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The Struggle Within: What Pakistan's Unrest Could Mean for the United States

Moderator: Daniel S. Markey, Council on Foreign Relations Senior Fellow for India, Pakistan, and South Asia
Speaker: Zahid Hussain, Pakistan Correspondent, the Times of London, the Wall Street Journal, and Newsweek
March 30, 2007
Council on Foreign Relations

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DANIEL MARKEY: (In progress) -- the Senior Fellow India, for Pakistan and South Asia, which is sort of like New York, Maryland and the Mid-Atlantic states.

Until the end of January, I was actually at the State Department here in Washington, where I had the South Asia portfolio and the policy planning staff. And so it's a real pleasure to be here and hopefully I'll get a chance to meet and interact with other council members as time goes on.

Let me just kick it off -- kick off our discussion here by trying to put a few things into context and begin by saying that at least from my perspective when I was at the State Department, I always used to say that Pakistan was a real juggling act for U.S. policy makers. We had all these really important issues like counterterrorism, nonproliferation, regional stability -- Afghanistan on one side, India on the other and democracy and human rights issues within Pakistan. And each one of these was very important, and each one needed to be kept up in the air in that juggling game all at once. And that was the challenge.

And historically, I would also say that Pakistan was always seen by Washington as kind of a means to other ends, not so important in and of itself but as a way to get other things done. This was especially true in the Cold War. Everybody's thought a lot, recently, about the way that Pakistan played a part in our conflict in Afghanistan. Later it was true with respect to U.S. concerns about weapons of mass destruction, nonproliferation and now, after 9/11, we have returned to Pakistan. But again, this was sparked by something that happened elsewhere -- in Afghanistan and in the United States. And I would say that given Pakistan's complexity and the fact that we always tend to approach it indirectly, it really occupies a very unusual role within U.S. foreign policy. There's a lot of interest, there's a lot of concern, but there's not always a lot of understanding of the complexity of Pakistan itself. And that's where, I think, Zahid's book is very helpful in trying to give us a sense -- a better sense for some of that complexity.

And so let me turn the question to you, and the question is if Pakistan is a juggling act for the United States, what is the United States to Pakistan?

ZAHID HUSSAIN: Well, that's the multimillion dollar question, because Pakistan and America had for long a kind of love and hate relationship, and also it shows the complexity of this relationship. We have -- from 1950s, Pakistan was a close ally of the United States during the Cold War period. Then there was a period of -- 1970s, when again, actually, Pakistan was a victim of several sanctions. Again, things changed after the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, and Pakistan became a front-line state in the fight against Communist -- Communism. Similarly, the '90s we saw again a downslide in the relationship.

Now this relationship which has emerged after 9/11 is quite important here, and it's really different from what we have seen in the past. Two or three things that are very important to -- just to look at this defense partnership which had emerged after -- post-9/11. It's quite interesting because this time around, the partnership was very different from 1980s. In 1980s, we have seen a complete convergence of interest between the United States and Pakistan, and there was no conflict and nothing actually -- and they fought together and what we saw as the biggest covert -- war operation organized by CIA and ISI, which forced the Soviet Union forces to quit Afghanistan.

But this time around, I've always actually give this example of a forced marriage. It was a forced marriage. It was not the convergence of interests which had brought this new alliance into that. And there are two things very important -- that before 9/11, Pakistan's policies, particularly in the region and in Afghanistan in context of -- in Afghanistan, were completely divergent from that of the United States. The two actually had developed a huge conflict on those. Pakistan was the main patron of Taliban and also, actually, that during this period we have seen Pakistan using litancy as a policy instrument to further its interests in -- not only in Afghanistan, but also in Kashmir.

So this is -- this is the background, and one very interesting when on 9 September, General Hammoud, who was then ISI chief, was in Washington to talk with -- he has come here on official trip. And he was discussing with the U.S. authorities -- and in fact, actually trying to persuade them how good the Taliban were and how -- and also usefulness of interaction with them. And suddenly -- and during his stay, 9/11 happened and he was forced to stay because there was no flight home. So on 12 -- on 13th of September, we saw a complete turnaround.

So these are the anomalies which existed in Pakistan and American relationship which came into existence after 9/11, that the country which was the main hub of Islamic litancy and also actually the pattern of Taliban government became Pakistan -- America's key alliance in the fight in the war against terror.

And throughout this period we have seen that this conflict existed because when we talk about turnaround, which has taken place on 12 September 2001. It was a turnaround only as far as the support for the Taliban was concerned. Pakistan agreed to abandon the support for Taliban, and also that helped it -- in the long term -- if you see it, it helped America to -- I'm not saying that it would -- could not have happened without Pakistan's support, but definitely Pakistan was quite critical in changing the situation. And the fall of Taliban government could not have been so swift without the support of the ISI, which is Pakistan's Inter-Serviced Intelligence, and it was closely linked with the Taliban, and that was the only organization -- intelligence agency which had a huge network in Afghanistan, and they knew what was happening. So obviously that was -- that came quite handy to the United States.

And then later on we have seen that we should have had them -- quite was -- as far as -- (inaudible) -- hundreds of al Qaeda operatives including Sheikh Khalid Mohammed and Ramzi Binalshibh, the two most -- alleged masterminds of 9/11. And so many others were also -- were captured with the support of Pakistan intelligence agency. So -- but there was other side, too, that we should have -- his break (inaudible) -- the Taliban did not come. And also, actually, when we talk about turnaround, there was not a complete turnaround in the policy. There also -- Pakistan continued to use -- not at the same extent for some time -- use litancy as instrument of -- instrument of policy.

The other thing with the Taliban -- (inaudible) -- their safe haven, and it was much easier for them to -- (inaudible) -- and I always believed that Taliban were not solely a one phenomenon. There've always been Pakistani -- (inaudible) -- phenomena, a Pashtun phenomena, which had -- (inaudible) -- on both sides of the border from the very beginning. Taliban -- going back actually, the Taliban's emergence came largely from the students of -- Afghani students from studying in madrassas and inside Pakistan. And they were also supported by a huge number of Pakistanis. In fact actually, if you look at quite a lot of commanders of Taliban militia were from this side of the border.

So that -- in that background then -- (inaudible) -- they came over. Particularly they made safe haven in Waziristan, some other tribal belt, and in the West. It was around Cheman (sp), that same area with basically from where the Taliban had emerged. So -- and obviously the Pakistan government did not do anything for simple reason, because at that point they gave this justification that they had left with no choice but to abandon their support, but it does not mean that the people were coming there would also be confronted.

And the second thing which is also very important looking at Pakistan's problem -- Pakistan's policy contradiction. One should also see the United States' position. At that point if you look in the -- (inaudible) -- Afghanistan -- the American policy was -- I think was very short-sighted from the very beginning. The only target was al Qaeda or Osama bin Laden. I'm not saying that they should not have gone against -- after al Qaeda or Taliban -- or, I'm sorry, al Qaeda or Osama bin Laden. Actually that was the main target. But that was one-dimensional policy, which -- and I -- if you all -- no, you wouldn't be knowing actually.

Until 2004, Taliban was not on the radar of United States. There was a belief that after the fall of the regime, there's no way that they could have come back. And so there was a very complacent view.

And the second thing is very important, is that throughout this period -- obviously Bush administration was very clear about it -- that nation-building was not its job. And also when they made these alliances with the warlords, almost all the warlords -- which the U.S. had made an alliance after 9/11 -- were those people who were the most hurted ones and in fact actually was responsible for the rise of Taliban regime. And so that was, I think, in the long term what we have seen, that has also gave rise to the discontent in Afghanistan.

The second point is that -- also like it's very clear that they were not interested in combating narcotics trade, with the result that now Afghanistan has become a narco-state. As you now understand, there's hardly any difference -- there's a very thin line between a narco-nation and also activities of terrorism. There's always a link between the two, and that's what we are witnessing. So -- and the other important thing is that in the South, the main concentration of American operation has always been in Eastern Afghanistan where they thought that Osama bin Laden and other al Qaeda leaders might have been hiding, and the South was left completely empty. So all those things have come back to haunt us.

Now coming back to Pakistan's policy -- that for them actually it was -- they did not feel the need to go after Taliban. In fact, actually, they were giving some kind of protection in some situations because they were always feeling among Pakistani military establishment that that situation in Afghanistan will -- in the future will require them to have some kind of (prison ?). And the assets -- the assets was -- remained there. So in a way actually there was a tacit support for Taliban. I'm not saying that the support -- nature of the support was exactly the same as it was before 9/11. I don't think so.

But the two other factors which also helped the Taliban at that point was the rise of Islamic Parties in the two critical, strategically placed provinces -- Northwest Frontier province and part of Balochistan, which was inhabited by Pashtun. Those pro-Taliban government obviously provided logistic support, and for three, four years, that was a crucial a crucial three or four years when -- that allowed the Taliban to reorganize themselves, regroup and prepare for the uprising.

The other point is that, while talking about Musharraf's role, was that, yes, actually, as far as -- he delivered to the United States and -- whatever the United States wanted at that point. But as far as fighting the extremism is concerned, I think his record has been -- at home -- was abysmal. Despite the fact that some of the organizations -- militant organizations were banned, they continued to operate under different names, and there was not a real crackdown at any point. But the result, actually -- that they continued to operate, that provided them huge space.

And the other important development took place then before 9/11. The agenda of the Pakistani-based militant organizations were different from that of al Qaeda, although they had some kind -- developed some kind of link while in Afghanistan because a lot of Pakistani militants were trained in Afghanistan, in the camps of al Qaeda. But they were -- still there was a difference between the two. Mostly militant organizations -- Pakistani-based militant organizations served as instruments in Pakistan's regional policy. They did not have the same kind of agenda or anti-American agenda as al Qaeda had.

But what happened after 9/11 that this division has come to an end? Even Taliban for that matter -- Taliban had given protection to Osama bin Laden, but still if you look, actually, the Taliban were not -- had the same agenda as Osama bin Laden had. But after 9/11, everything has come together. And --

MARKEY: Let me just -- on this point -- because you've given us a sort of a sweeping picture so far of the kinds of issues that we're dealing with --

HUSSAIN: Yeah.

MARKEY: -- and let me just narrow in or zone in on one piece of it, which is your depiction or your understanding of the various types of groups that might broadly be categorized as Islamist groups or Islamist parties, jihadis. If you could sort of put them into a couple categories, because I think this is part of the complex -- maybe sectarian groups -- this is part of the complexity that we're dealing with in Pakistan. And I think there is a tendency, at least in the Western media, to bring these groups together and to treat them similarly. And I think part of answer you were giving is really related to how different they are, and yet how there are many connections between them.

HUSSAIN: Well, yeah. I think -- well, if you look actually sectarianism has become -- sectarian violence has become the main terrorism -- instrument of terrorism in Pakistan, and there has always been a very thin line between sectarian and militant organization. In fact, the cadres of sectarian organization and the militant outfit, which I call ordlat (ph) and there may be actually to a certain extent their agenda may differ a little bit but they came from the same background. In fact, actually if you look -- I'll just give you example of a few organization.

When I'm talking about Pakistan and militant organization there was -- a few of them was Jaish-e-Muhammad, the most militant of them -- Hizbul -- Harakat-ul-Mujahedin -- Hizbul -- then Lashkar-e-Taiba -- these are three major organizations which has been operating not only in Kashmir but also in Wanastan. In fact, actually they -- the whole thing was to pursue it -- the purpose or objective was to liberate Kashmir and to help install a friendly and planned government in Wanastan. So that was restricted to this. And similarly if you look actually sectarian organization, which Lashkar-e-Jhangvi or Sipah-e-Sahaba, the two main Sunni extremist groups which had been involved in the sectarian violence, they were actually also have -- their cadres have also fought in this -- in Kashmir as well in Wanastan. In fact, Lashkar-e-Jhangvi's base was in Wanastan in the Taliban, and so there was a very thin line between the two, and that's one of the reasons when Musharraf said that he's going after sectarian organization but during this period we have seen -- none of them have really been dealt with.

No organization like -- (inaudible) -- actually they have these four to five organization which I'd named earlier have been banned, but as such actually they continue to operate in different way under different names. And if you look actually over the last -- for two years -- four years there has been a rise in the sectarian violence and they -- there's evidence that these sectarian violence which has taken place has also linked with the Taliban and -- because in the immediate center of violence -- of sectarian violence had be Quetta since 2004, and Quetta has never seen before any incident of sectarian violence, and it all happened after -- it coincided with the rise of Taliban activities in Afghanistan. And they came from the same madrassas which also had produced the supporters of the Taliban.

The second important thing is that two persons who were named in the sectarian violence in Quetta was one of -- dowdbadani (ph) who was a cousin of Shaikh Khalid Mohammed, which also actually brought in question that all those forces have come together and there may be actually -- their violence or nature of their operation may be different in some way, but they -- the dynamics of their operation was exactly the same.

MARKEY: What about connections to the Islamist parties -- the political parties -- the MMA, JI, some of the parties that actually compete within Pakistan's domestic politics, and have at some points been allies or at least working partners with the government?

HUSSAIN: Well, this is one of the major paradox of Musharraf's policy. On the one hand, he's believed to be a main ally of the United States in the war on terror. But and -- but during this period we have seen that link -- incestuous relations between Pakistani military and Islamic parties have never been so -- have never come -- been broken. In fact, actually, if you look at 2002 -- the rise of Islamic parties -- I'm not saying that it was just because of that but definitely government support or the military support helped them to reach this position. And it was obviously for the reason that Musharraf government consider the liberal parties of -- for -- like People's Party or Muslim Legal (ph) led by Nawaz Sharif, the former prime minister who was ousted by Musharraf as his main enemy. And so the support was total political expediency, and that relationship has never completely -- (inaudible) -- it was Islamic parties would bail out Musharraf in 1984 -- by 2004 when he needed to ratify the 17th amendment which give him all the power and also validated his action, and the support came from the Islam -- enemy. So all this contradiction is very much evident in the --

MARKEY: So what should American observers make of President Musharraf? Where -- what -- if we had to categorize this man -- I mean, is he a reluctant partner? A committed partner? A manipulative partner? Where do we place him in that spectrum?

HUSSAIN: He's playing both ways -- he's delivering to the United State whatever the United State wanted as far as al Qaeda was concerned, but also following the politics of expediency at home. So this is the contradiction, and now that contradiction is much more clearer because in the earlier period it did not come -- I think probably it did not bother Washington at that point that whatever was happening in Pakistan. They were much more concerned whether he was delivering to him. And also it shows a huge flaw in the way the whole war on terror has been handled by the United States. And I would say that the way it has been handled has helped to fuel extremism much more, and the support for the -- for a military ruler is not new. We have seen it happening in the past, too. Way back in 1950s, we had -- this is a -- had a -- (inaudible) -- military ruler in Pakistan and in all cases he -- they had the support of the United States. We have seen 1980s, Zia ul-Haq, the architect of the Islamic militancy and the -- and whatever is happening in Pakistan is largely owed to his policy. Similarly, before 9/11 Musharraf was -- (inaudible) -- but things had changed, so one wonders whether America -- Washington has ever been really interested in democracy, or but -- or just in particular in Pakistan it's almost -- (inaudible) -- has been supported by that.

MARKEY: This actually is a very nice way to shift gears a bit into the question of what's likely to happen over the next year. You know, Pakistan is facing a period right now -- it's been in the headlines with the dismissal of their chief justice. As we head into what is supposed to be an election cycle in the fall, and there are a lot of uncertainties related to precisely how Musharraf will handle this, I'm curious what your take is on first, what we've been seeing over really just the past days and weeks -- this protest in the streets, the dismissal of the chief justice. What does that tell us about Pakistan, about Musharraf's place right now -- his popularity or lack thereof? And then if you could play it out a little bit further to the elections, what do you see there?

HUSSAIN: Well, actually, yes, the trigger came from Musharraf's action to -- or Musharraf's move to sack the chief justice, and also -- and I think one of the reasons for his sacking is that he was very proactive. And the second thing is probably the fear Musharraf had that -- I'm not supporting or justified whatever the chief justice had been doing -- but one thing was very clear that Musharraf was not then very clear that he would support his bid for the reelection while remaining as chief of army staff. This is election year and under the Pakistani constitution one cannot have -- cannot hold two offices, and Musharraf was given one time waiver and now the crucial issue had come again -- whether he can be reelected at the same time as holding the post of chief of army staff. So I think probably the main motivation was that. But that has triggered -- but I think it is also -- whatever is happening in Pakistan is accumulated grievances of the people on everything and is also a kind of indication of frustration, growing frustration -- public frustration against a military-led regime. It is also like a kind of protest against growing entrenchment of military in a civil society.

It's also something to do with Musharraf's authoritarian regime. He had made an alliance with all those -- I think if you look at his alliance one of the most -- sorry, the most corrupt element which had been taken from both the parties.

And also, I would say his main ally, which is known as Pakistan Muslim League Terrorism Group. If you ask me, they are the most retrogressive section of the society. Even if you -- I compared it -- even if you asked me to compare with a religious party, I would say a religious party at least has some beliefs, whether we agree with them or not. But these are the people who are socially more retrogressive and that is very indicative of Musharraf's policy.

So Musharraf, I would say, has lost credibility. And I never believed that -- he might public support when he came to power. There was -- I will not deny that part. That always happens whenever there is a military ruler comes to power. He always gets people's support for different reason. But I think he has lost that -- and the military comes on a very high moral ground. But always in Pakistan history we have seen three, four phases of military rulers.

Number one, when they came to power they always come to power on a very high moral ground. And obviously fueled by the ineptness of the civil administration before them. They use that. The second phase comes when he tries to establish his rule. The third phase comes when he's -- in that connection -- when he coops tradition. And the fourth phase, when he struggles to remain in power. So I think Musharraf is in the fourth phase now. He has done all the three phases and he is on the fourth phase and struggling to keep himself into power.

MARKEY: Excellent. Well, that should inspire questions, I think.

So I'd now like to invite council members to join in the discussion. If you could please wait for the microphone and speak directly into it when it comes. And please stand, state you name, your affiliation. And keep your questions and comments short, concise to allow others to ask.

We've got one right up here.

QUESTIONER: Hi. Barbara Slavin, diplomatic correspondent of USA Today and a member of the council.

What would be your advice to the Bush administration now in dealing with Musharraf? You say he's in phase four. He may not survive another few months, yet the Bush administration still relies on him in the war on terror and so on. How should the United States be handling Musharraf now? Thanks.

HUSSAIN: Well, there's always the problem that -- it's not just with the Bush administration, but in the past too. As I've said, they have a very shortsighted policy and they're supporting a dictatorship. So I think probably any person, if they really want to make an alliance, they should support democracy. And that's -- and I always believe that the best way to fight extremism or militancy is through liberal democracy, because there's a problem. Yes, Musharraf was quick to take a decision, but he could never mobilize people. And when we talk about fighting litancy and extremism, it could only be fought through mobilizing people which has never happened. In fact, his policy has created a huge polarization and it's kind of leading the country to a fragmentation. So that's why I say that democracy is the best way.

QUESTIONER: (Off mike.)

HUSSAIN: Well, actually, the United States should support the restoration of democracy. And I would like to add I'm not -- I don't believe that the United States can impose democracy on any country. I don't believe that way, but allow the people of Pakistan to exercise their right to democracy. Don't support dictators.

MARKEY: I think, you know, Zahid has really hit on a point here, which is something that to some degree I think is under recognized, which is simply that in order to fight the war on terrorism or extremism more broadly, you do need that political mobilization. And that's something that we haven't seen. And that's a weakness, a fundamental weakness of a military regime. Now, whether or not that means that the United States should move away from Musharraf or take other steps, that's another issue. But that's a key insight there.

Sir.

QUESTIONER: David Apgar, Corporate Executive Board.

Are there any religious leaders in Pakistan today who enjoy some material support within the army and could you describe those leaders, please?

HUSSAIN: I don't know exactly if they enjoy material support. Over the years, actually, because of Musharraf's juggling, there has been an estrangement of relations between the military and the religious party, but the divorce has not yet taken place, which means, actually they both understand the utility of each other. And as far as the Islamic parties are concerned, their alliance with the military has lasted many years. And still, if you look, actually, even though they're targeting Musharraf, they will never target the military -- if you look. Similarly, when you look, actually, at Musharraf, when it comes to Baluchistan, he has been very tough on that and he has really even did not even -- and bombed the area.

But when it comes to taking on the Islamic parties, he has not done that. Like for example -- I'm not saying that he should have turned away the government of the Northwest Frontier led by the six-party radical alliance, but look, actually, at the contradiction in his policy. He did not allow the people's party to reform the government in Sindh province where they had the majority. But on the other hand, he was quite willing to accommodate this radical Islamic alliance in Northwest Frontier. And in fact, actually, his party is in alliance and a coalition in Baluchistan province. So in a way, actually, that (ancestral ?) relationship has not yet broken.

MARKEY: All the way in the back, sir.

QUESTIONER: Marc Ginsburg, member of the council.

I have a question about the ISI and the resurgence of the Taliban. The agreement that was struck between Musharraf and the tribal elders has led to a resurgence of fighting in Afghanistan, according to all U.S. sources. What is the role of the ISI at this point in time in your estimation in this? And how is the arms that is being fed to the Taliban that is in effect permitting them to wage the type of fight that they're fighting against NATO forces? Is it ISI that is facilitating the arms transfers, in your estimation? How, indeed, are they being armed through Pakistan?

HUSSAIN: Well, yes -- coming to Waziristan -- I think Waziristan is a very complicated issue. And while I'm not to give a sweeping comment on whether it has become -- look actually, one -- the biggest mistake was made when the army operation was started in Waziristan in March 2004. It was done because of the pressure from the United States, but when the Pakistan army went there, they did not have any clue of what was waiting for them there.

It was a difficult fight and before that -- I think before going through this -- of sending troops, I think the Pakistan government should have taken some other steps which are necessary, like bringing some kind of political reform in that area. With the result, actually, when they went there they suffered a very humiliating setback there. And I witnessed to that -- some of the incident. A week after when the Pakistani military entered there, I saw the entire convoy -- military convoy -- being destroyed by the tribals. And I think probably there would be one dozen of them and 44 of Pakistani soldiers were killed. And it reminds us all of what happened to the British forces there too.

So this is -- 700 Pakistani soldiers were killed there. And in a way, actually it has -- it was a botched up military operation, I would say. Now, after two years, actually, the area is not completely under control of Taliban. They are what we call militants, in fact, actually. And in fact, there was a huge problem with the Pakistan -- the army has a long -- if Musharraf even tries to restart a military operation I think probably it will divide the army. So that is a no-win situation for him now.

And I -- yes, actually. You said back when you make an agreement with the military, which means, actually, that even though the fighting or insurgency is on the rise in Afghanistan, but they have not been able to establish what we call a base area or a liberated area. But they definitely have a liberated area inside Pakistan, which is Waziristan and other places. And they are there operating.

The second thing is that arms -- the arms basically -- Waziristan has provided them a huge support base. And also because the support is coming from the Islamic parties, which rule the Northwest Frontier provinces. And they basically, the main support coming -- I'm not so sure that ISI would be giving them material support at this point. But definitely they are getting support from Pakistan, but because there may be a kind of tacit understanding not to take a confrontation with the Taliban. And they always thought that they would remain an asset for the long term, and particularly with the situation -- relations with Afghanistan becoming more hostile. Probably that -- but I think I will see it through Pakistan looking on the other side more than probably providing active support to the Taliban.

MARKEY: On this issue of actual material support, I mean, I think it's worth saying that there's no question that there's plenty of weapons to go around. So that in and of itself is not the issue. But whether or not your question about the ISI involvement, and whether or not you're seeing continued connections -- active connections -- between the Pakistan government and government services and people who are considered enemies of the United States, that's the key question. And I think there you're not seeing the kind of evidence that you used to see -- that some things have changed. But it's still up in the air a little bit too much for most people.

Let me get this question. The woman right there. Yeah. You'll be next.

QUESTIONER: (Off mike.) I'm Nancy Ely-Raphel, I'm also a member of the Council. You suggest that President Musharraf is in Stage 4, would you anticipate that, perhaps, it's time for the military to remove him?

HUSSAIN: Well, it's too early to say that, but what I believe that in Pakistan, and, I think, probably anywhere in the world, there is no precedent that a military ruler has abdicated power voluntarily. In Pakistan -- it's much more clear in Pakistan's situation.

But I think it's -- if this pubic discontent grows, and, at the moment, it still goes in Musharraf's favor that political parties are so weak -- civil society are so weak -- that they cannot actually wrest power from the military generals at this point probably. And also I think that most of them are sitting on the fence. In fact, actually an initiative was taken by the -- (inaudible) -- but the political party is still actually hesitant to join in that.

But if the situation comes to the extent that, I mean, people are out in the street, then a position could come where the army generals would go to Musharraf and say, "Sir, you have served the country well, now it's time to -- "

QUESTIONER: Well, Nancy anticipated part of my question. I'm Howard Schaffer of Georgetown University. A great deal of talk has come about that Musharraf is the best man to represent U.S. interests in Pakistan and that part of the world. What would you anticipate would follow if, as we've suggested here, he lost power? What kind of government would come to power in his wake? And how would it act with regard to our perceived interest in the area and in Pakistan?

HUSSAIN: Okay. Well, actually this -- we have been hearing a lot actually, and not only dealing with Musharraf, but we tend to believe, or we are made to believe, particularly in Washington, that after (meedaluge ?). And that is the -- that is always happening for quite some time that, after me, the fundamentalists will take over.

And Musharraf's, I think, line is the same -- that I'm the last frontier. And I think that's a completely wrong perception. My belief is that Pakistan -- there's no danger of -- eminent danger of a fundamentalist takeover of Pakistan. For the simple reason -- if you look actually, you know Pakistan quite well in some ways -- that the Islamic parties have never been able to have that kind of rule -- political rule, as is needed for this kind of political power.

And their main -- they're always actually tried under the military government. Always have -- the religious parties have tried, under the military government; if you look -- (inaudible) -- last time -- now you look now. In both the situations, the military has provided them an opportunity. If you allow the political process in Pakistan, I think this is the best way to curb that threat.

Last election, if you look, actually, at the last results of the election, we (cultivate ?) the party -- the People's Party got the highest percentage of votes -- 25.6 percent. It was followed by this Pro-Musharraf Muslim League. And (Muttahhida Majlis-e-Amal ?), the worst was only 11.6 percent. And it was concentrated in one ethnic are, the Pashtun area -- which is both in the frontier and Baluchistan. And it translated into a much larger number of seats because of this concentration of votes.

And if you look, actually, in other areas, like Sindh and Punjab, even the rest of Baluchistan - they don't have that kind of support base. So this kind of -- and if you just pull out support from the military, they will be noted. And we have seen the process of election continues in Pakistan -- that's the best way to eliminate --

What will happen? I don't think that Musharraf's -- my -- I think, feeling is that we will have a (post- Riyadh ?) scenario. I'm not saying that he will meet the same fate, but if Musharraf goes whatever way, I think the generals will allow the free elections to take place.

MARKEY: I think Zahid makes a very important point about how few people in Pakistan expect that after Musharraf, you would get a jihadi state, that that is ruled out as being a reasonable possibility.

But there are other significant costs that, I think, Washington keeps in mind when it considers what the loss of Musharraf would be, right?

HUSSAIN: I agree.

MARKEY: And some of those are pointed out in your book, in terms of Musharraf has made a path over the past few years and has, if only through trial and error, come to accommodate U.S. interests in ways that he wouldn't have done four or five years ago. And so the question there has to be whether we still would be losing something -- with someone else we'd have to renegotiate all of these agreements that gradually have come into place. I think that the --

HUSSAIN: Yeah. I think probably, eminently, whether it's a going to be a military general taking -- I think military generals cannot last long in this situation. No political party, I mean, with good -- (inaudible) -- either it will be the People's Party or (Nawaz ?) League -- nobody is going to deviate from this policy.

And in the past we have seen that they have also followed a very pro-U.S. policy. So I don't see any change of government or any civilian -- restoration of civilian government will make much of a difference as far as the policy is concerned.

The second thing I've just forgotten about -- when I -- talking about this -- that there is no threat of fundamental takeover. One thing is but more dangerous -- is developing in Pakistan, and it also is a result of the policy - it is the fragmentation. On ethnic and political lines -- like, for example, a part of our frontier is also direct -- we have seen a creeping (polarization ?), and particularly Waziristan. In fact, actually, if you look, this is all taken over by Taliban.

So that is the biggest threat, actually, that part of the country is going in the other direction. And that is a key area. But allow the democracy to function. I think probably you will also -- this problem can also be tackled.

I'm not saying that it will be very smooth transition of the democracy of civilian government. We are all knowing that we are going to be a very rough ride for them and -- but allow the process to continue for years -- the regular interruption of army rule has destroyed the political institution and the civilian institution. So it will be kind of difficult period for Pakistan, but one has to go through that.

MARKEY: We have a question right here.

QUESTIONER: I'm Marvin Kalb with the Shorenstein Center at Harvard.

You've touched on this in a number of different ways now, but I'd like to ask you, is it beyond the capacity of the Pakistani military to assert nationwide sovereignty and control over the entire country, including the border region. Is it beyond the capacity of the military to do that?

HUSSAIN: I don't think it's beyond the capacity.

QUESTIONER: So why don't they do it?

HUSSAIN: Well, that's basically political expediency. That's one of the reasons I could see. Like, for example, what is the rationale of having this autonomous region -- or tribal region where Pakistani law is not enforced? I cannot -- it does not apply and -- in this country. So they are reluctant to take this kind of -- I have been to Wirzistan many times, and to common people there's resistance to the assimilation of that area to the -- to Pakistani -- to mainstream Pakistan. But they have always tried to deal with truth -- you know, selected number of people like -- who are called (maliks ?) in a way or the tribal chieftains. And it suits them, and I think probably they do to take a kind of a long -- a fundamentalist structural reform, and that is the basis of all this problem. Like, there is historical fact -- historical reason also -- so it is -- it's suited Pakistan to use that as a tribal area and a kind of buffer, and that gives them a -- you know, kind of a plausible deniability that we have nothing to do with this if something if something is happening in that area. It's autonomous and under the (Duraline ?) Agreement. It basically -- it was supposed to be a buffer between Afghanistan and Pakistan.

And that again, actually, later on (inaudible) they utilized this kind of -- this position. Now it is a time, actually, when we're really fighting this extremism. It's a time, actually, to take fundamental decision about that area. I think it's not beyond their capacity. They are very much in capacity.

MARKEY: Sir?

QUESTIONER: Michael Barnes, Covington & Burling, a member of the council.

Benazir Bhutto, the former prime minister, was recently in Washington and met with several of us, and indicated her desire to return this year and campaign and be involved in the elections. What is your assessment of her popularity, her ability to participate whether the Musharraf government will allow it?

HUSSAIN: Well, there's one thing that is phenomenal, which is we call the People's Party. It's very interesting. It never dies, that phenomenon. I'm not talking about Benazir. I'm talking about People's Party. Despite all those problems, with all that's happened to it during 1980s, then they come into power -- allegation against Benazir Bhutto of corruption. Yes, she had shown how to adapt in this, (absolutely ?). But it refused to die. This party support refuses to die, and the very clear indication was 2002 election when they might the -- you know, party because it received the highest share of votes. And yeah, Benazir was discredited hugely when she -- when those allegations came.

But because of the Pakistani -- nature of Pakistani politics, now she has emerged as one of the most powerful players in the Pakistani politics at this point because of her support base, also because her party -- was (basically ?) most liberal. All those factors made it a player -- a major player in Pakistani politics. There's -- they are talking on about possible alliances between Benazir Bhutto and Musharraf. I think probably quite a lot of people in Washington want that, and they are trying to reinforce that. Well, actually I don't know at this point any political party would sign its death warrant by joining the -- (Inaudible.)

MARKEY: Just to follow up on that, so you take Benazir at her word that she will return? And is this her last chance?

HUSSAIN: Well, I would never say -- in Pakistani politics, there is never a last chance for anyone. (Laughter.) And when Navakshari (ph) was removed, obviously there was no single voice in his favor when he was -- but now if you'd ask me if he's allowed to come back to Pakistan and campaign with Benazir, they will emerge as the main leaders of the -- of Pakistan. And all those people who have been supporting will be wiped out. Because what happens, actually, when (natives' rule ?) come, that prisms the whole process. And when -- actually, it has to start all over again once the things come. So in a way, actually, that -- Benazir -- yeah, if he -- if she really wants to go back -- if she goes back tomorrow, I think -- and she'd be best to go back and take on Musharraf, I think that will be end of Musharraf. But will she do that? I doubt it at this moment. She might declare the end of the --

MARKEY: In back -- back there?

QUESTIONER: Kiersten Todt-Coon (sp) with Business Executives for National Security, and a term member of the council.

In a report on his most recent trip to Pakistan, retired general Barry McCaffrey talks about the need for U.S. -- for the United States to support the efforts in North and South Waziristan, and he also talks about the fact that obviously, Musharraf has been the most democratic leader in the country's history and the role that he has played in our relationship.

Just to elaborate, I know this is a question and you've answered it in different ways. But if you could elaborate a little bit more on what you think has changed in the country and with the political and the military infrastructure that is stable enough or that is in such a position that the leader -- the individual in power is not as critical to the relationship to the United States, I mean, why you think that if Musharraf left, there would still be the stability that would create this relationship and continue this allied relationship with the United States?

HUSSAIN: Well, actually, as I said, I don't see any government changing it position on -- vis-a-vis relationship with the United States. But one thing -- when you talk about Musharraf's, I the biggest harm Musharraf -- out of any military group -- no, I'm not just personalizing it, but for the military government is that the army is so deeply entrenched in civil society that it destroys the -- all other institutions.

And it has happened much more under Musharraf. Army is so deeply entrenched in everything. Now they are running banks, they are (living ?) businesses. Most of the top positions in the -- civilian positions have been taken over by the military, even to the extent that several -- (inaudible) -- of different industries are retired generals. Can you believe the effect of this? This is the level of the army's role.

So with the army with the huge political and economic stake that has grown over the years, they are reluctant to leave power because that comes there. And that is the basis of instability. When you do not allow the civil institutions to operate or function or even you crush them, then the country is much more instable.

And one of the -- a clear indication of that (is), when we talk about what will happen after a leader, after Musharraf, it shows how instable the situation is. You don't ask this question where the countries are stable, where the institutions are stable.

And when we talk about stability, we should not go only on the surface. There's always a semblance of normality, a semblance of stability -- (inaudible) -- everywhere, but basically beneath that there are the seeds of instability, and we have seen it in the past, too, in Pakistan.

QUESTIONER: Thank you. Paula Stern, a member of the council, Stern Group. The lawyers, the protesters, in response to Musharraf's call for the chief justice to step down, and now there is an investigation going on -- this to me represents the civil society, if you will. My question to you is, really how significant is this group of lawyers and all the courts across the country? Do they have natural allies, or do they have their own -- where do they sit in the categories that you've talked about?

And I'd like you to give us some idea whether you think the final outcome of the investigation regarding the chief justice will precipitate an even newer wave of serious protests that we should be anticipating.

HUSSAIN: Well, I think the way he was removed really came as a shock to the nation. A military, a general -- a president -- (inaudible) -- in a military uniform, and the chief justice, if you look at that picture, and that is appalling, that was appalling. And that says a lot, actually, the way Musharraf is dealing with this.

And besides that, I'm not going into whether those charges or allegations are right or wrong. Number one, actually what was the motivation behind this move? I don't think that was something to do. If he was prepared to play ball, probably he would have never been removed. My feeling is that that was not an issue.

Our military has -- this is the second chief justice who has been removed. Don't forget about -- people have forgotten that in 2002, when Musharraf asked the judges to take a fresh vote, top five judges refused to do that, including the chief justice. And whatever, that situation in the judiciary we see was the result of that, if you remove the more independent judges. So, basically we have this kind of thing. So Musharraf's problem was not whether he was trying to misuse his power, no. I mean, in country where you have so frequent military intervention, just talk about misuse of power actually is something appalling.

The other one is that -- the most interesting part of it, that it has taken a secular, democratic issue to mobilize people. Over the last several years, we have seen that religious parties had tried many times to bring out the people on the street, when -- (inaudible) -- government was dismissed or when women were -- as recently it was women bill which was passed by the parliament, the religious parties tried to bring out the people, but it failed. But this is the issue, the secular issue of upholding the independence of the judiciary, that brought much more out of people. So it shows that -- well, when people talk about fundamentalist -- (inaudible) -- and it shows actually that what motivates people to come out has been this.

Musharraf is in no-win situation. The way he has done this, now he is trying to backtrack, but can he do that, because if judicial council -- Supreme Judicial Council takes any decision, in either way, it's not going to help Musharraf. It's not going to help Musharraf. Musharraf's -- it's basically the credibility is at the lowest now.

So I think probably the most severe is that it has come very close to his election, which means, actually, his election has already been colored, has already been doubt -- not doubtful, but basically has sort of become controversial. And so one thing I would say about all that, that really Pakistan civil society is still, despite all that happening, is still very much alive, and the press -- so that has played a huge, a very dynamic role. So that's the most encouraging, actually. So when you talk about that democracy cannot function in Pakistan, this is basically I see that it can work. And civil society, despite all those things what has happened, it still tries to assert itself.

MARKEY: So despite all the other things we've said, we'll end on a happy note. (Laughter.) I want to thank all of you. As per council rules, we'll try to end on time. So, thanks for your attendance. (Applause.)

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