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Pakistani Police Clash Anew With Opposition Protesters

November 9, 2007 at 6:05 PM EDT
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LINDSEY HILSUM, ITV News Correspondent: Prepared for anything, this morning, the Pakistan police headed for Rawalpindi where Benazir Bhutto had called for a massive anti-government rally. But at the park where it was due to happen, no one, nothing.

The hawks circled. The cavalry were at ease. Police had blocked the roads into the town, and hundreds of Bhutto’s supporters were arrested overnight. The leader herself was behind barbed wire, confined to her house down an Islamabad side street, besieged by police, and feted by small bands of supporters.

Several of Bhutto’s party workers were arrested. Some were swiftly released, came back, and were arrested again. The party says 5,000 of its supporters have been picked up; the government says that’s an exaggeration.

One man arrived with a goat to sacrifice for luck. No incident was too bizarre for the hordes of waiting media.

Eventually, she was driven helter-skelter to the barricade to address the cameras.

Benazir Bhutto is urging the soldiers, the police to leave, to let them through, to let her hold her rally, but they’re saying, no, it’s not going to happen. She urged the president to end the state of emergency.

BENAZIR BHUTTO, Former Pakistani Prime Minister: How can they do this day after day? They can’t. How long can they keep these barbed wires? How long can they keep these blockades? Tomorrow these barbed wires will be removed, and tomorrow we will come forth again, and we will come forth again until our demands are met, until our aspirations are met, which is for a democratic Pakistan. We are trying to save Pakistan.

LINDSEY HILSUM: The government denied she was under house arrest, saying she was stopped for her own safety.

TARIQ AZIM, Deputy Information Minister, Pakistan: We have credible information that they may attack her again, as they did on the 18th of October when she arrived in Karachi. So I think it’s the duty of any government to ensure safety of all the citizens, and especially of somebody we know who has been targeted as her. So we put ourselves to not take out this rally. She refused to abide by that instructions, so we had to restrain her from moving out.

LINDSEY HILSUM: In Rawalpindi, a few handfuls of protestors got through, but quickly scattered.

Benazir Bhutto is positioning herself as the champion of the people, even though her period as prime minister was marred by ineptitude and corruption. But she’s dominating the debate now, putting President Musharraf on the back foot, and drawing huge international attention to her cause.

More troubles in Swat Valley

JUDY WOODRUFF: Lindsey Hilsum filed her story before Benazir Bhutto was free to move again.

While protesters in Pakistan's cities call on Musharraf to restore democracy, the president faces another challenge in the tribal hinterlands. Along the Afghan border, Islamic militants are battling government forces. In the Swat Valley there, more than 180 have died in the last two weeks, and thousands have fled their homes.

Alex Thomson of Independent Television News has this report.

ALEX THOMSON, ITV News Correspondent: Northwest Frontier province, the very name hints at its wild nature, and the writ of central government has never run far here, in these mountains which roll out across the long border with Afghanistan.

And yet until recently, this part of the province, Swat, has been relatively peaceful. Indeed, these hills contain Pakistan's only ski slope. But that's closed. Many villages here pockmarked with bullet holes and shell marks, and the villagers say they're packing up to leave.

ABDUL HUSSEIN, Mangora Villager (through translator): The situation's got worse. We've been told by the police to leave by late afternoon. We sent the women on already, and we've left home.

JOURNALIST (through translator): How did this war start?

ABDUL HUSSEIN (through translator): This war is between the mullahs and the army.

ALEX THOMSON: Pakistani helicopters quarter the barren mountains looking for targets. Army mortars explode around the valley sides. General Musharraf has failed yet again to control the militants, despite 100,000 troops and billions of dollars of U.S. aid, which is why these Taliban-style fighters here chant, "God is the greatest; the only superpower will fight until America is destroyed."

Armed militants here explain that local madrassas, religious schools, mosques and FM radio are the source of the rebellion. They've all been used to great effect by the rebellion's leader, Iman Maulana Fazlullah.

MULANA USMAN, Local Commander (through translator): All of our people agree with the teachings of Maulana Fazlullah. Whether you are male, female, young or old, everyone agrees. The great thing about this teaching is that women are now wearing burqas and young guys are growing beards.

ALEX THOMSON: Tea and biscuits, gun and ammunition, Maulana Fazlullah can deploy several thousand fighters across Swat now. They say they just want Islamic law and they're having to defend themselves against the aggression of the army.

ABDUL HUSSEIN (through translator): This assumption of the government that we are foreign fighters, well, they should prove it. By God, we're locals. None of us is a foreigner.

We're not against the government. We just want to establish the rule of the Koran here. And if the government won't let us do that, then we have to take up arms to defend ourselves.

ALEX THOMSON: These Taliban certainly speak with Pakistani, not Afghan accents. Episodes like this, where locals say a village mosque was mortared by the army, even though they say there were no Taliban here, hardly helped the cause of the Pakistani government.

And these fighters themselves continue to humiliate the army: 48 soldiers kidnapped and then handed over recently. The soldiers said they'd been treated well, but other captives have been beheaded.

And the fighting has been brutal. Hundreds killed and wounded on either side in a war neither can win outright. In recent weeks, the hospitals up and down the Swat Valley have been kept busy, walking wounded, stretcher cases, those caught in cross-fire, and those who were fighting. And all of this part of the justification General Musharraf has offered up for the current emergency.

U.S. stake in Pakistan

Robert Grenier
Former CIA Official
For quite some time, Pakistan has been our single most important ally in the war on terrorism. And so a destabilized Pakistan would be very bad news for us, indeed.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Margaret Warner has part three.

MARGARET WARNER: For an assessment of the dilemma the Pakistan crisis poses for the U.S. and how Washington should respond, we turn to two people who served in Pakistan during President Musharraf's tenure.

Wendy Chamberlin, a former career Foreign Service officer, was ambassador to Pakistan in 2001 and 2002. She's now president of the Middle East Institute.

And Robert Grenier, a career CIA officer, was CIA station chief in Islamabad from 1999 to 2002. He's now with Kroll Associates, a security consulting firm.

Welcome to you both for being with us.

We've just seen two pieces of instability in Pakistan, one in the capital, one in the hinterlands. What is at stake -- Wendy Chamberlin, let me begin with you -- for the U.S. in this unfolding drama over there?

WENDY CHAMBERLIN, Former U.S. Ambassador to Pakistan: I think there's enormous at stake in Pakistan for the United States. Pakistan sits in a very dangerous area. To the east, it's got an adversary who's armed, who's four times its side, who's armed with nuclear weapons. To the west, it's got Afghanistan, produces more than 90 percent of the world's heroin crop, and, of course, has an active war.

It's a stone's throw from the gulf, where oil is now running at $100 dollars a barrel. It's got a population that is about 50 percent illiterate and extremely poor. Extreme unrest, Muslim extremism, if it blows, it affects the whole region and affects us.

MARGARET WARNER: You agree? That's serious.

ROBERT GRENIER, Former CIA Station Chief: Yes, yes, I do. And right now, in fact, for quite some time, Pakistan has been our single most important ally in the war on terrorism. And so a destabilized Pakistan would be very bad news for us, indeed.

MARGARET WARNER: But then what does that tape from the Swat Valley say about how well President Musharraf has actually delivered on the promise on which this aid has been forthcoming to him and all this support?

ROBERT GRENIER: Well, I think what we see right now is a growing momentum on the part of religious extremists across-the-board in Pakistan. I think the situation took a very bad turn when we had the situation with the Red Mosque last July in Islamabad. That caused extremists in the tribal areas to break their agreement with the government. They've been essentially in open rebellion since. It has now spread to the Swat Valley.

And so I think it's all the more important that the moderate, secular center of Pakistan come together to resist this tide of Islamic extremism.

Stifling critical voices

MARGARET WARNER: But, of course, there right now seems to be no moderate secular center, that is, Musharraf and the democratic opposition are at loggerheads at the moment.

WENDY CHAMBERLIN: I think the real tragedy here is that Musharraf has declared war on the moderate center secularists. He's declared war on the educated political elite who, frankly, criticize him, but that is, after all, part of a democracy. And in doing so, I think he's destroyed a legacy that he could have been proud of, until last Saturday.

MARGARET WARNER: So how well do you think the Bush administration or how effectively has the Bush administration responded to this crisis so far this week, in terms of, at least, the public statements that we've seen?

ROBERT GRENIER: Well, in my view, I think that we got off to a rather bad start, because it seemed as though the message initially was this is a wink and a nod, there are certain things that we have to say, but we can carry on with business as usual.

The statements, obviously, have toughened since then. But I think a more fundamental thing is that we shouldn't be carrying out these negotiations in public. And I think part of the problem that we have right now is that there is no senior U.S. government official who has the sort of relationship of trust with General Musharraf that is really required in this situation.

WENDY CHAMBERLIN: Well, I would certainly agree with Bob. And I would say that the statement that General Musharraf is "indispensable" is not true. Our relationship with...

MARGARET WARNER: John Negroponte, deputy secretary of state, said that to Congress on Wednesday.

WENDY CHAMBERLIN: And the president, I believe, said it at one point, but Musharraf is not indispensable. Our relationship is with the Pakistani people, its process, its institutions, and that's what we'll be enduring. It's not with one man or one party or one institution.

MARGARET WARNER: So are you saying that you think the Bush administration, people in authority here in Washington, should make that clear even publicly?

WENDY CHAMBERLIN: Yes, very clear, very publicly, send a message to the Pakistani people that our relationship with them is enduring, that we will not cut aid that affects them. We may cut these big-ticket weapons system items. Fine. Musharraf likes to show those off.

This is a mistake that's been made, a coup made by one man for his own personal ambitions. And that's the target of our dimartius [ph]at this point.

MARGARET WARNER: But you think this should be done behind the scenes?

ROBERT GRENIER: Well, I think you have to have both. I absolutely agree with the ambassador that there needs to be a public posture of solidarity, if you will, with the Pakistan people. And included, there are certain things that have to be said by the administration for a public audience, both domestic and foreign.

But at the same time, I think it's very important that there be somebody in a senior position of government who can sit down with General Musharraf and make it very clear that what he's doing, in our view, is not only undermining U.S. foreign policy interests, it's undermining Pakistan.

MARGARET WARNER: Now, you have both met with and dealt with General President Musharraf. Draw on that experience. Give us your assessment of what's driving him now. What drove him to do this in the first place? Is it all about just holding onto power?

WENDY CHAMBERLIN: Well, he has always held a deep resentment towards political politicians. He once told me when I was ambassador there and pressed him to hold elections and move to civilian democracy, he says, "I'm fine with democracy. I want to have elections. I want to turn this government over to civilian, and anybody in Pakistan can run for office except two people: Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif."

And then he, in a very adamant way, talked about the corruption, and the ineptitude, and fecklessness of the government. So he thinks he can run it better than they can. I think that's what it gets to. It's a personal sense that only he can bring stability to this country, and I think he's wrong.

Musharraf's self-image

Wendy Chamberlin
Former U.S. Ambassador to Pakistan
Condi Rice was successful in August in persuading him not to declare martial law then. I know the government tried very hard before he declared martial law on Saturday. It didn't work.

MARGARET WARNER: So he thinks he's indispensable?

ROBERT GRENIER: I think that's right. I personally feel that there's still a strong link between President Musharraf and the good of the country. I would like to see him able to play a continuing role in Pakistan. But while the good of the country and General Musharraf are associated, they are not the same thing. And, unfortunately, in General Musharraf's mind, I think they are.

MARGARET WARNER: And have you seen examples of that in your dealings with him?

ROBERT GRENIER: Not so much in the relatively early days when I was there. I think...

MARGARET WARNER: You were there at the time of the coup?

ROBERT GRENIER: I was there at the time of the coup and up until 2002. I think that feeling, as often the case with essentially dictatorial rulers, I think has grown over time.

But there's another thing that I have noticed in the past in my dealings with General Musharraf and that I think is at play here, as well, and that is that General Musharraf is essentially a tactician. He doesn't tend to think in strategic terms. And I think that that tendency is manifesting itself again, and I don't think it's serving him well.

WENDY CHAMBERLIN: Can I just add one thing, too? Because he's a military man, and he's proud of being a military man who's reluctant to take off his uniform. But military men believe in unity of command. He's the boss, and it goes down, and it's clear.

Democracies are messy. Democracies are a bit chaotic. It's different groups bumping up against each other. And, frankly, there's strength in that. He doesn't understand it, I don't believe.

MARGARET WARNER: So how much leverage does the United States have with him at this point?

WENDY CHAMBERLIN: Well, I think what our leverage is -- I'm not sure how much leverage we have with him. Condi Rice was successful in August in persuading him not to declare martial law then. I know the government tried very hard before he declared martial law on Saturday. It didn't work.

I would think that there are other players that could be brought to leverage, not just the United States, but China, Saudi Arabia, others, as well.

MARGARET WARNER: What's your thought about the amount of leverage? I mean, think of all the military aid or aid to the Pakistani military that the U.S. sends. Does that not give the U.S. any leverage?

ROBERT GRENIER: It doesn't give us absolute leverage, but I think it certainly does give us influence, and I think considerable influence.

And I would very much agree with Ambassador Chamberlin that -- well, first of all, I think that we should put forward a timetable for a reduction in aid, but I think that those reductions should be targeted, that program-based economic assistance, for instance, should go forward. I think we need to go forward with programs that are focused specifically on counterterrorism.

But as the ambassador has just said, there are big-ticket military weapon systems and other forms of large-ticket military aid that means a great deal to the Pakistan military, the core commanders who support General Musharraf, and I think that those things should be on the block right now.

WENDY CHAMBERLIN: Margaret, there's something else I would take off the table. I'd take off invitations to the White House, and I'd take off sending high-level visitors out to Islamabad to meet with him. He likes that. There's no reason why that should continue.

MARGARET WARNER: All right, Wendy Chamberlin, Robert Grenier, thank you.

WENDY CHAMBERLIN: Thank you.

ROBERT GRENIER: You're welcome.