| On the decline
Islamabad, Aug. 13 (AP): Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf today vigorously defended his government’s independence from Washington, and said he was “200 per cent sure” the US would not launch unilateral strikes against terrorists in Pakistan.
Speaking in a nationally televised question-and-answer session with hand-picked guests, Musharraf addressed topics ranging from his plunging public support to the role of cricket in building national character.
Musharraf, a key US ally in the fight against terrorism, is at the lowest political ebb of his eight years in power as he seeks re-election for another five years. He said he was sure upcoming legislative and presidential elections would be free and fair and ensure economy stability.
The President, who seized power in a 1999 coup, has had his standing badly shaken by his widely unpopular bid to oust Chief Justice Iftikhar Mohammed Chaudhry
Musharraf said President George W. Bush had assured him of Pakistan’s sovereignty.
“I am fully confident and very sure that there will be no action across the border, and if there is any action it will be taken by Pakistani forces,” he said. “I am 200 per cent sure that these threats, there are no threats at the official, government level,” he said.
Musharraf said he would consider it a personal insult if someone suggested he was serving another country’s interests before Pakistan’s, and cited examples where he had gone against the US’s wishes.
These included his refusal to send troops to join the US-led war in Iraq, Pakistan’s recognition of the Palestinian militant group Hamas and its diplomatic relations with Iran. “We are not confronting terrorism for America,” Musharraf said. “We are doing it for ourselves.”
“I see everything from Pakistan’s point of view. Now, if that, from Pakistan’s point of view, suits America, all right,” he said.
Appearing in an open-necked shirt, Musharraf looked relaxed at the hour-long television appearance on state-run Pakistan Television as he answered questions from a group including sportsmen, businessmen, artists and a fashion designer.
Asked indirectly about the Chaudhry controversy, Musharraf conceded: “There has been a decrease in popularity, yes, I agree with that.” He said he took responsibility for accepting bad advice, without saying about what.