Islamabad : Pakistan’s military ruler Pervez Musharraf adopted a nationalist stance in a question-answer session on TV billed as beginning of his campaign to seek re-election to the presidency, insisting that his policies were “only pro-Pakistan”.
He also declared that the Iran-Pakistan-India gas pipeline project was such an example of his nationalist mindset.
“We are not fighting terrorism and extremism for the sake of America, but we are confronting this menace in our own interest,” he said in response to a question in the a special TV called “From Aiwan-e-Sadr’.
The special programme was aired on eve of Pakistan’s 60th independence day.
“Our policy is pro-Pakistan… I strongly believe that Pakistan comes first,” he said. “I do not blindly pursue policies of others and see everything from Pakistan’s point of view.”
He said US President George W Bush called him over the phone and assured him of respect for Pakistan’s sovereignty.
He said the media in the US was as free as in Pakistan.
“Let them speak. I am fully confident and very sure that there will be no action across the border. If there is an action, it will be conducted by the Pakistani forces and we will do it ourselves.”
About statements by US presidential candidates calling for unilateral attacks against insurgents in Pakistani tribal areas, Musharraf said: “I am 200 percent sure these (views) are (held) neither at the official nor government level.”
He did not make a mention of the telephone call from US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice last week after which he is widely perceived as having dropped plans to impose a national emergency.
The foreign office Monday issued a contradiction on a reported statement of Foreign Minister Khurshid Mahmood Kasuri over the weekend that Rice’s phone call had prevented the emergency.
The minister had been misquoted in a report by ARY television channel, the statement said.
Musharraf recalled that there was Western pressure on Pakistan to despatch troops to Iraq, which he resisted. Similarly, there was Western opposition to the formation of a Hamas government after it won elections in Palestine, but Pakistan recognised it.
On several occasions, Pakistan voted “against the wishes of others” on human rights issues at international forums.
“There were several objections to the Iran-Pakistan-India gas pipeline plan, but the project is in our interest and we are pursuing it,” he said.
On the domestic front, he acknowledged his popularity had fallen after the chief justice case verdict.
His March 9 suspension of Chief Justice Iftikhar Mohammed Chaudhry, who has been since reinstated, had triggered a nationwide agitation.
The president described terrorism and extremism as the country’s biggest challenges.
He also acknowledged that Al Qaeda and other terrorist groups were hiding in the tribal areas and were involved in terrorist activities.
“It is time that the entire nation rises against them,” he said, adding that poverty and lack of education were the root causes of militancy, the Daily Times quoted him as saying.
Asked about the wavering confidence of investors owing to political uncertainty in Pakistan, he said: “We will go through the election process and there will be political stability in Pakistan.”