NEW DELHI: Former president Pervez Musharraf, commenting on al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden’s undiscovered presence in Pakistan, said it was the negligence of the army and intelligence agencies and not their complicity.
“Our intelligence agencies were sleeping,” he said during the Hindustan Times Leadership Summit in New Delhi. Indian TV anchor Karan Thapar replied to this statement sarcastically and said that India wished the intelligence agencies sweet dreams.
Musharraf bluntly criticised the intelligence agencies but also said that the CIA, with all its resources and technology, was also not able to uncover plans of 11 young men who had hijacked their planes from four places and crashed them into the World Trade Centre.
Return to Pakistan
During the summit, Musharraf was brief but emphatic about his political plans in Pakistan. “I will decide when I have to return [to Pakistan]. No one else will. I have to make sure that the momentum is right.”
He added that there is an elected government in Pakistan and the time has to be right for him to return.
Musharraf said that the outstanding issues between India and Pakistan – like Sir Creek and Siachen – were at an advanced stage of negotiation, and if there was the will (or ‘neeyat’, as he called it), they could have been resolved ‘yesterday’.
He also said that India and Pakistan had to think out of the box to resolve their differences and they had even come close to doing so at least twice during his own tenure. But as the bigger nation, the onus was on India to show more generosity, he maintained.
The former president also held the intelligence agencies and bureaucrats responsible for acting as roadblocks in the normalisation of relations between India and Pakistan, and said that a four-point agreement on critical issues between the countries had nearly concluded but could not be operationalised.
Need to 'bury the hatchet'
Musharraf said that nuclear-armed India and Pakistan need to "bury the hatchet" and settle their differences to reduce poverty and ease tensions in the region.
Musharraf fought against India in the 1965 and 1971 wars and led Pakistan's army in the 1999 Kargil conflict in which militants infiltrated Indian Kashmir.
"We need to resolve the long-standing disputes between India and Pakistan because these are the causes of hatred, causes of conflict and the wars," Musharraf told a media conference in New Delhi. "It's doable."
Musharraf, who ruled Pakistan as a military dictator and later as a civilian president between 1999 and 2008, said the issues between Pakistan and India need to be resolved for the socio-economic development of South Asia, home to hundreds of millions of people living in poverty.
"It is high time we open our eyes to reality," said Musharraf, who had come up with a demilitarisation plan to solve the Kashmir dispute.
"We need to bury the hatchet."
But "compromise should come from the bigger party. India should have a big heart because it is the bigger country," he said.
Musharraf said that all outstanding disputes between Indian and Pakistan should be dealt with at the same time rather than following a "step-by-step" process.
Chief among the conflicts to be settled is the disputed Himalayan region of Kashmir, he said.
"This is actually the root cause which spawns not only war" but also "religious militancy in Pakistan," Musharraf stated at the Hindustan Times Leadership Summit.
Kashmir was plagued by violence for decades as militants fought for the region to become independent or part of Pakistan. While violence has fallen sharply in recent years, simmering tensions remain.
On post-2014 Afghanistan, Musharraf made two points: the solution to Afghanistan laid in the Pakhtun leadership of the government instead of Tajik, Hazara or Panjshiri; and anyone who tried to turn Afghanistan against Pakistan would be taught a punishing lesson.
While rejecting the notion of Pakistani strategic depth in Afghanistan, Musharraf said that Pakistan was a victim of terrorism, but the world must understand the reasons of the origins of Afghan terrorism.
Post 2014, he saw three possibilities: Afghanistan could either go back to the pre-1989 days when the Soviets were still there and the ‘Mujahideen’ were fighting Warsaw pact forces resulting in Afghanistan and Pakistan having to fend for themselves and 12 warlords fighting all over Afghanistan; or post-1996 era when Taliban on the Pakistani side were fighting Panjshiris and Hazaras of the Northern Alliance; while the third was the raising of a capable Afghan National Army with the help of support equipment left behind by the US-led forces.