Washington — Notwithstanding American denials, Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf considers what a senior US official conveyed to Islamabad in the wake of Sep 11, 2001 attack on World Trade Center was certainly “a threat”.
After 9/11, Pakistan’s director of intelligence told him about the stark message from then Deputy Secretary of State Richard L. Armitage: “be prepared to be bombed – be prepared to go back to stone age,” he said on CBS ’60 minutes’ programme aired Sunday night.
Asked if he felt insulted by the remark and whether he took it as a threat, Musharraf said, “I thought it was a very rude remark” adding “It was a threat, certainly.”
But what he did was what he thought was in the interest of Pakistan, he said. For he believed that after 9/11, “US would be a wounded country, a wounded sole superpower. And if we stand in the way we are going to suffer.”
Armitage has denied that he used the words attributed to him in Musharraf’s autobiography, “In the Line of Fire”. The Pakistani leader himself avoided a comment on it at a White House press meet Friday citing a commitment to his publisher, Simon & Schuster, not to speak about it before its launch Monday in New York.
The US media described this attitude as “odd” and “bizarre” considering that Simon & Schuster is also owned by CBS which had aired the controversial teaser from the interview on the eve of Musharraf’s meeting with President George W. Bush.
It also earned him the epithet of “Ambassador to Simon & Schuster” from The Los Angeles Times which editorially suggested Sunday that his “refusal to discuss an allegation in his upcoming autobiography spells trouble for diplomacy.”
“At a time when the developing world is protesting what it sees as US unilateralism and bullying – as evidenced by the stark anti-American speeches (and their friendly reception) at last week’s annual United Nations General Assembly session – Musharraf’s claim threw gasoline on the bonfire,” it said.
“Yet rather than discuss and help resolve the matter during his US visit, Musharraf decided instead simply to plug his upcoming autobiography. Of course, there might be more behind Musharraf’s reticence than a shameless ploy to sell books,” the Times said suggesting that “Pakistan’s president is in a very difficult jam.”
In other comments, Musharraf said Pakistan had become a “boiling pot” (of terrorism) because of what has happened over the last 26 years when US, Saudi Arabia and Pakistan together backed the Taliban to fight the Soviets. Now those very Taliban had transformed into Al Qaeda.
In the changed environment, the Taliban and Al Qaeda should be defeated “absolutely -100 percent”, he said.
He was disappointed and “annoyed” that seven of the suspects arrested in the foiled plot to blow up US bound planes had “linkages with Pakistan.” But they are not Pakistani. Born and brought up in Britain, they are British.
Asked about Afghanistan president Hamid Karzai’s charges that terrorist elements in his country could be getting help from inside Pakistan, Musharraf said, “Yes, indeed people could be coming here and going back on their own. And we’ll act against them.”
Bush is hosting an unusual dinner for Musharraf and Karzai together Wednesday to resolve differences between the two allies who have been trading charges against each other openly.
Security issues will doubtless dominate the agenda as the fighting in Afghanistan has grown more intense than any time since the fall of the Taliban in 2001, largely because as Karzai says militants trained and armed in Pakistan are freely crossing the border.