TOPICS > Politics

The View From Pakistan with Maleeha Lodhi

January 11, 2002 at 12:00 AM EDT


RAY SUAREZ: Tensions between India and Pakistan have been rising sharply ever since Kashmiri militants attacked India’s parliament building in New Delhi on December 13. Both sides have been mobilizing their military forces along the borders, and there has been steady shelling between the armies. For Pakistan’s perspective, we go to Maleeha Lodhi, Pakistan’s ambassador to Washington. Welcome to the program.


RAY SUAREZ: How would you describe your government’s efforts against terrorism in the month since those attacks in Delhi?

MALEEHA LODHI: Well, I think we have to look at my government’s response and my country’s response to terrorism for the last several decades. We have always been opposed to terrorism in all its forms and manifestations. More recently, as you know, we have been a partner with the global coalition as a front-line state battling terrorism in neighboring Afghanistan. We have demonstrated by our actions, not just words, our commitment to fighting terrorism because Pakistan itself has been a victim of terrorism for such a long period of time. So I think we have to put this issue in perspective. We have to look at the long history, and we have in this situation also to distinguish between terrorism, which Pakistan condemns unequivocally, and the issue of self-determination as it affects the people of Kashmir.

RAY SUAREZ: Well last night on this program, the Home Minister of India, Mr. Advani, called the groups that have been suppressed most recently by your government — Lashkar e-Tayyiba and Jaish-e-Mohammed — state-sponsored terrorist organizations, saying that they were outfitted, trained, supplied, funded by the government of Pakistan. Is that so?

MALEEHA LODHI: Well, I’m not here really…Mr. Advani’s views are very well known, and his combative style is also very well known in his own country as indeed to us in the region. The important issue is that my country and my government has been committed…we have committed ourselves to fighting terrorism. And it is in that regard that we have cracked down on groups within Pakistan, which have been carrying out terrorist acts. We reject the use of violence to achieve political ends, and President Musharraf, ever since he assumed power two years ago, has been embarked on a course to return Pakistan to the vision of its founding father, which is a vision of a moderate, progressive and Muslim Pakistan.

And what we’re trying to do, in order to realize this vision of our founding father, is to ensure that we promote a tolerant society and that the law comes down hard on those groups within our society that have been promoting intolerance and have been slugging it out in the streets of Pakistan, as it were. Two sectarian extremist groups were banned by my country well before the events of 9/11 or the 12th of December. So we have been embarked on this course for quite some time.

RAY SUAREZ: The decision to de-link Pakistan from its support for Taliban in Afghanistan, how is that part of your country’s overall perspective about the use of violence to achieve political ends in that region?

MALEEHA LODHI: Well, as I explained to you before, the very first speech that President Musharraf made when he assumed power just over two years ago, was in rededicating Pakistan to the vision of the founding father, which was that we must make Pakistan a modern, moderate, progressive Islamic country, and that those elements within our society who tried to hijack my country, to implement an agenda which has nothing to do with the vision of our founding fathers, we had to reclaim Pakistan from such elements, and that’s exactly what we have been trying to do domestically. We have been embarked on a domestic program where we can ensure that there is a tolerant society and that there is a society where there is respect for the rule of law and that the rule of law applies equally to everybody in our society.

RAY SUAREZ: Taking a look at the border, the world was looking on with a great deal of concern as two nuclear powers massed forces on their border, looked like they were preparing for war. What is the situation on that border today? Is it more peaceful than it was a week or two ago?

MALEEHA LODHI: Well, it’s a very dangerous situation. The subcontinent is on hair trigger a lot. And we must step back and ask the question who initiated the military buildup in South Asia? Who amassed tens of thousands of troops on the border? The answer to those questions is that it was India which began this military buildup and then began, through a process of military intimidation, and military threats. You referred in your news broadcast earlier to the statement made earlier today by the Indian army chief in which he threatened war upon Pakistan. We feel this is not the way to resolve our differences. This is not an act of responsibility by a nuclear power, India, confronting another nuclear power, Pakistan.

The path that we must follow, and Pakistan has assured utmost restraint and utmost responsibility, is the path of dialogue, to use diplomatic and political means to resolve our outstanding differences. You know, we must remember the issue of Kashmir did not come about to the 12th or 13th of December. This is a 50-year-old issue. This issue cannot be stripped of its historical, legal and moral content.

There are U.N. Security Council Resolutions calling for India and Pakistan to ensure that the destiny of the Kashmiri people be determined by the Kashmiris themselves. India, I’m afraid, has violated and in fact not kept to its solemn pledges that it made 50 years ago to ensure that the people of Kashmir have a right to determine their destiny. All we ask for is that the Kashmiris be allowed to decide their own destiny. The issue of self-determination cannot be confused with the issue of terrorism. We reject terrorism; we renounce terrorism; we condemn terrorism.

But at the same time, India must also ensure that it’s occupying forces within Kashmir stop the violence that has led to the cycle of violence that has gone on in this beautiful valley that has been reduced to ashes because of the kind of the kind of repressive policies that have been pursued by the Indian government for over half a century. I think if peace is to return to South Asia, the issue of Kashmir must be addressed and we must find a peaceful resolution. My government, my country stands for a peaceful resolution of the Kashmir issue.

RAY SUAREZ: Well, I’m wondering what that might look like because both sides have talked about settling this through dialogue, but both sides also seem to hold totally contradictory, mutually canceling out visions of what a future Kashmir might look like.

MALEEHA LODHI: Well, I agree entirely with you. I think efforts bilaterally to resolve this issue have come to naught. It’s sad and unfortunate. That’s why we must find international means, the interstate community has a role to play here, be it through mediation, be it through some kind of quiet intercession where the international community must play a role to resolve this long-standing issue on the basis of the principle of self-determination.

If India claims that it is the largest democracy in the world, why does it deny democracy to the people of Kashmir? Why is it that U.N. Security Council resolutions, which have been on the U.N. books for over half a century are not implemented? We don’t think that the world should pursue double standards. We don’t think that some U.N. Security Council resolutions should be more important than others. It is time for the U.N. also to deliver on its obligation. It has longstanding obligations on the issue of Kashmir. I might also add here there are ways in which the two countries can pursue a political and a negotiated settlement of the issue of Kashmir. We propose three parameters with which a solution can be pursued.

RAY SUAREZ: Briefly, please.

MALEEHA LODHI: And very quickly, those three parameters are one: to agree that there can be no military solution to Kashmir; and second, to ensure that a solution is acceptable to the people of Kashmir; and third, to also ensure that the status quo, which is part of the problem, to agree that the status quo cannot be part of the solution. I think within these three parameters, there is room for negotiation between the two countries and my country stands ready, able and willing to sit at the negotiating table but I have to tell you with sadness and sorrow that we are sitting alone on the negotiating table. India continues to spurn dialogue with Pakistan and that is not a responsible way to act.

RAY SUAREZ: Your president is making a speech tomorrow. Might we hear more on this very subject, a comprehensive view of the region? Briefly, please.

MALEEHA LODHI: We certainly hope in a few hours we will be hearing the speech. It will be hard for me to second-guess what he is going to say, but he will continue to call for dialogue. He will continue to call for a peaceful settlement. That’s what Pakistan stands for.

RAY SUAREZ: Ambassador Lodhi, thank you for joining us.