Saturday, February 2, 2008

'Get America Out of the Way and We Will be Okay'

Former ISI [Pakistan Army's Inter-Services Intelligence] Chief [Lt. General] Hamid Gul tells HARINDER BAWEJA the troika of army chiefs, politicians and the U.S. has Pakistan on the
verge of civil war.

Tehelka: Is Benazir Bhutto's assassination a death knell for Pakistan?

GENERAL HAMID GUL: Accidents and wars don't destroy a country. It is the political process that can damage it. Fortunately, the emerging leadership of the Pakistan People's Party [PPP] has shown solidarity with the federation [of Pakistan].

Tehelka: But the assassination of a former Prime Minister [Benazir Bhutto] indicates the growing threat to Pakistan from the [Muslim] jehadis.

GENERAL HAMID GUL: It is not the [Muslim] jehadis who have killed her. She was rather protective of the [Muslim] jehadis in the past. Benazir was never soft on the Kashmir issue, let me tell you that. I served as the ISI Director-General under her. The 'Taliban' [Afghan students] emerged during her second tenure in office and captured Kabul when she was still the Prime Minister. Her Interior Minister used to patronise them openly. It was not the [Muslim] jehadis but that is what the Americans [Bush-Cheney Junta and the U.S. CIA] would have us believe. They have designs for Pakistan and I strongly believe that the Americans have got her eliminated because this is the way they deal with countries like Pakistan. They either use them or subdue them. In the case of Pakistan, it is both.

The Americans worked out a model during the days of [assassinated General Muhammad] Zia ul Haq. Junejo was brought in to give the label of democracy and to gradually ease Zia-ul-Haq out of office after he had been used but it didn't work out. Zia got wind of it and removed Junejo from office. The Americans got very upset and destroyed Zia-ul-Haq. I make no bones about saying this. I will quote from [U.S. President Dick] Nixon's book, In the Arena (page 109), in which he says when Zia-ul-Haq's plane went down, "instantly it came to my mind that why we Americans destroy our friends after we have used them".

America is a very important player in our domestic politics. They can't be naive to understand that Benazir cannot work with a man like Musharraf and if they were trying to cobble together a dream team comprising Benazir and Musharraf, then either they were very stupid or had other designs. Could the charismatic Benazir work with Musharraf when he could not tolerate even a mild and placid man like former PM Zafar Ullah Khan Jamali?

Tehelka: But she [Benazir Bhutto] apparently came back after a nod from the Americans?

GENERAL HAMID GUL: She came back because she had a sense of history and she wanted this blemish of corruption to be removed from her name. She was pushed into this situation. Benazir had said two things before she landed here - one was about AQ [Abdul Qadeer] Khan (the father of Pakistan's nuclear bomb) and the other about 'Al-Qaeda' - that she would permit the Americans to strike 'Al-Qaeda' targets.

These are two things the Americans very badly want. One is a pre-emptive doctrine which has not yet been consummated. Even Musharraf has been resisting a direct ingress, howsoever 'pro-America' he might be. So, how could Benazir do this? How could she hand over AQ Khan to them? But she came and in the 70 days she spent, not once did she mention either AQ Khan or the 'Taliban'. She had drifted from the agenda and no wonder Musharraf said before and after her death that the lady had broken her promises. I have direct knowledge that my name was included in the list of people she felt she was threatened by but immediately after she landed here, she sent me a message and then another just three days before her assassination. She asked a source to tell General Sahib [Hamid Gul] to understand who got my name included. She said she would come to my house soon after the campaigning ended. She also told me through the source that haven't I noticed that she is not talking of AQ Khan. Everyone knows that the
Americans will never accept a populist leader, particularly in a Muslim country.

Tehelka: Isn't it one of Pakistan's essential problems - being willing to be led by the Americans?

GENERAL HAMID GUL: This is one of the fundamental contradictions in Pakistan's governance and political system. Unfortunately, you in India don't realise this. America wants to be the master not a friend.

Tehelka: Pakistan is often referred to as the most dangerous place on Earth. Does this bother you and the Pakistanis a great deal?

GENERAL HAMID GUL: The Americans call it a dangerous place because they have designs for Pakistan. The Israeli lobby will never rest in peace until they have snatched our nuclear weapons. In the 'war against terror', Pakistan is the target.

Tehelka: But the [Muslim] jehadi stranglehold is evident from the increasing number of 'suicide' attacks.

GENERAL HAMID GUL: That is pure and simple revenge. It is in Pashtun blood. It has nothing to do with Islam. These are revenge attacks. The girls who were burnt in Lal Masjid [Red Mosque] were from Swat [Pakistan]. I know that Lal Masjid inmates were ready to surrender.

Tehelka: The [Pakistan] Army and the ISI have not allowed democracy to take root, right?

GENERAL HAMID GUL: Partly the politicians have been responsible for this but it is true that the [Pakistan] Army has not allowed the politicians either. The Army is the strongest organ in the executive branch. Even now, when the judiciary rebelled, see how the Army fell upon it and strangulated it. And when the media started to side with the judiciary, they tried to kill the media too. This is the story of Pakistan.

Tehelka: Being a former [ISI] chief, you are absolving the ISI.

GENERAL HAMID GUL: It is the Army Chief who has had ambitions not the ISI. I have served the institution for 36 years and the ISI never wanted to have anything to do with politics. But the Army chiefs always wanted to enjoy power. He doles out ambassadorial posts after retirement and allocates housing plots, agricultural land.

Tehelka: You are willing to concede the Army's hold over the Pakistan polity. What about the ISI?

GENERAL HAMID GUL: The ISI is a branch related to security. The first line of defence has to be handled by the intelligence agency so it continues to grow in power. The ISI has played an important role and it has in its charter - through a prime ministerial decree signed by [assassinated Prime Minister] Zulfiqar [Ali] Bhutto - a political cell, so the politicians are at fault and the Army Chief and his coterie of generals are at fault.

Tehelka: The Indian Army has never had political ambitions.

GENERAL HAMID GUL: I will not reveal the names now but some Indian generals were seriously thinking of emulating the Pakistani model, especially after Operation Blue Star. I agree, the political leadership of India was far more mature and committed to the idea of democracy than the leadership of Pakistan, after Quaid-e-Azam [Mohammad Ali Jinnah] and [assassinated Prime Minister] Liaquat Ali Khan.

Tehelka: Please reveal the names [of all Indian Army generals who wanted to overthrow the Indian Government and rule India directly through the Indian Army].

GENERAL HAMID GUL: I will not. That's my choice.

Tehelka: The common Pakistani feels let down by its politicians who are willing to go into exile instead of fighting it out. So, the Establishment does dominate?

GENERAL HAMID GUL: This is true because they have been the products of the [Pakistan] Army. The political leadership here is brought up and nurtured by the Army, including Mr. Bhutto. He used to call [dead General Muhammad] Ayub Khan, daddy. They were brought up under the shadow of the military generals and they did not have the guts to stand up to them.

Tehelka: So unless America understands the need for real [civilian] democracy in Pakistan, you don't think that it will happen?

GENERAL HAMID GUL: Understand? They [Bush-Cheney regime] do understand but it does not serve their interest. They know it but they have helped destroy the very institutions on which a democracy is built. When you destroy the judiciary, when you limit the jurisdiction of the
legislation and gag the media then where are the pillars on which the edifice of democracy is going to be built?

Tehelka: How does the future of Pakistan improve?

GENERAL HAMID GUL: By saying no to America. And I believe that is not difficult. America is not being able to handle even a country like Afghanistan. What are they going to do? Attack us? Do they have the troops to attack? At the most they can bomb a few places. Let them, we
will come back to life.

Tehelka: How important is it for Musharraf to step down?

GENERAL HAMID GUL: It is essential for the success of Pakistan because we are otherwise drifting towards a chaotic civil war kind of situation, like the Iranian Revolution. One man is being supported by America against the will of an entire nation.

Tehelka: If he is so unpopular, why is the Pakistani street not more proactive?

GENERAL HAMID GUL: Because the two largest political parties [PPP and PML-N] decided, even after the assassination of Benazir Bhutto, not to take on Musharraf. That's my point. Get the America factor out of the way and we will be okay. No one is wiser than the victim and I think we are getting wiser.

Source: Tehelka Magazine - Vol. 5, Issue 4 - Saturday, 2 February 2008 - New Delhi, India.

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