don't have a problem with our neighbours like China or Bangladesh or Sri Lanka or Nepal, it's only Pakistan that is always against us - in the recent past, let's state the past decade. And I think we should work together and we are only having this aggressive attitude from Pakistan - that's what I don't understand.

Musharraf
Yeah I would like to go into this also. I don't think you're being that realistic when you say India is having no problems with anybody else. India has problems with every country of South Asian region. It has a problem with Bangladesh - you should go and ask the people of Bangladesh. They certainly have a problem with people of Sri Lanka - go and ask the people of Sri Lanka. It certainly has a problem with Nepal - go and ask the people of Nepal. So let's not live in illusions on what Indian relationships with the neighbouring countries are. I have always been saying the problem in our region is that the biggest country of the region - which is India - is not tolerant, it's acting like a bully against all the smaller countries, that's not the way of having peace.
I will not be threatened if we maintain our deterrence in the conventional and unconventional field. Therefore, the importance of - if you want to avoid entering into the unconventional area - the extreme importance, critical importance, of maintaining deterrence in the conventional field - that is what we are doing and the world should also know that.

OB-J
Michael McAleer in Ireland your question?

Michael McAleer, Ireland
Good day General. My question is this: do you foresee a pan Islamic front along the lines of Samuel Huntington's clash with civilisation? Or do you see Pakistan more aligned to the West?

Musharraf
I don't see any such thing, in fact I'm afraid Samuel Huntington has created an unnecessary hype against Islam and he's created this thought in the mind of the West that Islam is the threat of the future. I don't think this has been a very productive exercise as far as his book is concerned.

OB-J
Michael McAleer you're talking about this book by Samuel Huntington which said a clash between Islam and the West - it didn't say it was inevitable but possible - what's your view?

McAleer
I do foresee some sort of split, admittedly the Islamic groups around the world seem to be engaged in inter-community battles more so than joining together in fighting. I would be more interested in my second point where the General sees Pakistan aligned with the West or towards joining up with the Islamic groups?

Musharraf
This is really not a very practical realistic question that I would like to answer. It's an utopian scenario where no one is pushed to take sides between Islamic countries and the West. I don't think this will come about and I'm not thinking of it at all. We will take action as per the dictates of the security and the interests of Pakistan.

OB-J
Aziz Haz, New Jersey, USA, what would you like to ask General Musharraf?

Aziz Haz, New Jersey, USA
First I would like to congratulate you for doing a fantastic job in the last nine months and your effort to root out corruption in politics. And you really have raised the self-esteem of Pakistanis at home and abroad, you deserve our thanks and our gratitude. Mr Musharraf I would like you to comment recently the Malaysian Prime Minister - Mr Muhammad - has called for all Muslim nations to set up an international news agency to counter Western media and distorted portrayals of the Islamic world - do you support this idea and if you do what steps are you taking or will take to making this a success?

Musharraf
Yes I certainly support this idea because I think there is a very distorted perception being created of the Muslim world or the Islamic countries, of Islam in general in the world through the media. And the media, I'm afraid, has its vested interests and it is working against Islamic interests and not portraying Islam in its correct perspective. Therefore there's a requirement of having influence in the media which none of the Muslim countries unfortunately has at the moment. So maybe if individually no country can come up to protect the interests, rightful interests, of Islamic countries and our religion at least we could take action in a combined manner. Now what action ought to be taken or how Pakistan is assisting? Frankly I haven't really given it a thought, so I wouldn't like to comment but I would like to certainly encourage this idea.

OB-J
A couple of e-mails. We've got one from Ali Khoja in the USA: what was the wisdom behind bringing to power and then actively supporting a fanatical regime in Afghanistan? What has Pakistan to gain in the long run? And we've got a lot of e mails about the Taleban and your relationship with them. Omer Barbour from Pakistan: how do you defend Pakistan's support of the Taleban? And an e-mail from Afghanistan: when you're supporting the Taleban you lose a large number of Afghan peoples' support.

Musharraf
Well the last part - by supporting the Taleban I lose my majority supporters of Afghanistan - I'm surprised at this, this is a very odd statement. Over 90 per cent of Afghanistan is being held by the Taleban and they are Taleban supporters. I don't know how this question is valid. Now as far as dealings or negotiating or talking or having linkages with Talebans, I have been saying many times that we have a certain national security compulsion and our national security compulsion as far as Afghanistan is concerned is that the Pakhtoons of Afghanistan have to be on Pakistan's side because of demographic and geographic compulsion. If you see the geography and demography of Afghanistan you will see that the area bordering Pakistan is inhabited by Pakhtoons and there are Pakhtoons on the Pakistan side of the border also in Baluchistan and in the north west frontier province, therefore it would be most imprudent to confront or to have differences with the Pakhtoons of Afghanistan. So therefore when we talk of Pakhtoons being on our side the only people who are representing Pakhtoons now, in Afghanistan, are the Taleban. And therefore we need to negotiate with them, we need to deal with them and maybe, if at all we have differences, we need to resolve it and we need to moderate them from within.

OB-J
A couple of weeks ago one of your football teams went to Afghanistan, they wore shorts and came back with shaven heads - is that the act of a friendly neighbour?

Musharraf
I really didn't know that - did that happen?

OB-J
Sure.

Musharraf
Well they must have done it voluntarily, I'm sure nobody forced them to do that.

OB-J
Can I just ask you about your relationship with some Western countries? You made critical remarks, the other day, about Britain for not giving more help on your anti corruption drive, is this the case that European countries and Britain are not delivering the assistance you need?

Musharraf
Yes I made that comment because when we see, in Pakistan, the relation as far as the issue of accountability is concerned we see that the UK has almost become a haven for all corrupt people who leave the country and they take asylum in the United Kingdom saying that they are being persecuted here. And this is very, very readily offered to them. There are many and I know that many names - about a dozen names have been given - who are there, who ought to be coming back to Pakistan, they've been given safe haven there in the UK. Then when we are talking of - I know of an incident of - there are corruption charges against officer Benazir and Nawar Sharif etc. which are being investigated here by the Accountability Bureau, I know of the Surrey Palace account of the ex-Prime Minister, now Benazir. The ex-government of Nawar Sharif had initiated this process and there was an investigation done by a Bow Street magistrate. The investigation was completed, a judgement was - I came to know - it was about 22,000 pages which has been given to the Home Office and our Accountability Bureau has been in touch in they want this evidence which was supposed to be sent to Pakistan. This has been denied, they haven't sent it.

OB-J
Why?

Musharraf
I really don't know why, there's no reason whatsoever, they should send it. After all we are involved in corruption cases, why should there be any British government involvement in protection of corruption?

OB-J
Next question: Philip Watkins in the United Kingdom.

Philip Watkins, United Kingdom
Hello General, thanks for taking my call. I have a question about the brain drain in Pakistan: the middle class and professional elite of the country are seeming to emigrate in ever increasing rates and there appears to be very little to encourage them to stay. I can see that there's a fledging software industry in India but for Pakistan very few prospects of foreign direct investment. How would you propose to encourage those people that are emigrating right now to stay and if you cannot how would you see that Pakistan can develop without these skills?

Musharraf
Yes I think you've put finger at the right place. Certainly there is a brain drain and the brain drain is because of our own doings here in Pakistan. If we don't provide opportunities and opportunities can only be provided if we have economic development, if we have development in all fields. Now information technology is an area where we are emphasising because we have the infrastructure, we have the talent and if you don't develop internally this infrastructure and the talent we don't give opportunities to this talent certainly people will go abroad to earn money and earn a livelihood because they don't get the same in Pakistan. They have the talent but they don't get any opportunities here. So the solution lies in creating the opportunities and that's what we are trying to do.

Musharraf
Philip Watkins is that going to persuade people to come back?

Watkins
I don't know, I'd like to know what the General would actually intend to do to create these opportunities, it's very good to have the intentions for creating opportunities but how would you actually achieve it?

Musharraf
Yes if you're talking of information technology specially this time I located 15 billion rupees out of the meagre amount that Pakistan has to science and technology and within this 5 billion rupees are towards information technology. And let me tell you that we are going with great speed towards developing information technology in Pakistan. I think there are going to be about six universities being opened, very shortly, new universities and this will give a boost to developing talent in information technology, job opportunities, within this. Let me also say that the national database organisation that we have which is computerising all our censor data and coming in for developing electoral roles and national identity cards it has already employed about 7,000 - 6 or 7,000 people doing the software work. So therefore we are trying to create opportunities, we are trying to develop infrastructure, we are co-ordinating with our - with Pakistanis abroad - in the USA and UK - to assist us in developing links with the talent here and the opportunities in the West so that people stay in Pakistan.

OB-J
We have had an awful lot of e mails about this, I'll give you a couple of examples: Kamran Khan in the USA: there are many Pakistanis living in foreign nations, if jobs were available in Pakistan these ex-pats would love to return to their homeland. And another one from Dr B T Shaikh in France, a doctor who's concerned about corruption in the field of public health. I mean there are many things that prevent people coming back aren't there?

Musharraf
Yes certainly I know that, I'm absolutely conscious of it and I know it. This is all true. But we have to improve the environment, we have to improve the opportunities and given them better conditions, terms, for employment here and then draw them back into Pakistan. So therefore it has a lot to do with economic development, with the industrialisation of Pakistan and creating opportunities for them.

OB-J
Some of your own family have gone abroad, how do you feel about that?

Musharraf
Well my son has studied there and doing a job there, he certainly would like to come back but he's an actuary and he has to give about three or four more exams, I'm pretty sure within some years he'll come back, I want him back here, he wants to come back certainly. My brother has been there, yes, since the last, maybe, over 20 years, he went there as a young man and he's married there and therefore he stayed there. Yes that was the environment in the past, we want to change that, we don't want people to go out, we want to draw them back into Pakistan.

OB-J
Tennesse, USA, Mohammad Khurram Khan, presumably one of those who's left, what's your question?

Mohammad Khurram Khan, Tennessee, USA
First I want to make a comment and then ask a question. My comment is it's great to see that something positive is being done about the political structure and then the current economic situation of the Pakistani people. However I'm still concerned about the current education system in Pakistan, whether your government are contributing to the overall development of national educational programmes is to make education more affordable at all levels and more accessible to everyone - not just the few who can afford it?

Musharraf
Well yes, well affordable? It is, certainly the government institutions, the education is extremely affordable to everyone, it's not expensive at all. But the private institutions are certainly expensive. We have to be very conscious of it again. Education, we have two major problems, one is the illiteracy, so therefore primary education we have to increase our literacy rate. The other is to improve the quality so therefore we need qualitative improvement. We have created an education advisory board which had two sessions, the last session I had with them they produced a very, very workable plan. This plan needs to be refined, I will have one more sitting with them. This advisory board has very talented people in it who are advising us on what to do about these two issues of literacy - enhancing literacy - and improving the quality. But let me say that the budgetary requirement is about 20 billion rupees over the next three years and that's the kind of money that I'm looking for now to implement whatever strategy they have produced.

OB-J
Mohammad Khurram Khan good enough?

Khan
You know I'm still curious about your programme in terms of encouraging advance research and development in universities and does the military government have any plans to promote higher education and encourage research and development and technology in Pakistan since research is the backbone of this country.

Musharraf
Yes, yes certainly. My concern when I brought Dr Athal Roman as the minister of science and technology was certainly higher education especially science. And that is what we are concentrating on. And that is why I allocated 15 billion rupees to him - to the Ministry of Science and Technology. Also, other than this, so therefore he is looking into development in science and producing more scientists in Pakistan annually. Other than that, as far as research and development is concerned, there was a totally dissipated energy in this sector, everyone - there were people carrying out research and development which was not really in accordance with the environment or in accordance with the requirements of Pakistan. What the Minister now is doing is to centralise research and development and allocate a reasonable amount of funds towards research and development but make it orientated towards the requirement of Pakistan. A lot is being done in this field, I'm afraid I wouldn't be able to go into the details but the Minister is extremely dynamic and he's doing a lot in this field of research and development, in organising it and orchestrating it according to the requirements of Pakistan.

OB-J
Hamzah Hassan in Qatar your question?

Hamzah Hassan, Qatar
Good evening General. My question is regarding the crime rate in Pakistan that the overall crime rate in Pakistan specifically in Karachi has been growing constantly and has now reached alarming levels. Now what concrete service is the present government taking to rid the people of this menace permanently? My interest is on a permanent solution because the stopgap measures employed by the previous regimes have not yielded any long term positive results. Thank you.

OB-J
And Atif Sajid in the United States sent an e-mail along similar lines: what's the government doing to improve the law and order situation in the country? The poor law and order situation means no foreign/local investment, no growth, no jobs and a brain drain from the country.

Musharraf
Yes indeed. I agree. The law and order situation is bad, it has to be improved. Everyone says this, we also say that but one has to analyse what to do about it. The primary concern ought to be improving the law enforcement agencies and who is the law enforcement agency? - the police. So therefore we are first of all involved in restructuring the police - police reforms have been worked out already by the interior minister and I have been given a presentation on it. The major issue now is to bring peace reforms which have been formed - there are two major issues. First of all money required, there are over about 30 billion rupees required to reform the police. A police which has no transport, a police which has no communication, a police which has no accommodation to live in - how can it deliver? And if you see the monuments that a person gets as compared to the powers that he wields is so unrealistic. So all this has to be done. One major thing that we - let me give it out right at this - the question is coming out at the BBC, let me tell you that we have thought that we need to change the culture at Thana level, which is the SHO level - station house officer - because that is the place where all problems arise at the grass roots level. And we have thought that the solution lies in having an officer as the SHO which mean then ASP to help a Thana but we need to change the culture of the Thana, the resources, the efficiency of the Thana. This will bring about a cultural change I would say in the thinking or the functioning of the police station at that level. We will go into it when we decide to take the final decision of bringing these reforms in line with the devolution process that is going on, we have to mesh that into this police reform and then we'll grow strong on the issue of improving the law enforcement agencies. And I'm sure when we do that that will create the basic effect of improving the law and order after that because we expect them to perform better.

OB-J
London, UK, next - Umer Ahmed your question?

Umer Ahmed, UK
Hello good evening General. My question basically is that when you came to power last October you said that the democratic system was a sham and so my question is what is the chance for true democracy in Pakistan given the common practice of forced bonded labour, this coupled with the fact that there is a very high level of illiteracy in the country, in fact Pakistan is one of the few countries where the illiteracy rate is going up and what sort of measures and steps are you taking to tackle all these issues during your tenure or before calling for General Election?

OB-J
Thanks Umer, we have talked about the literacy rate and what you have in mind for that, this question of bonded labour, it is a very serious issue, it happens in Pakistan, the State seems powerless to stop it - why?

Musharraf
Well certainly it's not powerless. Whenever we come to know action is taken but again I will come back to this issue that the law enforcement agency is the weakness of the law enforcement agency which we want to rectify. Once that is rectified I'm sure we'll look into all these cases which need to be rectified also.

OB-J
Next question: Mustafa Zaidi, New York, USA, what have you got to ask?

Mustafa Zaidi, New York, USA
Good evening Chief Executive. My question is the following: each of us has a hero whom we hope to emulate in thought and in action, your personal historical hero may shed some light on your vision for Pakistan's future, it's in this regard that I wish to ask who is your historical hero and why? And please exclude the obvious choices of the Qaid-e Azam and the prophet.

Musharraf
Well there's no choice left then. I certainly - it is the Qaid-e Azam. As far as Pakistan is concerned it is the Qaid-e Azam's thoughts and ideas that need to be implemented here and he is my hero actually because of his character that he displayed. Other than this really my heroes belong to the area of military history, so I wouldn't like to repeat that because I've been - I am a soldier, I've been reading military history and I have heroes in military history.

Zaidi
I would suggest that you put one of those heroes forward to just give an idea for all of us out there as to how you think.

Musharraf
Well my heroes have been very dynamic, action oriented, so I wouldn't like to really give out their names but they are there, they don't effect what I want to achieve in Pakistan really as such.

OB-J
You're not naming anyone after you named Mustafa Kemal Ataturk and got into trouble for it, are you?
Some more e-mails I've got one here about your dogs: credible sources indicate that you have dogs as pets which is against Islam, what gives you the right to be the spokesperson for the rights of the people fighting their Jihad in Kashmir?

Musharraf
Well I don't think dogs are anti Islamic, certainly, I don't know who called them anti Islamic, well let me admit to you very frankly I love dogs, I love them and my dogs love me also. It's a mutual love.

OB-J
Another question here: Kazi Lutful Azim from the United States he wants to know more about your army career, he says since you were a commando were you ever scared? That's the first time you've been short of an answer all day.

Musharraf
Well if anybody says he's not scared he's telling a lie. I've been through two wars and I've faced bullets, I've seen people dying, if anybody says that he's not scared he's lying. There's a very thin line between bravery and cowardice actually. A brave man is a person who's certainly scared but he controls his emotions and stands - he's a brave man. Another man who is again scared, doesn't control his emotions and gives in and runs away - so there's a very thin line. So I would call myself pretty brave, I am scared certainly but I am a believer in destiny - in my own destiny and therefore that gives me more courage.

OB-J
Someone who's got some doubts about your destiny I think, it's Mr Sharik [phon.] from Islamabad, Pakistan - he called our office, today, in fact in the BBC office in Islamabad - when the civilian government fails you replace them, if you fail who replaces you?

Musharraf
I do not fail.

OB-J
Simple as that. Alright, we're running short on time now. Let me just tell you that since we've been on air we've had over a 1,000 e mails, I'll read you just a few of them: Ejaz Razar from Pakistan: people believe that it is not the duty of a man in uniform to teach democracy to the Nation, people do not want a change in the system they want bread. Sadari from Sri Lanka: you say you're different from General Zia and have a civilian set-up well right from the cricket board to the water and power department they're all being run by army generals, how can it be called a civilian set-up? Miss Sonam Hahn in the UK: I'm an 11 year old student from the UK, I'm Pakistani, I'm always upset when I go to school and the other boys and girls say to me that Pakistan is run by gunmen, this makes me upset, please hold elections in the country. And finally Bilal Ishtiak from Pakistan: I'm a student and I want to say that we fully support you with our hearts and minds in your great mission. Any comments on those? Musharraf Well I would like to comment on one of them that it's the army, army men everywhere. Well let me say that I believe in merit, if the merit is available in anywhere I couldn't care less whether it's an army man or an airforce man or a navy man or a civilian or an engineer, we have a job to do everywhere. We want a man who will turn the system around.

OB-J
Or a woman?

Musharraf
Man or a woman ok, sorry. Thank you for the correction. Man or a woman who can turn the system around and run that organisation. I don't care at all, this consideration of whether it should be a person in uniform or not does not come into my thought at all. Fortunately I would say that it's the people in uniform who are better organised and wherever they are succeeding one can see, in fact, that wherever I put military men they are running things successfully.

OB-J
There we are. That's all we've got time for from this live broadcast in Army House Rawalpindi Pakistan and our thanks to you General Pervez Musharraf for taking on everyone's questions so openly and of course to all those who've contributed by phone and e mail. Don't forget you can still send your comments on the programme and what the General had to say and we will publish them on our website where you will also be able to read a full transcript of General Musharraf's answers. That website address once again: www.bbc.co.uk/talkingpoint. You can also hear this programme on BBC World Service radio this Sunday at 1405 GMT. But for now that's it and from Owen Bennett-Jones in Rawalpindi goodbye.


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