In India for the first time after he demitted office last year and days after the attack in Lahore on Sri Lankan cricketers,former Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf was part combative and part sarcastic as he fielded questions at the India Today Conclave in New Delhi on Saturday night.
Musharrafwho is known as the architect of the Kargil conflictstarted off playing the peacenik. I stand for peace between India and Pakistan…I am a man for peace,not a man of peace, he said.
While talking of militancy in Kashmir,he said,Why did Lashkar-e-Toiba and Jaish-e-Mohammad come into being? Because of Muslims in India and Kashmir,in particular.
This set the stage for an interesting exchange between him and Rajya Sabha MP Maulana Mahmood Madani. Madani told Musharraf: There are more Muslims in India than in Pakistan…Indian Muslims have the ability to solve their problems,dont try to alienate them. Musharraf retorted with a hint of sarcasm,If you are happy in your present condition,I am most happy…I take back my words.
Taking credit for the thawing of relations during his rule,he blamed India for slowing down the peace process and said,four years were lost. Urging to overcome the burden of history,he called for reducing the trust deficit and talked of resolution of disputes with flexibility,sincerity and boldness.
But through all this,he batted for the Pakistani Army and the ISI. Right from the second day of the Mumbai attacks,the Pak Army and ISI were accused of being rogues…this is overdone.
Emphasising that the Pakistan Army and ISI has been completely on-board on the peace process between India and Pakistan,he said,Both ISI and RAW must stop their confrontational path. Your RAW does exactly what ISI does.
At one point,after a series of questions on ISI,Musharraf turned combative. I can give you a list of people who commit terrorist acts in Pakistan and are welcomed in Delhi. I have documentary evidence of what your embassies in Kabul and Jalalabad are doing, he said.
As question after question on Pakistan and terrorism acts in India kept coming from the audienceRavi Shankar Prasad of BJP to Amar Singh of SP,he said Pakistan-bashing and Pak Army-bashing were seen as political campaigns in India.
When asked by The Indian Express Editor-in-Chief Shekhar Gupta about comparing his and General Zias tenure,he said he cannot compare the two,since they were dealing with different situations. On Madeline Albrights description of Pakistan as an international migraine,he said,Pakistan is a victim of circumstances.
When Soli Sorabjee asked him on handing over Dawood Ibrahim to India,his response was cryptic,I dont know whether he is in Pakistan or not,which evoked sharp reactions and laughter from the audience. On a later occasion,he said,even if Pakistan were to hand over Dawood,I can challenge that the relations between India and Pakistan will not improve.
When asked if he would join politics in Pakistan or when asked to comment on the current political situation in Pakistan,Musharraf was cautious,I am not at all thinking of (joining) politics…I wont like to comment on the political situation there.