When Musharraf chose Palestine over Kashmir

Former Prime Minister Tony Blair was stumped for words when Pervez Musharraf asked him to resolve the Palestine issue instead of Kashmir during his visit to Islamabad in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks.

Last Updated: Sep 02, 2010, 21:15 PM IST

London: Former Prime Minister Tony Blair
was stumped for words when Pervez Musharraf asked him to
resolve the Palestine issue instead of Kashmir during his
visit to Islamabad in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks.

In his just released memoirs, Blair also recalls how
Musharraf blamed Gen Zia ul Haq for furthering radicalism in
Pakistan through his policies, heightening the Kashmir issue
and making reconciliation with India harder.

Pakistan President Musharraf, Blair writes, was then
in a "difficult position" because his government "had worked"
with the Taliban government and the borders between
Afghanistan and Pakistan were porous.

Yet, Blair writes, "he was an ally of ourselves and
the US, of course".

Describing his visit to Pakistan on 5 October 2001,
Blair writes: "I was ushered into Musharraf`s study in the
Presidential Palace. All through the meeting a bodyguard
hovered near the door, coming in and standing over us each
time the servants brought in tea or refreshments".

He says Musharraf himself was clear in his
condemnation of the Taliban and in his offer of help and
support. "He knew the attack had changed everything".

Recalling his conversation with the President, Blair
writes that Musharraf told him that in the 1970s General
Zia-ul-Haq had made the fatal error of linking Pakistani
nationalism to devout Islam.

The connection between the two, Musharraf explained,
"had furthered radicalism in the country, heightened the issue
of Kashmir and made reconciliation with India harder".

Blair says this was something "I reflected upon a good
deal in later years".

Gen Zia, who overthrew Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto`s
government in a coup, ruled Pakistan from 1977 to 1988.

Blair then quotes a conversation with Musharraf:
"Surely," I said, "economic development is the key challenge
for Pakistan".

"Of course," he said, "but the reality is today
Pakistani politics is about nuclear weapons and Kashmir".
"What can we do to help?" I asked, expecting an answer
to do with aid or India.

"Do Palestine," he immediately shot back.
"That would help".

Blair writes that he came away from the meeting
pleased with Musharraf`s support, but adds that he was "uneasy
at how clearly he (Musharraf) felt the ultimate success of the
mission was in the balance".

In another section of the book, Blair writes: "The
truth is that the India-Pakistan dispute over Kashmir did
erupt into sporadic violence and there was terrorism coming
out of Pakistan.

"But, though elements of state organisations might be
involved, that was a long way from saying the Pakistan
government was a terrorist government, Pakistan was a rogue
state".

PTI