April Issue 2003
Interview: Zafrullah Khan Jamali
“Every 50 to 70 years the world map changes”
– Prime Minister Mir Zafrullah Khan Jamali
Q: The Pakistan government says it is opposed to war in Iraq and urges a rapid end to hostilities. But it also supports America’s war on terrorism. Have these policies now become difficult to balance?
A: Well, no. I think the war between the Americans, its allies and Iraq is one thing; the war against terrorism is another. I have never equated the two. When the war against terrorism was on, we were not in the government; it was the military regime. In my assessment, they took the right step — Pakistan itself has been a victim of terrorism. But that is a different issue altogether. As far as the war against Iraq is concerned, as I said in parliament and in my address to the nation, it would be difficult for Pakistan to support it. So far, we have stuck to that position and we will continue to stick to it. Since the war has already started, as far as we are concerned, our stand is that it should end immediately. The United Nations, the OIC, the Arab League and the European Union, all should look into this, so that the war comes to an end. We never wanted the destruction of the Iraqi people, of the Iraqi country. We will never support that.
As for the decision of going to war, it was for the Iraqi leadership to decide [what was best] for their own country. We as human beings, as Muslims who are part of the Muslim ummah, had thought that the leadership in Iraq would show better sense, not go to war and fight against America. Of course, they didn’t start it, and they have to defend themselves. But all the same, it is the destruction of their country.
Q: As we saw in one of the marches in Quetta and other rallies around the country, there is a lot of public anger about the war in Iraq and that is likely to increase if this war is prolonged. How will this impact Pakistan’s relationship with Washington?
A: I think you cannot suppress the sentiments of the people. You cannot suppress the sentiments of people in America itself, or anywhere in the world. I was reading the paper this morning; it said one of the American solders had refused to fight against Iraq. He said, ‘thank you very much, I don’t want to fight.’ We are a democratic government, and we have been very kind. If the people want to ventilate their sentiments, it is their wish and will.
So there have been marches, people have been expressing their anger, their discontent, their inner feelings. You cannot suppress any human being’s inner feelings.
But of course, we have definitely requested them not to pave the way for the destruction of Pakistan. Why should Pakistan suffer?
Q: We’ve heard much speculation about the US’ ultimate goals in respect of the war in Iraq — some say it is about oil, others about shifting the balance of power in the Middle East. What is your opinion?
A: Well, I think every 50 to 70 years the world map changes. Take the First World War — 1914 to 1918 — the map changed. Take the Second World War — 1939-45 — and the boundaries changed again. We are over 50 years old now, and as a student of history and geography, my feelings are that the lines might change again.
Why should these actions take place? That, only members of the think tanks and policy-making bodies, of which, we have no part, can say. We are not informed about their wishes and game plans. Just as we don’t know why the Americans went to war. But in my assessment, there may be attempts to change the map of the world.
Q: Do you agree with the manner in which America has gone about its business?
A: It was their own decision. They even side-stepped the Security Council, which of course, has not been appreciated around the world. They didn’t listen to the Muslim countries, or even the European countries. The permanent members of the Security Council don’t appreciate this.
Q: There are indications that the religious parties and also some militant parties have capitalised on the public anger…
A: We don’t have militant groups; I want to clarify that. We have never entertained, supported or even tolerated any militant group in Pakistan. The religious parties, yes… they have come into power in one province, and are sharing power in Balochistan. They have been given a mandate by the people. I think they have the right to talk about it, to discuss it, and why should they be stopped? If you believe in democracy — I think they have the right to say whatever they feel like.
Q: Do you see a shift in the balance of power if they are successful in exacerbating public anger to increase their support level?
A: No, I think the neutral and moderate element will prevail in Pakistan. I don’t think we will resort to any extremism. Pakistan is an Islamic state. We have Islamic values, but I don’t see any extremism at all. Moderation is the name of the game.
Q: What is your opinion about the increasing speculation that Pakistan could end up becoming one of America’s future targets?
A: Why should Pakistan be America’s next target? I’m surprised people say so. We have no enmity with anyone. We are a peace-loving country. We want peace with our neighbours, and we have always strived for it. We have done nothing for which anyone should target Pakistan. There may be speculation in the media, but as far as I’m concerned, I am confident. I have faith in my God, and I don’t forsee any problem.
Q: The US has accused Pakistan of sharing nuclear and missile technology with North Korea. Islamabad has denied the allegation and demanded proof, but some analysts say it’s a signal that at least some elements in the Bush administration are trying to paint Pakistan and North Korea with the same brush…
A:You cannot stop people from talking. There have been some allegations and I think we have asked for a clarification. In America there are lobbies… I believe these days when one goes up to the Hill in Washington, you can see quite a few Indians hovering around. In fact, my hunch is that there is a slight tilt in America toward India. So I think the Indian lobby might be instrumental in this kind of talk. But we hope that these things can be discussed at the international level. And I don’t think people here should be worried about it.
Q: Coming to the war on terrorism, some of the arrests recently made in Pakistan have been of fairly high-level Al-Qaeda operatives, like Khalid Shaikh Mohammed and Abu Zubaydah. Where do you go from here?
A: Pakistan has been taking these actions because these individuals were operating within Pakistan. The government has done this because we don’t want any terrorists or terrorism in our area. Yes, we have been helping the international community and trying to facilitate them as far as terrorism is concerned. But we are being vigilant for ourselves as well. This is the government’s duty.
Q: How much assistance has there been from the Americans in this endeavour… just some monitoring equipment and a few observers and consultants, or more active participation of the FBI and CIA in the operations?
A: Well, there have obviously been discussions, but as far as [physical] intervention is concerned, that is not there. I think the world should believe what we say. Why should they expect us to believe them when they don’t believe us?
Q: Do you believe these recent arrests are going to lead to the capture of Osama Bin Laden, and do you think he is in Pakistan?
A: Let me tell you one thing: we don’t work for America. We work for ourselves. We work for the interests of our country. As I said, we have facilitated [the war against] terrorism and we will continue to do so because terrorism is a menace the world over — no country wants it. As far as Osama Bin Laden is concerned, I have said before, I am saying today, he is not our cup of tea. We have nothing to do with him — dead or alive. And God alone knows if he is dead or alive. So I think people should stop looking towards us or raising a finger or allegations against us. We will not accept this.
Q: What do you say to those who say that Pakistan is playing a double-game — siding with the US in its war against terrorism, and simultaneously giving leverage to extremist religious parties?
A: Well, I think those who say it are probably playing a double-game themselves. They want to please the Americans and condemn Pakistan. We don’t play any double-games. We are very simple, straightforward and practical people. Whatever we have in our hearts, we say. As I said, war and terrorism are two different things. We will not support the war on Iraq but we will support the war on terrorism. The issues are absolutely separate.
Q: Turning to Kashmir, Indian foreign minister Yashwant Sinha has said that New Delhi will “do whatever it takes,” including possible preemptive action against Pakistan to fight what it terms is cross-border terrorism from Pakistan. He adds that India’s position has been boosted now because of the US-led war on Iraq? How worried are you?
A: This is exactly what I had anticipated, and said as much in my address to the nation about a month ago. But I’m not worried at all. Pakistan is capable of defending itself. As for the preemption Mr. Sinha talks about, I wish he would go back to the finance department rather than remaining foreign affairs minister, because he doesn’t know much about foreign affairs.
Q: Nonetheless, don’t you find this kind of talk dangerous?
A: Yes, definitely. But it will be dangerous not just for one country, but for both, because both countries are nuclear powers. And when it comes to the defence of the country, we can go to any extent. So when Mr. Sinha talks of a preemptive war, of course we have to be alert. We will not start any war; we do not want any escalation at the border. In fact, we have continued to ask for a dialogue with India. However, the core issue of Kashmir remains, and that has to be solved.
Q: Pakistan and India’s armies remain at a relatively high state of alert on both sides of the Line of Control in Kashmir. With the snow now melting in the mountains, should we be bracing ourselves for renewed trouble?
A: There have always been skirmishes. They keep happening at the LoC and at other places. But we have nothing to do with these; we have never supported them. It is indigenous fighting — it is the Kashmiris’ war. They want to liberate themselves. On humanitarian grounds, yes. We give them political and economic support. The UN had agreed [on a plebiscite], Mr. Jawaharlal Nehru had agreed, I don’t know why India has backtracked [on this commitment].
Q: There have been some political changes on the Indian side of Kashmir. Do you see these leading to any sort of solution?
A: I hope better sense prevails. We want peace, we want economic development in the whole subcontinent — India and Pakistan. Why should the people suffer? This is Pakistan’s contention and my personal contention. We want a better life for the people of both countries. We don’t want war, we don’t want disruption, we don’t want to fight anybody. I think it is about time the leadership in India understands. I have been very vocal and have been telling the Indian authorities to come and hold a dialogue. But they didn’t want to participate in the SAARC conference, they don’t want to play cricket with us, they don’t want to participate in the SAF games. What the hell are they up to?
Q:Given the impasse, what is the way forward?
A: One has to sit across the table and talk. Either they convince us or we convince them. We said anybody can come — even a third party. There is America, China, or Britain. We say come and talk and listen. They do not allow the international press to go to Indian-occupied Kashmir. They don’t allow anyone into those areas. Why? Conversely when people come here and ask to go to the LOC, we help them, we take them there. So why such a negative attitude on the Indian side? We don’t understand. And the world powers don’t want to say anything to India.
Q: As the elected Prime Minister, do you feel it’s right for President Musharraf to make the major decisions for the country? Even recently, in regard to sanctions imposed by the US on the Khan laboratories, it was General Musharraf, not you, who contacted the US administration…
A: The President and myself always work as a team. He is very kind. He has made a lot of contributions. Let me give you a small example. There was a NAM conference in Malaysia, I had to go there, but I couldn’t because the Senate elections were being held that very day. So, I requested the President to go and represent the country. This is how we work. We sit together to discuss every important policy.