Wednesday, 16 January 2008

Pak Bread Soldiers are Stronger than US Chocolate Soldiers: President Musharraf

WASHINGTON: President Pervez Musharraf, in a US magazine interview, has said late PPP chairwoman Benazir Bhutto was very unpopular with the military.

In a wide-ranging interview with Newsweek published online, he said someone who the religious lobby thought was “an unreligious person” and who was seen as a US ally, could not have been the right person to fight terrorists.

‘Militants want to take over Pakistan’: He said Pakistan’s efforts against terrorism were working in case of the Taliban, and the country was now dealing with local extremists, mostly from South Punjab, and foreigners. Baitullah Mehsood was training suicide bombers targeting political leaders. The president said militants were turning against Pakistan because they were against him. “They are against anyone who is supporting me. So therefore, they want to weaken the government, they want to weaken me. [Perhaps] they think they can take over Pakistan.”

The president said tribal agreements did not solve the problem in FATA, but insisted that negotiations must continue.

‘Pakistani troops can do better in FATA’: He said if the US undertook a unilateral operation inside Pakistan, they would “curse the day they came here”.

“I know these areas, and I know American troops. I know our troops. This is not easy.”

He said Pakistani troops were tougher and could go on roti (bread) and water, while the US troops would need chocolate. “We are totally in cooperation on the intelligence side,” he said. “But we are totally against (a military operation). We will ask for assistance from outsiders. They won’t impose their will on us.”

‘Benazir’s body should be exhumed’: The president called for the body of late Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) chairwoman Benazir Bhutto to be exhumed, as he rejected charges that the government was complicit in her assassination.

“Yes, exhume it. A hundred percent. I would like it to be exhumed,” he said. “Because I know for sure there is no bullet wound other than on the right side.” But he ruled out ordering a post-mortem without the agreement of Bhutto’s family. “It would have very big political ramifications.”

He said Bhutto’s supporters had not agreed to a post-mortem “because they know it’s a fact there is nothing wrong.”

“Everybody is trying to gain political advantage; the entire opposition is trying to take political advantage,” he said. He said the superintendent of police who was in charge of her security was “her own handpicked”.

Bhutto was told about intelligence reports of a possible attack, he said.

UN probe: “There cannot be a UN investigation,” Musharraf told Newsweek. “There are not two or three countries involved. Why should there be a UN investigation? This is ridiculous.” The president said he was ready to work with the PPP if they won the February general elections. “I can work with anyone,” he said. (agencies)

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