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A Conversation with Yousaf Raza Gilani

Speaker: Yousaf Raza Gilani, Prime Minister, Islamic Republic of Pakistan
Presider: Richard N. Haass, President, Council on Foreign Relations
July 29, 2008
Council on Foreign Relations

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Washington, D.C.

RICHARD N. HAASS: Good afternoon, and welcome. My name is Richard Haass, and I am fortunate enough to be president of the Council on Foreign Relations. And again, I want to welcome each and every one of you here for what is truly a special meeting. It's special, though, for several reasons, and let me -- let me go through them.

One is that we are doing this not simply on our own, but for something so special, we needed help. And we're thrilled to be cosponsoring this event with the Middle East Institute. And one of the reasons that it's particularly appropriate is the head of the Middle East Institute is none other than Wendy Chamberlin, who, among other things, was the U.S. ambassador to Pakistan. So we are, again, thrilled to be working with Wendy and her organization.

And speaking of ambassadors from the United States to Pakistan, I would be remiss if I did not note the presence of Anne Patterson here today. And let me say one thing, which is the fact that we as much respect for the people of Pakistan and for its government, but also recognition of the stakes and the importance of what is taking place in that country is the reason that we continue to send you our best Foreign Service professionals.

There are still more reasons that I think today is a bit special. One, as you'll notice later when we get around to the question-and- answer part of the event, instead of the normal council tradition where people raise hands, there are simply too many bodies and each body has two hands. There are just simply too many hands to manage that, so we're going to ask you -- we're going to be handing out cards, which I think you have, and if you do have questions that come to mind during the talk, fill it out with your name, your affiliation, your question -- and usually that's something which ends with a question mark -- and we will then -- I will do my best to sift through them and to get a representative range. And I realize that's slightly different, but given the time constraints and the amount of people here today, we thought that made the most sense.

Let me also welcome the Pakistani delegation that has traveled here. We have several ministers, including at least one minister who has several ministries, at least three at --

MR.   : Four.

HAASS: Four. Four. It's hard to keep up. And the others who have traveled with the prime minister. And let me also welcome Pakistan's extraordinarily able and distinguished ambassador to the United States, my old friend Husain Haqqani here. It's great to have him. And as I told the prime minister, he has chosen well with who he's sent here.

Heading this delegation not surprisingly is the prime minister, who is the 22nd prime minister of his country of Pakistan. Prime Minister Gilani has only been in office for some four months. Though when he was describing to me his day, both what he's done and what he still has to look forward to, I think, it at times must feel to him closer to four years.

But sir, thank you for coming here on this first visit, in this new capacity of yours, to the United States. We hope and trust it will not be the last.

The scenario this afternoon is quite straightforward. The prime minister is going to speak for a few minutes. Though I've learned, in my career, he'll speak for as many minutes as he wants to speak; one of the prerogatives that comes with his position.

Then he and I will have a brief conversation. And then we will open it up again to your questions. And we will endeavor to end on time, which is approximately in one hour.

What I ask of you know though is to please turn off any electrical devices probably other than pacemakers and hearing aids. We do make those important exceptions.

But if you do have a BlackBerry or something like that, please take it off and turn it off altogether, because even the vibrate function can interfere with the sound systems here. So if people would do that, we would be forever grateful.

Let me remind people, as you might have figured out all by yourself, without me reminding you, from the 10 cameras in the back of the room, that this session is on the record. And in my experience, even if it were not on the record, any time there's this many people in a room, it is on the record.

So with that, let me again, on behalf of the Council on Foreign Relations and the Middle East Institute, again welcome the prime minister of Pakistan. And sir, the podium is yours.

(Applause.)

PRIME MINISTER SYED YOUSUF RAZA GILANI: Mr. Richard Haass, president of the Council on Foreign Relations, Ambassador Wendy Chamberlin, Excellencies, federal ministers, federal advisers from Pakistan, distinguished callers, friends of Pakistan, ladies and gentlemen.

I want to express my thanks and appreciation to Mr. Richard Haass, president of the Council on Foreign Relations, and Ambassador Wendy Chamberlin, president of the Middle East Institute, for such a warm welcome extended to me by the prestigious institution. I thank Mr. Richard Haass for the kind introduction.

I want to use this special opportunity to share my views on democratic and prosperous Pakistan.

We meet at a time of tension, turmoil and terrorism. Terrorism has struck our region repeatedly. The era of peace for which we prayed has become a time of war. Tolerance has been replaced by terrorism. The reality of suicide bombings has struck my homeland. Scores, even hundreds, of innocent people have been murdered. Pakistan has paid a terrible price. We have been a painful victim of terrorism, extremism and fanaticism.

The biggest challenge before us, and indeed before the entire civilized world, is to overcome the forces of terrorism that spread hate, religious intolerance, conflict and bloodshed. At this time of continuing crisis, we need to understand those who use violence in the name of Islam. They are not clerics, they are criminals. Their actions contradict the teaching of Islam. Islam is committed to tolerance and equality, and the holy book itself embodies the fundamental principles of democratic governance: consultation, consensus and the consent of the governed.

The Muslim people want freedom. They want modernity, diversity and democracy. They want the right to debate, discuss and dissent. As Shaheed Benazir Bhutto wrote, I quote: "When al Qaeda hijacked airplanes to attack the United States, it tried to hijack the message of the religion of Islam, as well. In doing so, it ignited the great battle of the new millennium. The murder of almost 3,000 innocent people in the name of jihad is only antithetical to the values of the civilized world, but not contradictory to the precepts of Islam. The terrorists exploited images of savagery and brutality for political advantage, just as demagogues before them manipulated Islam for political gain. The damage was not limited to New York, Washington and Pennsylvania. Muslims and the Muslims' world became their victims too," unquote.

Ladies and gentlemen, my government is working to restore law and order into our cities under assault from terrorist attacks. We are striving to restore the writ of government in all parts of our country. We are striving to save Pakistan from terrorism and extremism. The forces who want to destabilize democracy in Pakistan are still at work. We are no one's surrogates. We are fighting to save the soul of our homeland, to save Pakistan.

This is not Charlie Wilson's war. This is Benazir Bhutto's war. (Applause.)

Ladies and gentlemen, the fanatics' greatest fear is democracy, diversity and modernization. It is in the clusters of democracy, economic justice and equality that it was a transformation that was bringing Pakistan into the modern era of model of what moderate, enlightened Islam could accomplish for its people.

This was a great triumph, but it also put a target on our back. A modern, democratic Pakistan became the terrorists' worst nightmare. To over 1 billion Muslim(s) at the crossroads, a democratic Pakistan was one fork in the road, dictatorship the other.

In 1996, after the PPP's government was overthrown, the Taliban immediately seized Kabul. They invited al Qaeda into Afghanistan to raise, recruit and train disaffected Muslims youth from various countries. The West's untimely exit from Afghanistan after the Soviet defeat in 1989 created a power vacuum which the fanatics were only too eager and ready to fill.

Ladies and gentlemen, one of the greatest tragedies of the modern era is that after achieving the liberation of Afghanistan, the world failed to reconstruct a postwar Afghanistan built on the democratic principles of coalition, consensus and compromise. We failed to rebuild civil society and promote democratic institution(s). The fundamental mistake was that we were not consistently committed to the values of freedom, democracy and self-determination that undermined the basic tenets of terrorism. With all due respect, the United States thought short term, but not long term.

The world must not repeat the mistake again in Pakistan. Pakistan cannot afford to fail. The world cannot afford for us to fail. The United States, the oldest democracy in the world, the greatest democracy in the world, must be a beacon of liberty to all people on our planet. Democracy and human rights should be the centerpiece of your policy at home and abroad. Selective and expedient applications of the values of democracy is not only immoral, but in the long run counterfunctional. Dancing with the dictators has always come back to haunt the world.

Ladies and gentlemen, democracy and prosperity are the two most potent weapons in the arsenal of (the) civilized world against the fanatics and extremists. Just as democracies do not make war against other democracies, democracies also do not sponsor terrorism. And the people of stable, prosperous democracies do not harbor and shelter terrorists.

Those of us who are committed to human rights and democracy abhor terrorism in all its murderous forms.

At this time of political crisis in the world, I urge all to stand for the values and principles of freedom and the rule of law, not some of the time in some places but all of the time in all places. (Applause.)

Building a moderate, stable and democratic Pakistan can save both South Asia and the world from conflict, bloodshed, extremism, misery and despair. A prosperous, democratic Pakistan is the world's best guarantee of the triumph of moderation and modernity among the Muslims, nations who stand at the crossroads of history.

Ladies and gentlemen, in the dawn of this young century, we are fighting against terrorism. These are difficult times. Poverty, hunger and unemployment increase, as terrorism hurts markets. People suffer. The solutions will not be quick or simple. But we shall overcome the obstacles to triumph.

The greatest challenge, the most immediate challenge, I see, is to overcome terrorism. We need peace, freedom and free markets to fight poverty, hunger, unemployment and conflict. A bright future is anchored in peace and freedom, in equal opportunity and in breaking the chains of fascism and dictatorship.

These were the values our forefathers fought for, in confronting colonialism, leading to our independence 60 years ago. These are the values that can sustain and strengthen us in this new century. I urge you to stand by the values of peace, of freedom and of equal opportunity. They're the linchpins of your revolution and the centerpiece of ours.

After periods of dictatorship and military rule, the democratic infrastructure of our nation needs time to develop and grow. The civil society, political parties, the media and independent judiciary, the sovereignty of the parliament all must be nurtured, as we transition away from authoritarianism. Women's rights and empowerment must be made more than rhetoric. It must be the reality of modern Pakistan economically and politically.

Ladies and gentlemen, at this crossroads for my nation, at this critical moment in our history, we must adopt new approaches, to put us on path to both prosperity and peace. For Pakistan, peace and prosperity are interrelated. They are two sides of the same coin.

We must understand that extremism cannot be eliminated by military actions alone. The military is one weapon in the arsenal against instability. But equally important are the economic, social and administrative policies that attack the root causes of terrorism, hopelessness, frustration, poverty.

It must be combined with multi-pronged approach that combines views of political, economic, administrative and military measures. That is our task, to not only defeat terrorism on the battlefield but to strangle it at its roots.

Ladies and gentlemen, at this critical junction, massive economic development is needed for poverty alleviation, to win innocent and desperate people away from the trap of extremism.

Much greater focus is needed on economic support and incentive, by devising a new version of the Marshall Plan aimed at reconstruction, rebuilding and developing the infrastructure in the underdeveloped tribal areas of Pakistan.

Ladies and gentlemen, a functioning democracy, respect for human rights and economic uplift can set Pakistan on the right path, acting as a stabilizing factor for the region.

Just as the U.S. saved Europe after World War II from falling to the communists by a creative economic and social development program, we must act together as partners to create the economic conditions for political stability in Pakistan. Prosperity chokes off the oxygen of terrorism.

The reconstruction opportunity zones, legislation that was recently introduced in the U.S. Congress, is an example of how we can help each other, how we can creatively think and act out of box to implement innovative programs that make sense. I am confident that an effective ROZs plan would surely go a long way in helping us contain and destroy extremism and terrorism, giving the people hope for the future and giving them a tangible economic stake in the success of Pakistan's democracy.

Similarly, the $2 billion FATA plan, to which the U.S. has contributed $750 million over a five-year period, would help accelerate social-sector development in the tribal areas, contributing to the efforts to rescue the tribal people from the clutches of ignorance, extremism and foreign terrorists.

And of course, all of Pakistan was heartened by the unanimous passage earlier today by the United States Senate Foreign Relations Committee of the Biden-Lugar bipartisan plan for a 10-year, $15 billion nonmilitary commitment by the United States to the people of Pakistan. This legislation also had the support of President Bush, who is eager for democracy to succeed in Pakistan. This extraordinary recognition of the need to broaden and strengthen the bilateral relationship beyond merely military relations, to a genuine economic and social partnership, to building a prosperous, just and democratic Pakistan has reinvited the attention of the people of my nation.

The Biden-Lugar plan, the reconstruction opportunity zones program, and the FATA social development plan, taken together, is a clear and bold signal to the people of Pakistan that not only is Pakistan back in business, but the United States is standing with it in a long-term, mature partnership.

Ladies and gentlemen, our newly democratically elected government, that enjoys the overwhelming mandate of the people, stands for economic development for poverty alleviation and rooting out terrorism. Today there are abundant business and investment opportunities in Pakistan. We have established special economic zones with special incentives for foreign companies to invest.

As I have said, in the last PPP government, Pakistan was cited by the World Bank as one of the top 10 emerging markets in the world. Foreign investment in Pakistan, coupled -- we want to recreate the economic incentives for foreign investment and create -- that will reestablish our nation as a leader in the emerging global economy.

The political and economic landscape of Pakistan is changing.

We are transforming our challenges into opportunities. We are determined to build on sustained economic growth, political stability and peaceful regional environment. We believe that together, the world community has the unique opportunity to build a great future of peace and shared prosperity. Pakistan is dedicated to play its part for the realization of that objective.

Pakistan is back. Pakistan is back in business. A stable, prosperous and democratic Pakistan can be the centerpiece of the triumph of liberty and the defeat of fanaticism and terrorism around the world. This is the Pakistan for which Shaheed Benazir Bhutto gave her life. This is the Pakistan for which we must live.

Thank you very much. (Applause.)

HAASS: Prime Minister, as I said, I will ask first a few easy questions, and then we will turn to our members and guests to ask you the difficult questions.

I don't think I'm exaggerating when I say that there's tremendous concern in the United States about Pakistan, whether it's because of terrorism, Afghanistan, your nuclear arsenal, your relations with India, your struggle to establish democracy, a long line of important interests. But I'd be less than honest, and I hope it doesn't make me a bad host here today, if I also didn't add that there's not as much optimism as you suggested in your talk, and a lot of people who look at Pakistan question either its will or its ability, its capacity to tackle those challenges.

So the question I would put to you is one of both willingness and capacity on the part of your government to meet what has to be as daunting and as difficult a range of problems, quite honestly, as any government I know faces.

GILANI: Thank you very much. You have asked me a specific question regarding what I have said, that you think this is not the case which I mentioned. But I want to tell you that as an elected prime minister of Pakistan who has got the unanimously vote of confidence in the history of Pakistan, I have accepted that challenge. And I have decided to go for a good governance and to make policies which are friendly policies for the investors from the world to come and invest in Pakistan and be able to provide them (all ?) facilities, and soon you will see a lot of investors coming to Pakistan, especially in the power sector.

HAASS: Let me then come back to the question somewhat differently. Pakistan obviously faces tremendous problems in terms now of internal security, which you spoke of in your speech. The fact that the problem has grown to the extent it has, that it's become as bad as it has, is this because of the weakness of the state of Pakistan? Is this because historically the state has been unwilling to take on these challenges? Why has Pakistan, in a sense, gotten into the security challenge that it faces?

GILANI: That we have inherited. This is not the problem of only these three to four months, because you are also fighting the war in Afghanistan for the last five years, and you can also see -- realize the difficulties you are facing. And this is not a war which is a normal war. It is a guerrilla war. And nobody is trained for a guerrilla war. But certainly now we have had a challenge, and we will -- with God Almighty's blessing, we will be able to accept the challenge and overcome the problems.

HAASS: You were quite critical of the United States in one statement, where you said that our thinking was short-term and not long-term when it came to your politics. Let me push back a little bit. Pakistan has been an independent country for 60 years now. And for a majority of that time, Pakistan's democracy has not been operational. It has not been democratic. To what extent does the fault lie with Pakistan? Is there something about Pakistani society, Pakistani political culture? Why is it that Pakistan has had this historical pattern where democratic governments have not succeeded?

GILANI: In fact what you have said about Pakistan's democracy, I -- you have said two things at the same time. First you said that the United States is having a short-term and not a long-term --

HAASS: I was quoting you. I wasn't --

GILANI: Yeah, yes.

HAASS: (Chuckles.)

GILANI: And that I said -- because I said in the context of the war with Russia at that time, when there was (real/we were ?) fighting against communism.  When you were fighting against communism, and you succeeded, we supported. And after that, you left Afghanistan and there was a vacuum. And that vacuum -- we have inherited 3 million refugees out of that war, which we are still looking after 3 million refugees for the last so many decades. And that vacuum, I was talking in that sense that you didn't think about the long term, that again will be stressing the same problems which we are facing today.

Secondly, you have -- in a context you have said why the democracy has not flourished in Pakistan. The subcontinent, India and Pakistan, they are from the same culture with the same background, with the same problems, the same everything. They have got the parliamentary form of government; we have got the parliamentary form of government. Here there has been a lot of interference by the army, by the dictators. They have been coming, they have been dissolving the assemblies, and they were there, used to be for 11, 11 years. And during those 11 years, we wanted the support of the United States, which we didn't get.

HAASS: Again, it seems to me that to attribute so much of the domestic political history of Pakistan to the United States, we could argue the history, but it also seems to me potentially dangerous, simply because I think you exaggerate our influence. And I would think that there need to be questions the Pakistanis raise for themselves about political culture in Pakistan, about the role of the army.

It's as much a statement as a question. You don't have to answer that. But since you alluded to it, let me take it one step further here, which is, you obviously inherited a situation where you have a former general, now President Musharraf, in power. Is this a situation that you believe is sustainable? Is this something that you believe can be continued in a way that is consistent with the growth of democracy, or do you see Mr. Musharraf staying in office as somehow inconsistent with the future of Pakistani democracy?

GILANI: Actually, you are considering Mr. Musharraf as a president of the United States. This is not the case, because there is a parliamentary form of government; here is a presidential form of government. And you can compare me with Gordon Brown, the prime minister of U.K., or --

HAASS: I hope your political numbers are higher. (Laughter.)

GILANI: -- no, no -- and Manmohan Singh, who is the prime minister of India. Therefore, we have inherited the Westminster system, a parliamentary form of government where the chief executive is the prime minister and not the president.

HAASS: I understand.

Let me ask the question a different way, then -- (laughter) -- beyond President Musharraf, which is whether you think now in the army there is a broader acceptance of a more limited role for the army. Do you think now the coming generation of army officers accepts the notion that their proper role is in the barracks rather than in politics?

GILANI: Certainly, yes. Because of the 18th February election of this year, we have a mandate to the moderate forces, to the democratic forces in Pakistan. And the moderate forces and the democratic forces, they have formed the government. And therefore the people have voted against dictatorship and for democracy, and therefore, in future even the present of -- the chief of the army staff is highly professional and is fully supporting the democracy.

HAASS: One of our senior fellows at the Council on Foreign Relations, Dan Markey, has recently produced a study called Securing Pakistan's Tribal Belt, and it's a study about the FATA and what needs to be done there. And one of the questions I would have is whether it's possible to imagine a different relationship between the central government and the FATA, and essentially to end the unique status of the FATA and to integrate it more into Pakistan like other parts of the country.

GILANI: Exactly you really don't know the exact position of FATA. FATA is already under the federal government. And there are two governments. There's a provincial government and the federal government. And the FATA is under the federal government. Therefore it is controlled by the governor, who is the nominee of the federal government. Therefore it is under the federal government.

HAASS: I understand that it's under the federal government. But it also enjoys, shall we say, a slightly different status or reality than other parts of the country.

GILANI: They have -- (inaudible) -- and they have senators. And interestingly all -- (inaudible) -- and the senators are supporting me.

HAASS: Okay.

Well, we wish you well with that. (Laughter.)

GILANI: And one of the -- (inaudible) -- from FATA, who happens to be the minister for environment, highly educated, and in Sharm el-Sheikh in Egypt, he met President Bush along with me.

HAASS: Good.

In your speech, unless I missed it, I didn't hear any reference to your neighbor India. And I realize that one of the -- it's important to see Pakistan in its own light and India in its own light. But could you just speak for a minute, about your sense of where Indo- Pakistani relations stand and where you would like to take them; where you would like to see the relationship, say, in six months or a year?

GILANI: My government wants to have a very cordial relationship with our neighbors. We want to have very good relations with Afghanistan. And it is in the interest of Pakistan that we need a stable Afghanistan.

At the same time, we want to have good relations with India. When I became the prime minister, the prime minister of India, he called me and he congratulated me for my victory.

When now he got the vote of confidence only a few days back, I rang him up. I congratulated him and I -- and he told me that, Mr. Prime Minister, we want to resolve all issues with you, including the full issue of Kashmir.

And when I talked to President Bush in Egypt two months back and I said, Mr. President, how we can fight on too many fronts? He said, this is the right time to resolve the issue of Kashmir.

Therefore we want to resolve all issues. And in a very recent trade policy of Pakistan -- my commerce minister is also sitting here -- we have decided to have more trade relations with India. And we are doing that.

HAASS: I just have one last question. And then we will open it up to the floor.

You spoke positively about the action today in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee which, I understand, the committee voted in favor of the so-called Biden-Lugar.

GILANI: You can very well imagine how well-informed I am. (Laughter.)

HAASS: I would expect nothing less from --

The -- imagine this gets passed. Is there anything else you would like to see, from the United States, either more of or less of, from the United States? Because soon you're going to be dealing with a new administration, a new American president.

What is it that you would like to see, beyond this legislation, on the U.S.-Pakistani agenda?

GILANI: I think the policies of the United States are quite consistent. Whatever the policies they have, that will be the same in future as well, more or less.

But at the same time, we think that Pakistan has a unique situation. And strategically it is in a position that we can help any government, United States to fight the war on terror. Because we have enough position to really contribute a lot.

HAASS: We look forward to that, because obviously this is a common challenge. And either we will both succeed or we will both fail.

Take out my glasses here, forgive me, which I have borrowed. We just covered that.

We have a question here from Xenia Dormandy, from Harvard University, who's also what we call a term member of the Council on Foreign Relations. Those are people younger than you and me.

The question here is that the Pakistani government is stymied by internal disagreements, between and among various parties, over the judiciary and the entire question of President Musharraf.

What is your plan to resolve this?

GILANI: Actually in politics, when you agree to disagree, it's democracy. And therefore Pakistan has never experienced a coalition government before, because there was two-party system.

One was headed by Mian Muhammad Nawaz Sharif, who was the former prime minister. The other is the Pakistan Peoples Party, headed by Benazir Bhutto. Therefore this time we had a broad-based government. And we have a coalition government. There are -- every party has their own manifesto, own program and their own way of attacking the problems.

Therefore we are broad-based on the restoration of democracy, on the restoration of the constitution and even for the powers of the presidency and the parliament, of balancing, we are totally together.

But as far as the judiciary issue is concerned, we are committed -- on the very first day, not even taking oath, I ordered for the release of the judges who were there for the last several months. They were released immediately there and then, before my speech ended. And therefore, we are serious to restore the judges. But there are only the difference of modalities, how to restore that. Therefore, I think there will be no problem.

HAASS: Well, staying in the legal area, we have a(n) anonymous question from someone who's shy out there about corruption, and the question of what your plans are to do to decrease corruption and promote the rule of law in Pakistan.

GILANI: In fact, I -- we have decided in the charter of democracy, which was signed by Benazir Bhutto and Mr. Nawaz Sharif, who were the two opponent parties, we decided that there should be a procedure and a(n) institution which is headed by the judge of the supreme court or the judge of the high court on any person who qualifies to be a judge, and it should be acceptable by both the parties, by the leader of the house and the leader of the opposition, and this should help for the accountability. But previously, whatever the system was, that was the National Accountability Bureau, which was under the chief executive. Unfortunately, the same system is now under me, which I don't want to accept it because I myself had the National Accountability Bureau -- I was sentenced for 15 years. I spent in jail for five years according to -- according to NAB laws, but according to jail manual I have spent 10 years in jail because of their law. How can I control that, that should be under me? Because I'm a party. Therefore I don't want anything to be under the executive; it should be under the judiciary or it should be independent.

Therefore, I believe in accountability, I want to root out corruption. And we -- but that institution should be such that nobody can point a finger on it.

HAASS: Thank you.

We have a question from -- I hope I have pronounced the name right -- Anha Manuel (ph), which is about your plan for Baluchistan and whether there's any discussion for granting more autonomy for that region. And let me just broaden the question: To what extent do you worry about the integrity of Pakistan? And what if your thinking about what should be done in terms of regional autonomy?

GILANI: Pakistan People's Party has given the constitution of Pakistan of 1973 by late Zulfiquar Ali Bhutto. And according to that constitution, that is the only document in Pakistan which is keeping the federation of Pakistan together, and that is the only document which is acceptable to the people of Pakistan, which is unanimous and acceptable. And therefore we are committed to restore the constitution originally of the 1973.

But according to that constitution and according to my own commitment on the very first day of becoming the prime minister, I promised the nation that I'll give operational autonomy and all -- all the -- and all these lists, concurrent lists, would be abolished, and that would be giving powers to the provinces. And I'm committed to that. We'll give them full autonomy.

HAASS: Are you worried in any way Pakistan's integrity is threatened from within?

GILANI: By and large, majority -- means I can say 99 percent people of Pakistan -- they are patriot. They are -- they want one Pakistan should progress. They want prosperity. They want peace. They want development. And they are pro-Pakistan. And only handfuls of people, who are the militants, they want to destabilize Pakistan. And I am -- I assure you that Pakistan is united and it is together, and they are all pro-Pakistan.

HAASS: Mohammed Ati (ph) from the Voice of America asks a question that builds on your last answer about would Pakistan be willing to have a dialogue with militants. What are your preconditions for dialogue? What do you think is the possibility of persuading this small percentage of people in Pakistan to lay down their arms?

GILANI: In fact, as I mentioned earlier, that even in FATA, the majority of the people, they are peace-loving and they don't want such sort of warlords or militants in their areas, and they hate them. But we -- I assure you that we will not do any sort of agreement with the militants. We will only talk to the people who have decommissioned themselves, who have laid down their arms, and they have surrender. We will only talk to them.

That is only because we want to isolate the tribespeople of FATA who are respectable, honorable from the militants. Otherwise, by and large, we have not done any agreements with them in the federal level. But once there was a(n) agreement with the provincial government which didn't work, and the army action was taken.

HAASS: I think I know the answer to this question from Dennis Lamb, who used to be an ambassador, but I'm going to ask it anyhow: Do you think that Americans understand Pakistan? (Laughter.)

GILANI: They understand Pakistan more than what I know.

(Laughter.)

HAASS: Is that yes or no? (Laughter.)

GILANI: Certainly they know Pakistan very well. Even when I was talking to the presidential candidate yesterday, McCain, he was telling me that "I've been to Waziristan, I've been to FATA, I've been to Pakistan," and he is very familiar with the situation.

HAASS: Just to be clear, you spoke to Senator McCain and you met with Senator Obama today; is that correct?

GILANI: Yes.

HAASS: My information's pretty good too. (Laughter.)

So, what is your view about the nuclear -- the civil nuclear agreement between India and the United States? Obviously, the odds of it coming into force have recently gone up, given the developments within Indian politics. Is this something that your government would be comfortable with, oppose? What's your position on this?

GILANI: You said in the beginning you will not ask a difficult question, but you have asked a difficult question. (Laughter.)

HAASS: It wasn't my question.

GILANI: My point of view is that there should be no preferential -- there should be no discrimination. And if they want to give the civil status to -- nuclear status to India, we would also expect the same for Pakistan, too. I hope it's not a difficult answer.

HAASS: It's a political answer, which is -- you're allowed that.

You had a meeting this week -- obviously, earlier this week, with President Bush. And you -- are you comfortable that the United States -- many of these questions, by the way, just so you know, people neglected to put their name and affiliation on, I apologize, so I am doing my best to be faithful to your questioning and thinking. Whether in your meeting with this administration you feel that the United States has shifted its position and is now comfortable with working with a civilian government as opposed to with the previous hybrid, if you will, which was military and civilian.

GILANI: Actually, they had been supporting the previous government for a very long time. And now there's a new government, and naturally it takes time, and certainly they have to change the policy.

HAASS: Has that caused lasting anti-Americanism? Or to ask the question a different way, how significant is anti-Americanism in Pakistan, and what is the cause of it?

GILANI: Actually, the impression in Pakistan is this; that as if America wants war. And this attitude is only because it started when there were non-elected governments and they don't have the political support. And if there's a political backing, the only army action is not the solution for problems, because if the force is always kept -- is always put in force, it will erode authority. It should not be put into practice all the time. Therefore, the previous government, they used the force, but they didn't have the political backing.

This time when the provincial government requisitioned the army against the militants who were disturbing the peace in the province and they challenged the writ of the government and they gave five days ultimatum that either they resign or we'll hit them, and the provincial government requisitioned the army, when the army came in the province and they had the political support and the will, therefore that was the first time ever that the people appreciated the role of the army. And rather they even supported the army and they liked their act because they think that they are justified and they were disturbing the peace, and the government is fully supporting it and that was well taken.

HAASS: Well, let me ask the question, then, slightly differently. To the extent anti-Americanism is real in Pakistan now, what is the one thing the new --

GILANI: Well, I haven't said that. I have said that because when you were supporting the government which had not the backing of the people, that created something, but now that things would improve and you'll be supporting the political --

HAASS: So that, you think, is the key, supporting the --

GILANI: Democracy. Because that's -- because for the last 60 years, even before the creation of Pakistan, at that time the -- (inaudible) -- used to be obsessed by the slogan of liberty and self-determination, and that was a cause that the people fought for, the independence of our country, and we got our independence. And therefore we expected the same to support democracy.

HAASS: You mentioned in your answer to one of the earlier questions that you hope to engage the Indians on what you describe as the core issue, which is Kashmir. And Howie Schaffer, a retired ambassador and one of this country's leading South Asia hands, asked a question about whether you would like the United States to play any particular role vis-a-vis Kashmir.

GILANI: They should encourage and support this issue.

HAASS: What does that mean?

GILANI: That means that -- only they can understand.

GILANI: That means that only they can understand. (Laughter.)

HAASS: Well, for example, would you want a U.S. envoy, like we have towards other parts of the world? Would you want the United States to play a high-visibility, active mediating role? Is that the sort of thing you would welcome or not? Or is that not necessary? Could you and India --

GILANI: Actually, what the United States really want, they can do it.

HAASS: Well, we will take our cue in part from what India and Pakistan would want. So your -- I would simply point that -- point that out.

One issue which has come up a lot in the presidential campaign as part of our debate is what you might call the question of American unilateralism, which is if for whatever set of the reasons, the Pakistani government is unable to deal successfully with security challenges in its own country, it leaves the united States with the possibility or the option of acting unilaterally itself to try to deal with security challenges. What is -- what is your position on that?

GILANI: I didn't follow.

HAASS: If the government of Pakistan, for whatever reason, is unable to manage --

GILANI: In Pakistan.

HAASS: -- in Pakistan -- security challenges from militants or terrorists or whatever wants to call these individuals or groups, does the United States -- and imagine some of these groups continue to do things in Afghanistan, among other things killing American soldiers -- what is the government's reaction, then, to unilateral American military action?

GILANI: Actually, if you think that we are unable to control our security, I'll disagree with you. We have the capacity and we have the ability to control the situation in Pakistan but for the militants. They are the people who are creating problems. They are not from Pakistan. They are from Chechnya; they are from Uzbeks; they are from other parts of the world. They are from Afghanistan.

They come to our area, but definitely we hit them. When we hit them, they go to Afghanistan. When Afghanistan people hit them, they come to Pakistan. But we want that those people -- they are the people who are highly trained and they have the highest -- the most sophisticated weapons with them. I don't know from where they've got. They are (pouring/putting ?) money in our area in dollars. I don't know from where they're getting from. And these are the things which are disturbing both of you and both of us, and we are are not able to control them and you are not able to control them.

That's a problem for both of us. Therefore, we want to work mutually to counter them so that there should be more cooperation in the intelligence, cooperation between United States and Pakistan for a credible and actionable sort of information so that we can take something -- we can act swiftly.

HAASS: So I take it from that you would prefer that the United States not act unilaterally inside Pakistan.

GILANI: I think when they can give an information to us, credible information or something which is actionable, we can do it ourselves.

But at the same time, in Afghanistan you are using the sophisticated weapons, but in our side we don't have the sophisticated weapons. Our constabulary, our Frontier Corps, our frontier constabulary, they are fighting with the old guns and they are not that sophisticated. Therefore, we have to strengthen our law enforcement against this too. And that, we are doing it. They are not meant for fighting militants. That is a guerrilla war. And that is disturbing the peace in the whole world, and that's everywhere in the world.

HAASS: Would you then agree with the argument that -- a lot of people would agree with you that the Frontier Corps does not have the capacity in some ways --

GILANI: No, again I want to tell you that in the other parts, when they come they are with the sophisticated weapons. But you as a NATO are using sophisticated weapons there and yet they are fighting. Therefore, when we are totally equipped with the latest weapons, we can also take on. That's not difficult for us.

HAASS: Does that then suggest that a reorientation of what we --

GILANI: More cooperation.

HAASS: But also to worry less quite honestly about dealing with equipment and tactics, that would be relevant to India, and more to reorient the Pakistani security forces towards dealing with these internal questions.

GILANI: India is a separate strategy. But we have got the most efficient armed forces in the world. And they're highly equipped and organized. They're not the problem.

But this is not the army war. This is a guerrilla war. And even the whole world is united to fight against these militants. And they're creating problems fro them.

HAASS: I think we have time for probably two more.

Several people have asked questions about economics. And what comes up repeatedly is the question about what your -- how much of a challenge you face, from high fuel and food prices, and what your government is doing to meet the challenge of high fuel and food prices.

GILANI: In fact, this hike of oil prices and food commodities, it has hit the whole world. And the country like ours, which are not that stable economically, they have also hurt us tremendously.

But at the same time, we have to accept the challenge. And we are diversifying our resources. We are giving more importance to agriculture sector. And we would be going to agricultural sector's side. And we will also tighten our own ropes to control our economy.

But at the same time, we have to pass on the subsidies to the consumers. And because of that, there is inflation. And that is global. And naturally the people don't realize at the moment. But we have to have good governance.

HAASS: Last question from Jeff Pryce, who talks about the significance of the spread, the proliferation of nuclear materials and missiles. And obviously the A.Q. Khan history is a bad chapter in all that.

The question is, where does this policy fit with your government? And what assurances can you give, to the United States and others, that something like this could not and would not happen again?

GILANI: Certainly it cannot happen again. And that chapter is over. His network is broken. (Off mike.)

HAASS: Since your answer was so short, now you're going to have to answer one more. (Laughter.) There's a penalty for being so succinct which is, you get more questions and also you could be thrown out of the fraternity of politicians. (Laughter.) I'm much more familiar with long answers, with filibusters than I am with such short ones.

One of the issues that has come up repeatedly in the history of U.S.-Pakistani relations, and three or four people here tonight -- (name inaudible) -- have raised it, is the question of ISI: its relationship now with the rest of the government, and whether indeed it is under governmental authority and civilian control or whether, in any way, it is operating, shall we say, independently.

GILANI: In fact, the ISI is quite established in Pakistan. And it is -- it has been very good relations with United States, our ISI, and they have worked together. (Laughter, applause.)

And at the same time, it is under the prime minister. Therefore they will do only what I want them to do.

(Cross talk.)

Again short answer; you can ask me another question.

HAASS: So if we have differences or problems with ISI, we now know who to go to.

GILANI: If there are differences --

HAASS:  -- or problems.

So you actually feel now that ISI --

GILANI: ISI or the army or -- (inaudible) -- is under the civilian government. And that is under the chief executive.

HAASS: Is there any question or issue that you wish you had been asked, that you're dying to talk about? Because we've covered a lot of ground. Obviously we could go on with --

GILANI: I'll tell you one thing.

HAASS: Sure. Yes, sir.

GILANI: Basically I'm a journalist. (Laughter.) And therefore it hardly matters whether -- anybody can ask me any questions.

HAASS: Yes. We can ask questions. (Laughter.) It's your responses though that were interesting.

GILANI: This is my ninth appointment. And I still have one more.

HAASS: Well, in that case, you need to husband your energy, sir, and pace yourself. It's going to be hard to sustain this rate then for too many more years.

One of the few traditions we have, but it's an important tradition, at the Council on Foreign Relations, is we try to begin and end meetings on time, in part to respect your schedule, in part to respect the schedules of our members and our guests. And so we will do that tonight.

Let me, in closing, simply again thank Wendy and the Middle East Institute for partnering with us here. Let me also say on a serious note that I first visited your country 30 years ago. And I've been going there frequently in that time.

And I don't think I am unique in saying that it is one of the countries that to me will pose the greatest set of challenges to the new administration, for all the reasons we've been discussing here: terrorism, radicalism, nuclear questions, your relations with your neighbors, the consolidation of democracy.

And I would simply say that we wish you and your government and your colleagues well, not simply because we care about Pakistan and Pakistanis, which we do, but in this global world we live in, we also do it out of self-interest.

So as you go home, we hope this has been a productive and useful visit. We hope the U.S.-Pakistani relationship grows both deeper and broader. Because again I really do feel, we will either succeed together or we will both pay the price of failure.

So Mr. Prime Minister, thank you for coming here. Thank you for speaking to us so directly tonight. And we look forward to seeing you again on your future visits to our country.

(Applause.)

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