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Regional Security Tops Pakistani Prime Minister’s Agenda

July 29, 2008 at 6:40 PM EST
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After a U.S. air strike killed a possible al-Qaida operative in Pakistan's tribal belt Monday, Pakistani Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani discusses the complexities of securing his country's border with Afghanistan.
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MARGARET WARNER: The U.S. has launched a number of unilateral strikes on militants in Pakistan in recent months. Just yesterday, a missile fired by an unmanned drone aircraft at a Pakistani border outpost killed six people. They included a man believed to be a top al-Qaida operative, an Egyptian-born chemical weapons expert.

I spoke to Prime Minister Gilani about all this today at a Washington hotel.

Welcome.

YOUSUF RAZA GILANI: Thank you.

MARGARET WARNER: Thanks for being with us. Yesterday, a U.S. missile struck a border outpost in Pakistan and killed six foreign fighters, including one believed to be a top al-Qaida operative. Did your government give permission for that strike?

YOUSUF RAZA GILANI: No.

MARGARET WARNER: And do you have any understanding with the U.S. government allowing those strikes?

YOUSUF RAZA GILANI: No. We believe in sovereignty of the country. And naturally, nobody likes it.

MARGARET WARNER: So the U.S. is violating your sovereignty when it launches a strike like that?

YOUSUF RAZA GILANI: We have discussed with them — I’ve given our strategy to them. If there is a credible or actionable information, and you give it to us, we’ll perform the duty ourselves. And in future, there would be more cooperation on the intelligence side.

Leaders agree to share intelligence

Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani
Pakistan
I discussed with the president, and he has agreed that there should be more cooperation on the intelligence side between Pakistan and United States. And if there is any credible and actionable information, then we will hit ourselves.

MARGARET WARNER: Did you protest this strike when you met with President Bush yesterday? Did you raise it with him?

YOUSUF RAZA GILANI: Certainly, I said yesterday that there should be more cooperation between the intelligence agencies and a credible, actionable information should be given so that we shall take the action ourselves, because we believe in our sovereignty.

MARGARET WARNER: So what did the president respond?

YOUSUF RAZA GILANI: He agreed with me that there should be a greater cooperation intelligence side, and he, in a joint press conference, admitted for the sovereignty of Pakistan.

MARGARET WARNER: Did President Bush agree that in the future, if there's actionable intelligence, the U.S. military will first tell the Pakistani military and give you a chance to act on it?

YOUSUF RAZA GILANI: Yes.

MARGARET WARNER: He did?

YOUSUF RAZA GILANI: Yes.

MARGARET WARNER: Are you saying that, from this day forward, there's a new U.S. policy that it is not going to launch attacks, such as the one they did yesterday, we did yesterday?

YOUSUF RAZA GILANI: No, I discussed with the president, and he has agreed that there should be more cooperation on the intelligence side between Pakistan and United States. And if there is any credible and actionable information, then we will hit ourselves.

I hinted or discussed with in detail that we have the will. But at the same time, we don't have the capacity. So for the capacity, we should have the devices so that, if there is a credible information in my own country, then we'll hit ourselves, if somebody is the most wanted person and a militant.

MARGARET WARNER: Now, you said you lack the means. What is it specifically you lack?

YOUSUF RAZA GILANI: Predator and at the same...

MARGARET WARNER: A Predator drone?

YOUSUF RAZA GILANI: And, at the same time, there are FM systems in Pakistan from which the militants carry the information. And we don't have the devices to jam the system.

MARGARET WARNER: You're talking about FM radio?

YOUSUF RAZA GILANI: FM radio. And through that, the militants get the information, but we don't have the devices to jam the FMs.

MARGARET WARNER: And are you going to be leaving Washington with any additional -- promises of additional equipment or assistance...

YOUSUF RAZA GILANI: Certainly, yes. Certainly.

Situation on border is disputed

Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani
Pakistan
I want to inform you that it is not a U.S. war. It is a war of Pakistan itself. We have lost a great leader, Benazir Bhutto, because of the militants. And they assassinated her. And, therefore, we take it as our own war.

MARGARET WARNER: There were reports in the Pakistani press that, at a meeting I think nine days ago, a cabinet meeting, that you received, you and your government received reports that there are now 8,000 foreign fighters in the tribal areas. Is that right?

YOUSUF RAZA GILANI: No, not like this.

MARGARET WARNER: How many do you think there are?

YOUSUF RAZA GILANI: No. Actually, I think this is a disinformation. And if there are, we are always against them. And we don't allow in the tribal system that they should be allowed to protect them. And if there's any such violations, we take action against them.

MARGARET WARNER: Now, the U.S. military says that, in fact, these agreements you've made with tribal leaders have only made that area more hospitable for these foreign fighters.

YOUSUF RAZA GILANI: Actually, they understood that we have never made any agreements with the militants. We only have a political dialogue with non-militants who surrender the arms, who decommission themselves. We only talk to them, so that we should isolate the militants from the mainstream politics that is the tribal people.

MARGARET WARNER: What were you able to tell President Bush that Pakistan now intends to do to produce a better result against the terrorists using Pakistani territory?

YOUSUF RAZA GILANI: First of all, I want to inform you that it is not a U.S. war. It is a war of Pakistan itself. We have lost a great leader, Benazir Bhutto, because of the militants. And they assassinated her.

And, therefore, we take it as our own war. And, therefore, we are fighting for our own cause. And naturally the whole world will benefit out of it.

Army presence in tribal areas?

Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani
Pakistan
We are going to do is that we'll have more information, sort of cooperation between the two forces, and at the same time we have to strengthen our law-enforcing agencies, like Frontier Corps and the Frontier Constabulary.

MARGARET WARNER: But is there anything specific that you're going to do?

YOUSUF RAZA GILANI: We are going to do is that we'll have more information, sort of cooperation between the two forces, and at the same time we have to strengthen our law-enforcing agencies, like Frontier Corps and the Frontier Constabulary.

MARGARET WARNER: There are reports that an army unit is going to move in to the tribal areas shortly.

YOUSUF RAZA GILANI: Actually, it is the prerogative of the respective government, whether it is a provincial or a federal government. If there is a need be, the army is always there to assist them. Therefore, when if the need be, the army will always support them. And if there is no need at the moment, then the army would be available.

MARGARET WARNER: For a long time, U.S. officials have said that within the Pakistani intelligence services, your ISI, there are figures who are either sympathetic to the Taliban or actually see them as an important asset against Afghanistan or against India, and that that hampers your ability to fight terrorism. How big a problem does that remain?

YOUSUF RAZA GILANI: Actually, ISI is a great institution. It is always used for external or internal threat for Pakistan.

But as far as this is concerned, there are somebody -- some of them, they are sympathetic to the militants, this is not believable. So we would never expect our ISI, which is a very competent, so that there is anybody who's a sympathizer, we will not allow that, because the ISI is directly working under the prime minister.

MARGARET WARNER: Bottom line, Mr. Prime Minister, what could the U.S. expect to see, let's say in six months, as a benchmark, as evidence that your government's approach to fighting terrorism is more successful than President Musharraf's was?

YOUSUF RAZA GILANI: I really don't know. But at the same time, I think, when there is any actions that has the support and the backing of a political government, it is always successful.

MARGARET WARNER: But have you set any benchmarks for yourself?

YOUSUF RAZA GILANI: Certainly that we are convinced ourselves that it's working.

MARGARET WARNER: Mr. Prime Minister, thank you for being with us.

YOUSUF RAZA GILANI: Thank you very much.