|PAKISTAN AFTER COUP|
October 19 ,1999
GWEN IFILL: For the third time in Pakistan's 52-year history, the nation's military has taken control of its civilian government. Pakistani General Pervez Musharraf announced the military takeover-- in effect, a coup-- a week ago. The elected Prime Minister, Nawaz Sharif, was placed under house arrest.
GEN. PERVEZ MUSHARRAF, Military Ruler, Pakistan: Dear brothers and sisters, I request you all to remain calm and support your armed forces in the reestablishment of order to pave the way for a prosperous future for Pakistan.
GWEN IFILL: Musharraf took his case to the Pakistani people, defining what he described as the problems created by previous corrupt governments: A crumbling economy, sectarian strife, and weakened state institutions, including the military, which he called Pakistan's "last institution of stability." Significantly, Musharraf offered conciliatory words to neighboring India. The two rival nations engaged in dueling nuclear weapons testing last year, and have also been fighting over the disputed region of Kashmir. Musharraf has now promised to withdraw troops from the border, a move greeted with skepticism in New Delhi. But as he consolidates his power, Musharraf has made no promises about exactly when civilian rule will be restored.
GEN. PERVEZ MUSHARRAF: This is not martial law, only another path towards democracy. The armed forces have no intention to stay in charge any longer than is absolutely necessary to pave the way for true democracy to flourish in Pakistan.
GWEN IFILL: Instead, the new Pakistani leader has created a six-member National Security Council to govern the country. In the week since the military coup, there has been little domestic opposition. In fact, many Pakistanis seemed to welcome it.
CITIZEN: (speaking through interpreter) It was important for the military to take over, because there is corruption at all levels in the government. The policies were bad for the country, the economy's at its worst, and what General Musharraf did was good.
CITIZEN: (speaking through interpreter) We've had elections before. It's the same thing over and over again. We have to have the military take over.
GWEN IFILL: International reaction has been mixed. Along with the cool response from India's Hindu nationalist government, the British commonwealth has threatened to suspend Pakistan's membership. But the U.S. Ambassador to Pakistan has signaled that the United States will give the new military government time to prove its Democratic intentions. "We are confident General Musharraf is a moderate man who was acting out of patriotic motivation and was provoked into doing what he is doing." At the State Department today, a more cautious statement:
JAMES FOLEY, U.S. State Department Spokesman: The jury is still out in terms of the ultimate intentions of the military authorities in Pakistan. They've indicated, again, that they don't intend to stay in charge for longer than is necessary, and that they want to see a return to democratic government.
GWEN IFILL: For more, we get two views: Mansoor Ijaz, an investment
banker and nuclear physicist. His father was a founder of the Pakistani
nuclear program. And Michael Krepon, president of the Stimson Center,
a nonprofit organization that works on military security issues.
MANSOOR IJAZ, Investment Banker: Well, I think the return of civilian government will take place but it will depend on three things for the general and his new national security council to keep on top of. The first one of these in my judgment is nor them to figure out a way to persuade the international community to help them revive the economy. That means that the international aid will have to continue to flow, and they will have to recoup some of the lost wealth that has gone out of the country for almost a decade. The second thing that he will have to do is keep his Islamic radicals both inside the army and outside on the streets at bay. And that's a much more difficult problem to deal with. I think I was just actually up on Capitol Hill. The sense that you get from people when you talk to them up there is that, a deep, deep sense of concern about Islamic fundamentalism having creeped long for so many years, and now all of a sudden we're starting to see the virus exploit itself. The third thing is whether or not he can figure out a constructive way to deal with the Indians. Now, if there were ever anyone in Pakistan who could deal with the Indians in a way that would be meaningful it is an army chief. It is not a politician. No politician in Pakistan could give us in on the issue of Kashmir. No politician in Pakistan could make peace with India in a soft way unless he was willing to give up his own office. And that's what this army chief can do in my judgment in terms of bring India and Pakistan back on the right back.
GWEN IFILL: But in his speech he seems to suggest whatever the end is that he has in mind is justified by his means by is, I think the way he put it, he was saving the body by cutting off a limb -- the body being the country, the limb is being the constitution. Is that acceptable?
MANSOOR IJAZ: Well, let's be very clear about one thing: Pakistan has never been and is not today a democracy. Democracy makes the assumption that is representation by the people. If you look at Pakistan's electoral history, a very small percentage of the people have voted historically. Number two, if you look at the way the feudal system is set up, each of these blocks, large blocks of land, 50,000 hectares, or whatever it might be, that are owned by these feudal landlords, they have their own voters' blocks effectively encamped under their control. That is not a representative democracy. And that is what I think this group of people that are coming in -- and there are some very serious people being considered for this national security council - sedate, thoughtful people and a think tank underneath it which I hope Michael will help us with at some point -- but these people are going to make a very serious effort now to reconstruct democracy in real terms, representation by the people divesting the feudal landlords of their holdings in a way that is acceptable both to them and to the future of the country.
GWEN IFILL: Mr. Krepon, you've met General Musharraf. What is he like, what kind of a leader is he? It sounds like there's a lot that he has got to bite off in order to make what Mr. Ijaz is talking about work.
MICHAEL KREPON, Stimson Center: I haven't spent a lot of time with General Musharraf, but I have met him twice, including last March. He strikes me as being a low-key man but also a very decisive man. He has both elements in his character. He is somebody who is a patriotic, dedicated, and a very brave soldier. He is a guy who has been given some pretty tough assignments in the Pakistan army, and he has gone right to the top of the system so that speaks well to his military skills. But she now in a different arena, and a new skills set is going to be required of him and there are questions about that.
GWEN IFILL: Well, that's one of my questions. He is described by the U.S. Ambassador - perhaps optimistically -- as a moderate. Is he a moderate in the way we would define that in this country?
MICHAEL KREPON: Well, that comment I took as a reflection of perhaps some officers who were behind him as much as General Musharraf himself. General Musharraf is a decisive man. He knows what the first step is, and he is capable of taking very bold first steps. The question that he has to answer to his fellow citizens and to the international community is whether he has a good sense of the second, third, fourth and fifth steps. It's one thing to take a bold step, it's another thing to know that you have an exit strategy. He has -- we don't know if he has an exit strategy for running the country.
GWEN IFILL: Do you agree with that, Mr. Ijaz?
MANSOOR IJAZ: I think it's absolutely correct. As a matter of fact, what you can say about the next steps, though, is that these steps have been talked about for a very long time in Pakistan: How to address the fact that the entire systemic corruption problem has overtaken the country; how to bring back the people's confidence in their open country. You know, Pakistan is a country in a sense that was created out of the collapse of an empire. These are people who maybe didn't believe in their own destiny to survive. And that may be part of the reason that this turnstile of civilian leaders has taken place. Benazir Bhutto came into power and then she said, I better get everything I can out of the national treasury because I may to have to run the government from abroad somewhere. And then it was Nawaz Sharif's turn. And by the time he was done it was Benazir Bhutto's turn. This behind of behavior in civilian leaders is what has to change. And the only people, the only institution in Pakistan that could do that is the army.
GWEN IFILL: Mr. Krepon, Mr. Sharif was obviously-- nobody is apparently missing him. And he is still in house arrest somewhere; and no one's asking the question. But what exactly can Mr. Musharraf accomplish? It is a lot he has to accomplish. He is military man. You say he is a man with his eye on the next goal but his biggest goal, his biggest challenge right now seems to be his relationship with India. Is there any way that he can begin to do something about that?
MICHAEL KREPON: Well, the speech that he gave to the country which was a very superb really talked about a domestic agenda. He had six or seven agenda items, and most of them had to do with fixing the country. The country has the most severe problems: Economic problems, corruption problems, sectarian, domestic violence, the federation that is Pakistan is at risk. There are centrifugal forces at work in the country. That is his stated agenda. He has also said in passing that he wants to improve relations with India.
GWEN IFILL: Now, troops are actually be withdrawn from the border at Kashmir. Is that taking a step toward that new warmth that you were talking about?
MICHAEL KREPON: There is an international border between India and Pakistan, and then there is a line of control which is not an international border. It's a line that divides Kashmir. And fighting, the violence, the infiltration is going on at the line of control. General Musharraf has done something very important. He has taken a step which is substantive and verifiable to take troops that were on a heightened state of alert and put them back in the barracks, I suspect India will do the same but most of the problem --
GWEN IFILL: Is not where he decided to step in.
MICHAEL KREPON: Is elsewhere.
GWEN IFILL: What do you think is going to happen as far as the line of control issue?
MANSOOR IJAZ: Well, I think that p the interesting thing about the line of control problem at this date and time is the snows have started falling in the Himalayas. And, in fact, one of the proposals that was under consideration when the Kargil crisis was at its peak was to keep India quiet long enough to allow the guys on the hill to slip out under the cover of Mother Nature's skirt when the snows started falling. I don't think -- I think what Musharraf wants with India is simply just enough stability to allow him to execute that domestic agenda. I think that's really what he is looking for because the problems internally are so significant, and India does not need Islamic radicalism on its border either. And I think that's really why they're going to give him breathing space in the end, statements not withstanding.
GWEN IFILL: Is it fair to say that Pakistanis in general -- welcomed this change of government?
MICHAEL KREPON: The answer is question. The democratic experiment over the last 11 years has really failed Pakistan. Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif have both shortchanged the country in a serious way. Let me answer - let me talk about the line of control because I was there two weeks ago at lower elevation. And it's still very noisy there. There is still a lot of fighting and I expect that to continue. Generally Musharraf is committed to the Kashmiri cause, and he is very committed to giving the Indian army and the Indian security forces a hard time in Kashmir. I don't expect much change with respect to the friction along the line of control. I do expect General Musharraf not to repeat the extremely risky and bold move that he engineered with the prime minister's consent to seize and hold territory on the Indian side of the line of control. That was dangerous. It was a decisive first step but there was no exit strategy. For the country, General Musharraf has again shown us a decisive first step. Let's see if he has an exit strategy.
GWEN IFILL: Thank you very much, Mr. Krepon and Mr. Ijaz.