(Q) You played down the political importance of your handshake with Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon on the sidelines of the UN summit meeting, but this handshake came a few days after the Pakistani foreign minister”s meeting with his Israeli counterpart. What is Pakistan trying to achieve from these contacts?
(A) I do not think this has any political connotation. We were standing in the same hall and there were hundreds of people. Sharon and his delegation approached the place where I was standing and shook hands with all, including me. What is the political significance of this? I do not know. Our intentions, however, are quite clear. We want to support the Palestinian cause. We want to influence Israel in the direction of establishing a Palestinian state. These are our intentions. If we do not at all deal with them, we will not have any role to play. However, if we talk to them, we can at least support the Palestinian cause, employ pressure, and use our influence on Israel to make it move forward toward reaching a solution to the Palestinian dilemma and giving the Palestinians a homeland.
(Q) Do you think time is appropriate for such initiatives?
(A) Yes, I think time is quite appropriate. I spoke to Palestinian President Mahmud Abbas before the two foreign ministers met to brief him on our intentions. I think he is moving ahead with the peace process. I also believe that the Israeli forces” withdrawal from Gaza is a good gesture. The Israelis have pulled out of one or two West Bank cities and additional steps will be taken within the same context. These are positive steps along the path of peace. What more do the Palestinians and the world want? What does the Islamic world want?
(Q) How worried are you that this openness toward Israel at this critical stage might anger some political forces in and outside Pakistan and lead to extremism and terrorism?
(A) This critical stage is a positive rather than negative one and the conflict is moving toward a solution. All believe that the Palestinian problem must be solved. The Americans understand this the way the Palestinians and Israelis understood it. This is a decisive stage during which we are moving toward a solution to the Palestinian question. When we enter the (diplomatic) battle, we can support efforts to reach a solution and this is a positive thing.
(Q) Are you not afraid that the Pakistani move toward Israel will upset some Pakistani political forces, especially since the Israelis have not withdrawn from all the occupied Palestinian territories?
(A) No, it should not upset them although every step might annoy one or another faction. Wisdom demands considering what is in the interest of the Palestinian question. I am not a man who fears opposition. Opposition is always there. Every leader must move and confront the challenge posed by the opposition although the overwhelming majority of people will be positive. This is my principle. I am certain that we are contributing to the (Palestinian) cause. We must always remember that leadership means anticipating any event and acting before it takes place. The leader who waits for an event in order to respond to it is not a leader and any state that does so is not a state. Therefore, we think that the process is heading toward a solution. We must move to push this process forward and facilitate things.
(Q) How much did new Indian-Israeli relations, especially in the military and perhaps nuclear field, influence the recent Pakistani step toward Israel?
(A) When we deal with them (Israel and India), they must understand our sensitivities and avoid doing anything which would harm us. We believe that the results will be positive in this field, too.
(Q) How do you view military cooperation between Israel and India, especially since Israel is the second largest country exporting weapons to India? Does this worry you?
(A) Yes, we have worries. As I said, anything the Israelis do with India in the military field will affect us. Therefore, they must handle such issues sensitively. This situation, however, existed before we spoke to them. I am more concerned and worried about the Palestinian question. We concentrate on the Palestinian question and we must do so more strongly. We said this should not mean that we will recognize Israel unless we arw sure that a Palestinian state is being established. This is the pressure we want to put on Israel. If they want to establish relations with us, we are clear and they, too, must clearly know that this will never take place without establishing a homeland for the Palestinians. As for India, we have several ways of maintaining balance and keeping our strategy of deterrence.
(Q) Allow me to move on to the issue of terrorism, which was the main topic in your discussions with the US and British officials at the United Nations. You were called on to use military means against the terrorists. How are you planning to implement this policy in the absence of a clear definition of terrorism?
(A) A definition of terrorism causes large confusion. Regardless of whether the United Nations agrees on a certain definition of terrorism or not, I personally think that terrorism means killing innocent civilians.
(Q) what about the killing of civilians because of the usage of warplanes against them as some countries are doing? Is this terrorism, too?
(A) Let us not get into this. Pakistan has long been saying that all forms and manifestations of terrorism must be combated. We believe that there is what is called state terrorism, but I think we must stop looking for a definition of terrorism because we will never be able to agree on one definition. The United Nations has 191 member states and we will never reach one definition of terrorism. I am pragmatic and not ideologist. We will not reach a solution or one definition. Therefore, this issue must be put aside. We have to correct what happens in the world and stop militancy. What is militancy? It has to do with any individual who kills others. This includes everything and every person.
(Q) Do you think solving the problem of terrorism in the world requires a military solution?
(A) Yes, terrorism must be confronted. Anyone who kills civilians must be stopped. Who are the civilians killed today? Are they non-Muslims? Those who are killed or the victims are Muslims in both cases. What are we doing to ourselves? Is this logical? This is absolutely meaningless. Therefore, we are against it.
(Q) There is no doubt that Indian-Pakistani relations have recently witnessed a tangible improvement, but have you made real progress toward solving the Kashmiri problem during your meeting with the Indian prime minister in New York?
(A) We try to move in two parallel lines. The first concentrates on building confidence and the second concentrates on solving disputes. There is a host of disputes between us although the Kashmiri issue is the main one. We make progress in solving all other disputes. Therefore, progress should be made in the Kashmiri issue as well. During the meeting I held with the Indian prime minister in New York two days ago, we expressed our determination and joint commitment to make progress on the issue of Kashmir.
(Q) How do you explain your failure to find Osama Bin Laden four years after the invasion of Afghanistan in spite of the huge military and intelligence capabilities of the United States?
(A) We have 75,000 soldiers but they are only enough for one of the seven tribal regions where we are fighting terrorism. We need huge forces to control these regions and conduct comprehensive combing and search operations there. There are no roads in many of the areas where there are very high mountains. These areas cannot be reached. Therefore, if a person hides in a cave and moves from place to place, it will not be the mistake of any army or security service if he is not caught. Intelligence information plays a key role in terrorism-combating operations. It might be easy to move against certain individuals, but it is difficult to obtain intelligence information about his location. Therefore, the method used to obtain intelligence information must be effective. When the intelligence information about the location of this man becomes available, action will be easy.
(Q) The United States criticized you for not taking the necessary measures to prevent the infiltration of rebels across the border with Afghanistan. What is your reply to this criticism?
(A) This criticism exists only in the media. Nobody tells me such things. When I met with President Bush or the other US officials, they commend all that we are doing. There is a vast difference between what the US newspapers write and what we hear from the US officials.