London: India is trying to create an anti-Pakistan Afghanistan which has been a "playing ground" for it and the Soviet Union, according to former Pakistan president Pervez Musharraf.
Musharraf made the charge in the course of an interview on BBC's 'HARDTalk' programme during which he stated that he would return to Pakistan on March 23, 2012 even though he faces arrest in connection with the assassination of former prime minister Benazir Bhutto.
During the hard-hitting half-an-hour programme, interviewer Stephen Sackur grilled 68-year-old Musharraf on his 9-year reign as Pakistan's ruler and by the time the interview was over, the former dictator's trademark bluster had vanished.
Excerpts from the interview:
Q: I just wonder, when we look at what happened in Pakistan during your years in power, we see a country that did sink into turmoil and chaos, as I say in America it became routinely labelled as the most dangerous country in the world. Now you were the military leader of Pakistan. It seems the most fundamental failure that you couldn't deliver security in your own country.
Musharraf: Well, I think that label was given right in the early stages... I think there was lot of sectarian extremism, there was a lot of turmoil in Pakistan, which I controlled.
Q: You obviously didn't control things, if I may say so, not least because we now know the truth about certain things that happened while you were in power; for example, I am thinking of the obvious case of Osama bin Laden. We now know that from 05 or 06 when you of course were in power bin Laden was living within earshot of Pakistan's most prestigious military camp in Abbottabad. We know all that now, we know that you failed.
Musharraf: On one incident if you think everything is a failure...
Q: To quote Robert Gates, the former US defence secretary, you played both sides, you signed up to a partnership with the United States in their so-called war on terror, at the very same time you didn't for one moment give up your ties to Islamist movements, including the Taliban.
Musharraf: That is absolutely baseless...
Q: Let me quote you the words of Bruce Reidel, a senior figure in the CIA, from 77 all the way to 2006, a man who is commissioned by Barack Obama to take a review of policy in Pakistan and Afghanistan. He said this recently; quote, Pakistan, and particularly General Musharraf, played the Bush administration like a fiddle. They gave us just enough of Al Qaeda to keep the Bush administration happy, but not enough to actually eliminate Al Qaeda as an organisation and virtually nothing on the Taliban.
Musharraf: I don't agree, I don't agree with this statement at all.
Q: You now sit here as a man who wants to go back to Pakistan; play a leading role, if not the leading role in your country going forward. So what is your message to people like Mike Mullen and others who believe that right now, today, Pakistan's intelligence services are working hand in glove with people like Haqqani and his network?
Musharraf: That is absolutely wrong. I don't believe it... However, certainly coalition forces quitting in 2014 must be causing worries there. They must be analysing what we are going to leave in 2014 because the first victim after that is going to be Pakistan.
Q: Why is it, that as far as we can tell, the best intelligence says to us that Mullah Omar is in Pakistan?
Musharraf: I think it is all nonsense.
Q: So where do you think Mullah Omar is.
Musharraf: I don't know. And I personally don't think he could be in Pakistan...
Q: That's what you said about bin Laden, I suppose.
Musharraf: Well, I never said that. I always said I don't know. Bin laden also, I didn't know. He happened to be there, bad luck.
Q: You seem to agree with my premise that relations between Pakistan and the US have fundamentally and entirely broken down.
Musharraf: Well, they are at their lowest ebb. They are at their lowest ebb, there is no doubt, yes.
Q: Not so long ago, you accused India of trying to create, and I am quoting, an anti-Pakistan Afghanistan. Where is your evidence for that?
Musharraf: Yes, there is tremendous amount of evidence. Their consulates in Kandahar and Jalalabad, what are they meant for? All diplomats, military men, intelligence people of Afghanistan, they go for training to India, not one has come to Pakistan. They are indoctrinated and sent back.
Q: Your arguments suggest that Pakistan is duty bound to continue to meddle, to interfere in Afghanistan because you say you are countering a fundamental Indian threat. What we have here is a recipe for permanent conflict.
Musharraf: With India? With whom, permanent conflict?
Q: Certainly with India, and Afghanistan becomes the crucible for it.
Musharraf: It has been...for 50 years...Afghanistan has always been the playing ground of Soviet Union and India.
Q: Isn't it time for you to overcome your paranoia about India?
Musharraf: It's a time for the world to understand, for you to understand that this is the case.
Q: You locked up the chief justice, and the lawyers of Pakistan believe you declared war on an independent judiciary...is that the sort of policy you will bring back to Pakistan? If you go home, you face arrest, because you face charges in connection with the assassination of Benazir Bhutto and your failure to protect Benazir Bhutto. Are you prepared to go home and stand trial on those charges?
Musharraf: Yes, one has to face, but I know that these are politicised cases. If you know Pakistan's system, president of Pakistan has no responsibility whatsoever in any security matter. It is the chief minister's, the prime minister's...
Q: Hang on, the president of Pakistan has no responsibility for any security matter?
Musharraf: no, not at all.
Q: That must be nonsense.
Musharraf: Absolutely not. President does not have any executive authority in Pakistan. It's the prime minister.
Q: So, all those years, you seemed to be guiding the relationship with the United States, the war on Islamist militants in your midst, you didn't have any authority at all?
Musharraf: For the first three years, yes indeed, the Supreme Court of Pakistan had given me three years to hold elections, and I was the prime minister as the chief executive, and the president and the army chief and the chairman. Beyond 2002, it was different, it was a national assembly, a prime minister functioning, I was the president.