US aid suspension "disastrous" move: Musharraf
Houston: Former Pakistan president Pervez Musharraf, who hopes to retake his country's leadership in the 2013 polls, has called the US move to suspend USD 800 million of military aid to Pakistan "disastrous" and said it was not in the best interest of the two countries.
"Certainly it will be disastrous," Musharraf told an audience at Rice University here. "It is not in the best interest of Pakistan but also not in the best interest of the United States. If Pakistan is weakened how do we fight terrorism?"
"We are weakening the country and the Army," Musharraf said. "It will have a negative effect certainly on the Pakistan Army, on its capability to fight terrorism."
Musharraf's presentation, 'Pakistan: A Reality Check', took place in Baker Hall on the Rice University campus on Monday.
He spoke about his vision for Pakistan's future, based on his call for "enlightened moderation" in which the country would shun extremism and embrace socio-economic liberalisation in return for fair and dignified treatment by the rest of the world.
The relationship between the two countries began to fray in 1989, after the US withdrew from Afghanistan when Soviet forces were defeated there, leaving Pakistan to contend with a neighbouring state filled with thousands of religious fighters "armed to the teeth who know nothing else but fighting”, he said.
It soured further, Musharraf said, with sanctions placed on Pakistan in response to its nuclear weapons programme. Recent drone attacks and the killing of Osama bin Laden on the Pakistani soil have intensified the disintegration of relations, Musharraf said.
"The killing of Osama bin Laden, the issue is dead," he said. "The issue of why our sovereignty was violated is very much alive."
To repair relations, the US "must consider our sensitivities and our sovereignty”, he said.
Meanwhile, Pakistan must convince the US that there was "no complicity" in sheltering the slain al Qaeda leader, he said.
Musharraf said he was saddened by the "present environment of confrontation almost between Pakistan and the United States, between the two armies, the two intelligence services."
"It saddens me because I remember when there was trust," he said, pointing to what he called his strong relationships with ex-US president George W Bush and then-secretary of state Colin Powell.
"I could pick up the phone," he said. "The line was always open. I wonder now if that degree of communication exists."
Musharraf said there was a "trust deficit" and a "confidence deficit" between the countries and the restoration of better relations depended on the leadership and straight talk.
Responding to a question, Musharraf, who heads All Pakistan Muslim League (APML), said "Frankly, I'm trying" to become president.
"I've created a party of my own for the sake of Pakistan. I'm not doing it for myself because I'm very happy on my lecture circuit. If we succeed I know what to do. We don't have to reinvent the wheel," he said.
Musharraf blamed the disintegrating US-Pakistani relationship on current leaders' lack of familiarity. Meanwhile, Texas Governor Rick Perry met Musharraf yesterday to exchange ideas about improving the economy and
discuss the strained relationship between the US and Pakistani governments.
Perry did not directly criticise the federal decision of suspending the aid, but said he hoped the two governments could work their way through the conflicts and get "on the same page of the hymnbook”.
"All of us are concerned ... any time there's conflict between these historic friends," Perry said, as the two men and their wives met for a private lunch at an Austin hotel.
“I'll leave it to the administration and the diplomats to continue to work on this."
Musharraf said he requested the meeting with Perry, who is considering a run for US Presidency in 2012, to "exchange notes" about the economic success in Texas under the Republican Governor's leadership.
Perry said he saw how money spent through the US Agency for International Development helped Pakistan during a 2006 trip to the earthquake-stricken country.
"These young children, just these bright faces in just rubble, nothing but devastation up there and the USAID literally saved their lives," he said. "It was a great effort and I think the United States-Pakistan relationship at that particular point in time was very, very solid."
The agency provides aid to Pakistan to support education, health, energy, economic growth and recovery efforts from natural disasters.