Musharraf defends country's terror record
Pakistan's former president defended his country's record on combating terrorism Friday, and said Pakistan hasn't received enough financial support or international credit in its fight against groups like al-Qaida and the Taliban.
"We have been a victim of terrorism," Pervez Musharraf told a capacity crowd in Memorial Auditorium. "It is wrong to think of Pakistan as a perpetrator, as a cause of terrorism."
Musharraf, who resigned his post in August under the threat of impeachment, was defensive about the money Pakistan received under his watch from Western countries in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. He said the $10 billion contributed by the United States was a miniscule amount compared to the funds given to Afghanistan and Iraq.
"There is no misuse of these funds," he said. "They are utilized. This is pittance for a country which is in the lead role to fight terrorism. We must get much more."
Throughout his hour-long speech, Musharraf kept returning to his comparison of terrorism to a tree. He insisted that trimming leaves and cutting away branches does nothing to keep either one from growing.
"We cannot stop their growing unless we attack the root," he said.
And at the root of terrorism is illiteracy, poverty and political alienation, he said. He said those issues are being exploited in Islamic countries by terrorists who can easily attract a new recruit with promises of heavenly glory in exchange for exploding themselves in a suicide bombing.
"You're told you go to heaven and everything is hunky-dory there," he said. "You're told you're going to be received there by the prophet. And he's illiterate enough to fall to this stupid propaganda."
He said Pakistan has taken the leading role in fighting al-Qaida and the Taliban, despite little support from the West. He traced his country's involvement with the Taliban to 1979, when the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan. With American encouragement, Pakistan helped arm the Taliban to fight the Soviets.
"Pakistan was the leader," Musharraf said. "You expected us to be a part of this jihad, and in many ways it was in our favor."
But after a decade of aiding the United States, Musharraf said Pakistan was left in the lurch. For 12 years, Pakistan was on its own to deal with Islamic extremists and increasing poverty while Europe gathered the spoils at the end of the Cold War.
"We got nothing," Musharraf said. "Everyone left us, abandoned us, and said, 'You're on your own.'"
It was during that time when Musharraf began his turbulent nine years running the country. He came to power as Pakistan's chief executive in 1999 following a military coup that ousted Nawaz Sharif, the elected prime minister. He appointed himself president in June 2001, and has dodged several assassination attempts.
After the Sept. 11 attacks on New York and Washington, Pakistan became an important—albeit unstable—American ally in fighting terrorism. Musharraf pledged to combat Islamic extremism, but he found himself juggling his Western partnership with criticism that Pakistan still maintained relationships with Taliban leaders and failed to control militants operating in the country and close to its borders.
Musharraf's power unraveled in 2007. With Pakistan's Supreme Court poised to invalidate his re-election as president in October, he jailed several of the court's justices, suspended the constitution and arrested thousands of his political opponents. Facing impeachment in August 2008, he announced his resignation during a televised address.
Fresh accusations that Pakistan is a safe haven for terrorists came after an attack late last year in India that left hundreds dead and injured. Indian authorities blame Lashkar-e-Taiba, a Pakistan-based militant group, for carrying out the mission.
The incident has brought relations between the nuclear-armed neighbors to a boil, and Musharraf warned against New Delhi's saber rattling.
"The people of India want war," he said. "The people of Pakistan do not want war, but will not shy away from war."
Musharraf drew sharp questions and criticism from students in a question-and-answer session following his talk.
"Why should we believe anything you said," one student, who said he was from India, asked after ticking off a litany of accusations against Musharraf ranging from political corruption to assisting terrorists.
"I don't agree with any of the words you said," the former president shot back. "It is your word against mine."
Musharraf's appearance was organized by Stanford in Government and the ASSU Speakers Bureau. It was co-sponsored by the Public Policy Program, Stanford in Washington, the Center for International Security and Cooperation, the Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies, the International Relations Program, the Abbasi Program in Islamic Studies, the Bechtel International Center, the Stanford Journal of International Relations and the Muslim Student Awareness Network.