ISLAMABAD: Former Pakistan president General Pervez Musharraf has defended Hafiz Saeed and said that during his tenure, India and Pakistan had come close to resolving Kashmir.
Musharraf, who served as Pakistan’s president from 2001 to 2008 after he threw out the elected government in a coup in 1999, said his government was able to force India to discuss issues that New Delhi was unwilling to negotiate.
“In my tenure as a military chief and president of the country, we were succeeding. We were able to bring India to the negotiating table and to sort out issues that India was not ready to discuss,” he told Dunya News in an interview.
Musharraf said terror attacks in Pakistan increased after he stepped down.
Questioning Pakistan government’s steps being taken to eliminate the “sleeper cells” active in the country, including the previously peaceful Punjab province, he said, “What steps are being taken to eliminate these sleeper cells? Punjab has become the stronghold of militancy.” He refuted suggestions that terrorist attacks and outfits like the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi existed during his tenure.
“This all started after I stepped down, we had carved out an effective strategy vis-a-vis Kashmir, we were near resolving Kashmir issue with India on a four-point agenda, our policies were successful; America and China were aligning with us.”
On Hafiz Saeed’s house arrest, Musharraf said the Jamaat-ud-Dawa chief “is not a terrorist”.
He said India is after Saeed because his supporters go voluntarily to Kashmir to fight the Indian Army.
Musharraf added that his administration “managed freedom fighters” in Kashmir but later realised a political process was needed to negotiate the issue with India.
Musharraf left Pakistan for Dubai in March last year, after his name was removed from the Exit Control List.
The 73-year-old said Afghanistan’s intelligence agency, the National Directorate of Security, was playing into India’s hands and was being used as a tool to facilitate terror groups in Pakistan.
He claimed operation ‘Zarb-e-Azb’ – during which the Pakistan Army claimed it killed thousands of militants – had no shortcomings as it was specifically for North Waziristan.
“This operation cleaned up all the camps and launching pads of terrorist, who were supported by the Indian spy agency with the collaboration of NDS, to destabilise the tribal areas.”
Musharraf said a holistic approach and planning was crucial at the moment to curb terrorism in the country. His possible reference was to a series of deadly terrorist attack in Pakistan this year, particularly the suicide bombing at a famed Sufi shrine in Sindh in which at least 88 people died.
Pakistan has blamed Afghanistan for allowing sanctuaries to terrorist groups targeting Pakistan on their soil.