MARGARET WARNER: Pakistan has offered to provide intelligence, the use of its airspace, and logistical support to the U.S. campaign against Osama bin Laden. But it has also asked to see the evidence against him.
Today, U.S. officials briefed the Pakistani government on the evidence linking bin Laden's terrorist network to the September 11 attacks.
We're joined now by Pakistan's Ambassador to the United Nations, Shamshad Ahmad.
Welcome, Ambassador Ahmad. As Secretary Rumsfeld moves around the region nailing down the military partners for this mission, Pakistan is not on the list of countries he's visiting. What should we conclude from that?
SHAMSHAD AHMAD: Well, I don't think that Pakistan's omission from his itinerary means that Pakistan is not part of the international coalition.
In fact from day one, Pakistan's position has been very clear as a matter of principle we are opposed to terrorism in all its forms and manifestations. Pakistan abhors terrorism. We deplore violence of all sorts and scales. And we have never, never condoned any act of terrorism and have always cooperated with the international community in combating this universal evil.
MARGARET WARNER: What I'm really asking about here is the degree of military cooperation. Your president made clear in an interview -- a couple of interviews over the weekend that Pakistani troops will not participate. Is it also fair to conclude, as many have, that Pakistan would rather not have the United States have U.S. troops operate in or out of Pakistan?
SHAMSHAD AHMAD: Well, these are matters of plans, contingency plans, logistics, and operational matters. I don't think it is fair for me to indulge in these matters.
But I can repeat what my president said, he pronounced it very clearly, that we remain committed to our support, to the international community in this fight against terrorism.
MARGARET WARNER: Today Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage talking about this question said the United States was aware of Pakistan's what he called fragile political society, and he said we don't want to burden Pakistan more than we have to.
Do you fear, or how concerned are you that a U.S. led military strikes on Afghanistan, whether or not Pakistan participates actively or visibly, could destabilize your government?
SHAMSHAD AHMAD: Well, let me verify here that we are indeed, indeed facing a unique situation in modern history. The events of 11th September were a wakeup call not to one country or one society.
I think they were a wakeup call to the whole humanity. So it is the entire world community, which is required to respond to the crisis, unprecedented crisis is of an unprecedented magnitude that we are facing.
And Pakistan, our position has been clear from the very beginning. We have been part of this consensus and coalition, and not only this, but the United Nations has also been engaged in this whole process and there are resolutions, which are adopted on 12th of September by both the General Assembly and Security Council, and then another resolution adopted by the Security Council last Friday.
MARGARET WARNER: If I could interrupt though, Mr. Ambassador, I'm really asking about the situation at home for you.
There are many bin Laden supporters, or we read that there are, among the Pakistani public. And I'm asking whether you are concerned that there could be real unrest that could be threatening to your government.
SHAMSHAD AHMAD: Well, I think it is natural for the people of Pakistan to be concerned over the seriousness of the situation.
But you would recall that President Musharaff very clearly on your TV screens had clearly said that he had taken the people of Pakistan into confidence and the overwhelming majority of the people of Pakistan fully supported the decision that he had taken and the decision which is right and which is on the side of justice.
MARGARET WARNER: Today, as we reported, American officials briefed Pakistani officials in your country about the evidence it has against bin Laden. Is the Pakistani government now persuaded that bin Laden and his network were behind the September 11th attacks?
SHAMSHAD AHMAD: Well, I think my foreign minister has made a statement today on this subject, and what he has said is that it is not for Pakistan to sit in judgment on this matter.
Yes, the United States has shared with us some documents, some information, and we appreciate all those details and we respect the information that has been shared with us.
At the same time, our foreign minister has expressed the hope that in the interest of reinforcement of the international coalition, it would be desirable for the United States to share all that information with other countries of the world and that could be publicized perhaps for the information of the world community.
MARGARET WARNER: So are you saying that your government's position is that the United States should make at least some of this information public in the interest of building more support certainly in the Islamic world or throughout the world?
SHAMSHAD AHMAD: Well, I think that is in the interest of this international coalition that is required at this stage to face this unprecedented challenge that the whole world community faces.
MARGARET WARNER: But, can I also conclude from what you're saying that the Pakistan government is not ready to do what the European governments, the NATO governments did yesterday, which was essentially to announce that in their view, having been briefed, they were persuaded that all roads lead to bin Laden, that in fact he was responsible?
SHAMSHAD AHMAD: I don't know what is expected from the European governments.
MARGARET WARNER: No, I'm saying they did say this. I'm asking what the - would the Pakistani government make such a public declaration.
SHAMSHAD AHMAD: Well, what is expected from us, we have already offered in the form of our assurances of full and unstinted cooperation in the fight against international terrorism, and we will honor our commitment.
MARGARET WARNER: Now, you spoke earlier about Pakistan and terrorism, and, as you know, the State Department and maybe other critics have in fact charged that Pakistan does harbor terrorists, that your intelligence service in fact armed and trained the Taliban, that you armed and trained Islamic fighters in Afghanistan, some fight with bin Laden, some fight up in Kashmir against India.
And my question is: Is Pakistan prepared to change any of those policies now as part of this global fight against terrorism?
SHAMSHAD AHMAD: Well, I think you are forgetting that Pakistan is itself a victim of terrorism.
We have been suffering from terrorism for years, almost every day there have been bomb blasts, explosions in Pakistan. It is another matter that these incidents of terrorism have never been publicized in the western media. But there have been heavy losses of innocent lives in Pakistan, and these acts of terrorism have been perpetrated from outside. And not only this -- we are located in a geography, which is a region which is volatile, and which has been scene of instability for the last more than two decades. So you cannot choose your geography, you cannot choose your neighbors.
We have been there, and we share a very long border with Afghanistan and a very long and hostile border with India in our East. So all these allegations about Pakistan's involvement in alleged terrorism, they are just baseless and preposterous allegations, which have been made by our enemies for their self-serving reasons.
And I must say here that the other day, I saw on this very program India's foreign minister answering your questions. While I do respect Mr. Jaswant Singh as the foreign minister of a neighboring country with which---despite our best efforts for the last 50 years---we have not been able to have good neighborly relations, although we are doing our best to resumption of a meaningful dialogue----but I must question a couple of claims --.
MARGARET WARNER: Mr. Ambassador, I'm sorry, I would love to bring this back to the subject we're discussing tonight and maybe we could have you both come back sometime and talk about your India-Pakistan situation.
MARGARET WARNER: Let's finally go back to what appears to be a coming military operation. Secretary Rumsfeld said during his trip today that the key ultimately to a successful mission wasn't going to be weapons; it was going to be intelligence.
No country knows Afghanistan better than Pakistan and Pakistani intelligence in particular. Does Pakistan know where Osama bin Laden is?
SHAMSHAD AHMAD: Well, first of all, the point that I was trying to make about the India's foreign minister, exactly that was the point that I wanted to make, that he tried to localize and regionalize a universal challenge.
In his conversation with you he focused only on his problems or India's problems with Pakistan, which is a fatal mistake as far as we are concerned, because at this time we should not be looking at this issue in the context of India-Pakistan problems. We should be looking at this issue as a universal challenge.
Now coming back to your point, well, intelligence sharing and air space and logistical facilities, these are three areas in which are our assistance has been requested by the United States -- and as my government has made it clear repeatedly that we will fulfill our obligations under the charter of the United Nations and in accordance with our vital national interests.
MARGARET WARNER: So you aren't prepared to say whether you know where bin Laden is?
SHAMSHAD AHMAD: Oh, he's not in Pakistan.
MARGARET WARNER: All right. Thank you, Mr. Ambassador, very much.
SHAMSHAD AHMAD: Thank you.