(NSI News Source Info) TORONTO, Canada - July 13, 2011: Former president Pervez Musharraf has warned of dire consequences from the recent US decision to suspend $800 million of military aid to Pakistan, saying the move was not in the best interest of the two countries.
“Certainly it will be disastrous,” Musharraf said during a speech at Rice University in Houston, Texas, on Monday evening, according to media reports. “It is not in the best interest of Pakistan but also not in the best interest of the United States. If Pakistan is weakened how do we fight terrorism?”
“We are weakening the country and the Army,” Musharraf said at the university’s Baker Institute of Public Policy. “It will have a negative effect certainly on the Pakistan Army, on its capability to fight terrorism.”
Musharraf said he was saddened by the ‘present environment of confrontation almost between Pakistan and the United States, between the two armies, the two intelligence services’. “It saddens me because I remember when there was trust,” he said, pointing to what he said were his strong relationships with President George W Bush and then-Secretary of State Colin Powell. “I could pick up the phone,” he said. “The line was always open. I wonder now if that degree of communication exists.” He said there was a ‘trust deficit’ and a ‘confidence deficit’ between the countries and the restoration of better relations depended on leadership and straight talk.
Responding to a question, Musharraf, who heads All Pakistan Muslim League (APML), said “Frankly, I’m trying” to become president. He said. “I’ve created a party of my own for the sake of Pakistan. I’m not doing it for myself because I’m very happy on my lecture circuit.
“If we succeed I know what to do. We don’t have to reinvent the wheel.” Musharraf blamed the disintegrating US-Pakistani relationship on current leaders’ lack of familiarity.
The relationship between the two countries began to fray in 1989, after the U.S. withdrew from Afghanistan when Soviet forces were defeated there, leaving Pakistan to contend with a neighbouring state filled with thousands of religious fighters “armed to the teeth who know nothing else but fighting.” It soured further, he said, with sanctions placed on Pakistan in response to its nuclear weapons programme.
Recent drone attacks and the killing of Osama bin Laden on Pakistani soil have intensified the disintegration of relations, he said. “The killing of Osama bin Laden, the issue is dead,” Musharraf said. “The issue of why our sovereignty was violated is very much alive.” To repair relations, the US “must consider our sensitivities and our sovereignty,” he said. Meanwhile, Pakistan must convince the US that there was ‘no complicity’ in sheltering the former Al-Qaeda leader, he said.
Musharraf said there was ‘absolutely 0% chance’ that Pakistan’s military or intelligence forces knew of bin Laden’s whereabouts during his presidency, and that he believes they were unaware of his presence in Abbottabad until he was killed by US forces in May.
As he has in the past, Musharraf on Monday denied he or Pakistan’s intelligence services knew of bin Laden’s location, at least during his time in power. “For two years, I can for sure, with 100 per cent guarantee, whether you believe it or not, I didn’t know,” he said. As for the possibility of the Army or the intelligence service hiding that knowledge from him, he said: “No. Absolutely zero. They are my people. I commanded them. How could they hide from me?”
He said a step in easing the rift between the nations would start with the US taking into concern “our sensitivities, our own honour and dignity as a sovereign nation.” Since his departure from Pakistan, Musharraf has been living in Dubai and London and has been making speaking appearances at colleges and universities. He has said he’ll return to his homeland no later than next March to resume his political ambitions and is considering a presidential run in 2013, which he called “the mother of all elections.” “I am very conscious of this,” he said. “I am trying to contribute my bit to bring change about. We need to have determination and if it’s in Pakistan’s destiny to rise as a moderate progressive Islamic state.”
He said a return to Pakistan would be for the nation’s sake, not his. “I’m very happy on the lecture circuit,” he said. “They give me good money. I can live anywhere. As far as I’m concerned I’m comfortable.”
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