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Bush Appeals to Musharraf to End Pakistan’s Political Crisis

November 7, 2007 at 6:10 PM EST
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LINDSEY HILSUM, ITV News Correspondent: “Go, Musharraf, Go.” Benazir Bhutto supporters in Islamabad today. They weren’t going anywhere, because the police blocked the road to the national assembly, where they’d hoped to take their protest. Some tried to push through the barricades, but the police pushed backed, using force at times.

This is a relatively small crowd, but Benazir Bhutto is now expecting to bring many more out on the streets. She’s increasing the pressure on President Musharraf to take off his army uniform, to stick to the agreement they had before, and hold elections in mid-January.

She arrived at her Islamabad headquarters this morning to meet smaller parties. She’s the only major opposition leader who isn’t in exile, under arrest, or in hiding. President Musharraf needs her to provide some semblance of democratic process, so she set out her terms: He must retire as army chief and hold parliamentary elections as planned.

BENAZIR BHUTTO, Former Pakistani Prime Minister: And if this is not done, then from November 13th, we will start a long march from Lahore through to Islamabad, to (inaudible) in Islamabad, where we will do a sit-in to demand the restoration of our constitution.

PROTESTORS: Go, Musharraf, go! Go, Musharraf, go!

LINDSEY HILSUM: There were also protests in Lahore, stronghold of the Muslim League, the party of exiled former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif. These are the first opposition political demonstrations. Some protestors met the same fate as the hundreds of lawyers arrested in the last two days.

President Musharraf was seen on state TV in casual attire today, addressing his national assembly. They passed resolutions congratulating him and endorsing the state of emergency. His parliamentary supporters say the public doesn’t share the anger of opposition political activists.

The lawyers were out again, today joined by students. Benazir Bhutto has called for all lawyers and judges to be released from detention, but more were arrested. As dusk fell, police fired tear gas to disperse her supporters.

So far, the demonstrations have been small, but she’s hoping to defy General Musharraf and bring tens of thousands out on Friday to show that he may control the organs of state, but she has the support of the people.

Release of protest detainees

Hina Jilani
Human Rights Commission of Pakistan
He has placed judges of the superior judiciary under house arrest. He has placed human rights activists under house arrest and put them behind bars.

JIM LEHRER: And to Margaret Warner for Pakistan takes two and three.

MARGARET WARNER: First, we go to Hina Jilani, a Pakistani lawyer and vice chair of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan. It's a nonprofit organization that monitors human rights violations and fights them through public campaigns and legal action. The Pakistan government issued a warrant putting her under house arrest when the crackdown began, but she was abroad. And she joins us from London.

Hina Jilani, thank you for being with us. Have you been able to talk to either your sister, who's under house arrest in Pakistan, or any of the people who have been detained? And if so, what have they told you?

HINA JILANI, Human Rights Commission: Well, I did speak to some of the people who were released last night after two-and-a-half days of detention. These were human rights activists who were arrested from a meeting at the premises of the Human Rights Commission on Sunday. They were shuttled between prison, police stations, and private homes, where they had been detained, almost 70 of them, who were released last night.

MARGARET WARNER: Now, President Musharraf, General Musharraf has said he needed to do this because he needed a freer hand in dealing with the threat of extremists and then terrorism. What do you say to that?

HINA JILANI: Well, in Pakistan today, there are almost 3,000 people who have been arrested since Saturday. I challenge President Musharraf to show me one terrorist amongst them.

He has placed judges of the superior judiciary under house arrest. He has placed human rights activists under house arrest and put them behind bars. He has beaten lawyers on the streets and filled up the prisons of Pakistan with hundreds of lawyers. So I think that, in itself, gives the lie to what he's saying.

The environment of instability that he has created, in fact, seems to be helping the terrorists' agenda, because that's what they want. They want chaos in Pakistan, and General Musharraf seems to be playing their game.

MARGARET WARNER: Now, General Musharraf did say that the Supreme Court, in particular, had overstepped its bounds, was undermining the fight against extremism by, for instance, ordering some terrorism suspects -- who I believe had been held without charges -- ordering them to be released. Your organization helped bring some of those cases. Did the court overstep?

HINA JILANI: I think that General Musharraf needs to check his facts, and he needs to clarify this to the world that he cannot use his own interpretations of what the Supreme Court has done in order to uphold human rights and fundamental freedoms.

The cases regarding the disappearances that the Supreme Court had taken, in none of those cases did the Supreme Court order the release of anybody who had been charged with terrorism. The Supreme Court, by acting in aid of human rights and for the protection of human rights, does not free terrorists. There is not a single judgment of the Supreme Court in that case letting any of the terrorists go.

MARGARET WARNER: Now, you were just in New York, because you also have a position as a special representative to the U.N. secretary-general on human rights. And my question is about the international response to this, from Europe, from the United States, from the United Nations. Has there been enough pressure, in your view, from the international community on General Musharraf?

HINA JILANI: I think that there has been pressure, but not enough. It is obvious that General Musharraf is taking more and more encouragement from the diluted response that the international community is giving, to the unacceptable situation that he has created in Pakistan.

It is the responsibility of everyone, from the international community and inside Pakistan, to make sure that those who are defending human rights are also protected themselves. Today in Pakistan, it is human rights defenders, whether they are as lawyers, as judges, or as human rights activists, who have become the first target of General Musharraf's martial law that he imposed on Saturday.

Trying to sustain the movement

Hina Jilani
Human Rights Commission of Pakistan
I encourage anybody, including Benazir Bhutto, to take a step in the right direction and not just insist on elections, but make sure that any elections ... are held in an environment in which the constitution has been restored.

MARGARET WARNER: So what is your next step in trying to resist this? And how much harder is it, because so many of your leaders, at least in the lawyers' movement, are now in jail?

HINA JILANI: Yes, it is hard. I do see the difficulties that we are confronted with. Nevertheless, I think it is the resolve and the commitment of the lawyers that will make sure that the movement is sustained.

I think, as time goes on, the movement will become stronger rather than weaker, and I think that General Musharraf knows this, and that is why he has unleashed this reign of terror and repression which he thinks will, in some way, intimidate people to a degree where he will get the silence that he wants.

Unfortunately, that is not what the lawyers did a few months ago when they mounted a movement for the independence of the judiciary. And I think that it is time that General Musharraf realizes that.

MARGARET WARNER: Now, what about Benazir Bhutto's role here? Today, she did call on her supporters to essentially take to the streets. They're going to have an event Friday, and she's threatening another one Tuesday. But have you been disappointed in the reaction thus far, though, of the opposition parties, or is this the natural way in which it builds?

HINA JILANI: No, it's not natural. I think that political leadership has been slow in acting, whatever the reasons for that may be. I am, of course, very tempted to slip back into cynicism.

But at the same time, I do feel that the political parties need to be given a message, that they do have a role in re-establishing a political process. That is the only way that Pakistan can save itself from the military and the militants.

So I encourage anybody, including Benazir Bhutto, to take a step in the right direction and not just insist on elections, but make sure that any elections that are announced or are held are held in an environment in which the constitution has been restored, above all, the judiciary has been restored, and human rights and fundamental freedoms have been restored, and the civil society, the lawyers and those who are fighting for the progress and democracy, are safe and are able to undertake their activities for the promotion and protection of human rights.

Without this, elections will have no credibility. There is a truncated judiciary today which has no confidence of the people and has no credibility. In these conditions, any elections that take place will, obviously, be a farce, and Benazir Bhutto has been asking for fair and free elections. I think that she is too astute not to realize that this is not an environment in which she will get fair and free elections.

MARGARET WARNER: All right, Hina Jilani, vice chair of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, thank you so much.

HINA JILANI: Thank you.

Short-term measure for stability

Mahmud Ali Durrani
Pakistan Ambassador
There is an air of instability. And this measure was necessary, unfortunately. I wish it had not been done, but it was a necessary measure to bring back stability in Pakistan.

MARGARET WARNER: Now, for the Pakistan government's view, we turn to its ambassador to the United States, Mahmud Ali Durrani. He's a former general in the Pakistani army.

And welcome, Mr. Ambassador.

MAHMUD ALI DURRANI, Pakistani Ambassador to the United States: Thank you very much.

MARGARET WARNER: What is your response to critics, like Hina Jilani or members of Congress today, who say that what President Musharraf has done has actually jeopardized Pakistan's stability, not enhanced it?

MAHMUD ALI DURRANI: No, I totally disagree with that. And I think this short-term measure, as I call it, this emergency is to address that problem, and that is bring back stability. I think that is the fundamental issue, which is of great importance to Pakistan, to the Pakistanis, and to the world in general.

So it is basically to bring back stability in Pakistan. If you have been following events in Pakistan, which you have, you know what is happening in FATA. That is our tribal area. You know what is happening in Suat. You know all the suicide bombings that are going on.

There is an air of instability. And this measure was necessary, unfortunately. I wish it had not been done, but it was a necessary measure to bring back stability in Pakistan.

MARGARET WARNER: But how does arresting hundreds or thousands of human rights lawyers and activists, who are mostly from the secular middle, how does that aid in the battle against Islamic extremism?

MAHMUD ALI DURRANI: Well, of course, there is a linkage, of course. If you see the end, then you don't see it. But if you see the linkage, what had happened that the Supreme Court had, I think, gone beyond its mandate.

Now, I heard Hina Jilani, but I disagree with her: 61 terrorists who were taken by the government, they were freed by the Supreme Court, (inaudible) to action. And what happened was some of them are back on the street.

Similarly, I think the Red Mosque brigade, the Supreme Court put back the same family in charge of the mosque which had created the whole problem. Another incident was there was a ladies madrassa, Jamia Hafsa, which the government wanted to destroy. No, the Supreme Court came in and said, no, it will be established.

So there were a number of issues that where the Supreme Court had stepped in, and because the Supreme Court had stepped in, and the government put on emergency, the lawyers came out, Pakistan government did not want any law and order situation, so they arrested some lawyers, then the human rights activists, but they are back in their homes.

MARGARET WARNER: You're saying everybody has been released?

MAHMUD ALI DURRANI: The human rights activists, yes.

MARGARET WARNER: But not the lawyers?

MAHMUD ALI DURRANI: Most of them have; some of them are under detention.

MARGARET WARNER: Now, many of Musharraf's critics point out that the very night he imposed or day he imposed emergency rule, Saturday, at the same time agreed to this deal and freed all kinds of Taliban, people who had been actually convicted of terrorist-related activity, freed them in the swap for some hostages, army hostages.

MAHMUD ALI DURRANI: No, no. That is incorrect, except there is some partial truth, and these are partial stories. You know, 240 or some army personnel were captured by the Taliban in south Waziristan, which is deeply unfortunate. So to get them back, he had to have some deal. On the other hand, he has gone full blast in north Waziristan. He's gone full blast in Suat. And we are fighting the terrorists as we talk.

MARGARET WARNER: Now, you called this a "short-term measure." When will emergency rule be lifted?

MAHMUD ALI DURRANI: The president has already made the statement. I think this is a matter of days when this emergency will be lifted. He has made this commitment already: The emergency will be lifted, he will doff his uniform, and the elections will be held as soon as possible.

MARGARET WARNER: You're saying, in a matter of days, he will end this emergency rule?

MAHMUD ALI DURRANI: Days, it may go into a week or two, but I don't think more. This is my assessment.

Question of parliamentary elections

Mahmud Ali Durrani
Pakistan Ambassador
I think where we are together is to fight the war on terror. And I say this is where your focus should be, that to fight the war on terror, and I think Pakistan is doing a great job.

MARGARET WARNER: And then you said -- is he still committed to holding the parliamentary elections in mid-January, as was originally expected?

MAHMUD ALI DURRANI: Yes, yes.

MARGARET WARNER: He is?

MAHMUD ALI DURRANI: Yes.

MARGARET WARNER: And when is he going to take off his uniform?

MAHMUD ALI DURRANI: Before he becomes, takes order as the new president. He has already been elected by the parliament. And now, as soon as his case is cleared by the Supreme Court, and when he takes our oath as the president, he will take our oath as the civilian president of Pakistan.

MARGARET WARNER: Now, when he lifts the emergency rule order, will it be a full restoration of the constitution? Will he restore the judiciary as it was?

MAHMUD ALI DURRANI: It will restore the judiciary. It will be a full, you know, restoration of the constitution. No doubt about it.

MARGARET WARNER: But not the same Supreme Court?

MAHMUD ALI DURRANI: No. Obviously not, because the same Supreme Court, there's a new set of judges. They have sworn into the PCO, and those...

MARGARET WARNER: That's the temporary order?

MAHMUD ALI DURRANI: Yes, temporary order, yes, and probably they will be the judges, and maybe some more.

MARGARET WARNER: President Bush called President Musharraf today and spoke to him -- we just saw a clip of that...

MAHMUD ALI DURRANI: Yes. Yes.

MARGARET WARNER: ... and urged him to take off his uniform and schedule the elections. Does something like that, does a call from President Bush have an impact on President Musharraf?

MAHMUD ALI DURRANI: Well, it's important, because Bush is a friend of -- President Bush is a friend of President Musharraf. He's a close ally. Of course it means something, because when a friend calls and offers advice, one takes it.

MARGARET WARNER: But we heard Deputy Secretary of State John Negroponte say today, in fact, the Bush administration advised against this and you didn't follow their advice.

MAHMUD ALI DURRANI: No, no. Pakistan is not a state of the United States, OK? It's not another state that we take every dictate. We need to understand that. But good advice, when valid and when acceptable, it's taken. But it is not a mandate that it should be -- it's not an order. As I said, we're not a state of the United States. We're an independent country.

MARGARET WARNER: When someone like Negroponte says today -- I can't remember if his exact word was "distressed" or we have disagreement on what he did, but it shouldn't translate into disengagement. Now, how do you read that?

MAHMUD ALI DURRANI: Well, I think that's a very, very sensible statement. They were not happy; I can understand that. A lot of people are not happy. But what he means is that Pakistan is doing something good. They are fighting the war on terror. Besides that, he made a statement, all the good things that Musharraf has done.

MARGARET WARNER: My question is, how is that read in Islamabad, that basically Musharraf can choose his own timeframe here? Or is there a sense that the U.S. is really putting some serious pressure?

MAHMUD ALI DURRANI: Elizabeth, I don't think...

MARGARET WARNER: Margaret.

MAHMUD ALI DURRANI: ... it's the U.S. pressure which is pushing him. It is his own agenda. He wants to move forward. He wants to move ahead with democracy. He wants a full civilian, democratic dispensation, so this is his own agenda.

MARGARET WARNER: Part of your job here is to read the mood of Congress.

MAHMUD ALI DURRANI: Yes.

MARGARET WARNER: There were many members today calling for restrictions on the aid, restricting the F-15, F-16 deliveries. How do you read that? Do you think the aid's in jeopardy?

MAHMUD ALI DURRANI: I really don't think so, because I listened to the interview and the questions by most of the senators, and this was a mixed bag. Some of the senators did say that he is a strong ally. Do not do things that you have done in the past to destroy an ally, and then you cry over what you've done.

So there was a lot of different views. And I take it, I'm sure, that people will realize here that the important thing is to support the government of Pakistan.

And what does the U.S. really want? Does it want to run the Pakistani government for Pakistanis? I think there are 160 million Pakistanis. They will do a good job. I think where we are together is to fight the war on terror. And I say this is where your focus should be, that to fight the war on terror, and I think Pakistan is doing a great job.

MARGARET WARNER: Ambassador Mahmud Ali Durrani, thank you so much.

MAHMUD ALI DURRANI: You're welcome.