Musharraf still harping on Kashmir
Pioneer News Service/New Delhi: The Pakistan Chief Executive Pervez Musharraf on Monday expressed his readiness to meet Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee "to break the logjam and reduce tension". While ruling out war with India, General Musharraf repeatedly indicated that Kashmir would be the central issue of discussion. Regarding the nuclear option, he said that his country would reserve the option of first use of nuclear weapons.
These remarks were made in a wide-ranging interview with Mr Karan Thapar, which was telecast on Doordarshan on Monday night. On the issue of a war between the two countries he said, "I would not say there are chances" but if india continued to escalate tension on the line of control (LoC) "there can be chances".
General Musharraf said on the issue of exercising the nuclear option, "I have said very clearly that nuclear power should not be used. However, when our national integrity is threatened, then we will take a decision at that time... when the occasion arises." He wanted both sides to simultaneously take measures to de-escalate tension. He said that to this effect Pakistan Government had withdrawn two divisions of the army, numbering 40,000 troops, from the international border in Jammu and Kashmir in a bid to de-escalate the tension.
He also charged that India failed to reciprocate positive steps on his side. "Intentions of my government and myself to de-escalate have always met with offensive response." When asked why his government was sheltering the hijackers of Flight IC-814, he insisted the hijackers were not in Pakistan. "Let India give us the proof" about this, he said, adding the military regime has made it clear that "if they are here, we will try them".
General Musharraf confirmed the authenticity of the audio tapes of his telephonic conversation as Pakistani Army chief from Beijing with the Chief of Army Staff Mohammed Aziz in Pakistan on the Kargil intrusion. But contended that the tapes were hardly evidence to show Pakistan Army's involvement in the Kargil incursions.
India had made public transcripts of the tapes during Kargil flare-up. The General later added that the tapes presented by New Delhi were "totally doctored". He denied having ordered an inqiry into the "leak" of the tape. "Not by me," he said, "I don't know whether the Nawaz Sharif Government had carried out any such probe."
While acknowledging the intrusion by Pakistanis into Jammu and Kashmir, General Musharraf denied government involvement. "There are people who are joining the freedom struggle there, going through the LoC which is very porous but the government is not involved."
Gen Musharraf sought to counter New Delhi's accusation that Pakistan was indulging in sustained anti-India propaganda by stating that Prime Minister Vajpayee, Home Minister L K Advani and Defence Minister George Fernandes had made a "number of threats" against Pakistan. "It needed a lot of restraint from my side not to respond."
About US State Department spokesman James Rubin's remarks that some agencies of the Pakistan government were sponsoring militant outfits like Harkat-ul Mujahideen, he said, "The government's involvement in terrorism is totally not there. This is accepted by the US." The Mujahideen, Gen Musharraf said, had their own dynamics and gave moral support to the so-called "freedom struggle" in J and K.
Regarding the restoration of democracy, General Musharraf refused to set a time-frame for the restoration of democracy in Pakistan, stating that he would continue till his objectives for the welfare of the people were met. He denied that there was any dissension within Pakistani judiciary and military.
Rejecting a suggestion that his was a military regime, he said "I would call it a civilian regime monitored by military".