Jump to:Page Content
Pervez Musharraf, President of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, outlined his vision for building a democratic, Islamic Pakistan at the Institute of Politics' ARCO Forum at the Kennedy School Sunday evening. Harvard President Larry Summers introduced Musharraf to the packed Forum as he acknowledged the substantial cooperation that has occurred between Pakistan and Harvard University over the years.
General Musharraf, who came to power in a bloodless coup in October of 1999, said that Pakistan is working aggressively to build a modern, democratic society. "Our democratic transition is well underway," he said. He argued that three decades of Pakistani leadership with a history of military dictatorships had failed to "address mounting economic, political and social challenges."
Since he came to office, Musharraf said he had initiated numerous social reforms, including an improved status for women and a modernization of the Madrassah educational system. He also executed constitutional changes that were met with international criticism. Musharraf said those constitutional changes are "designed to ensure checks and balances on all 'power brokers' - the President, the Prime Minister and the army chief."
He went on to paint a dire picture of the strained relations between Pakistan and neighboring India. "Indo-Pakistan relations today are at their lowest ebb," he said. "Their forces confront each other eyeball to eyeball with most dangerous possibilities of the eruption of conflict by accident or design."
The two nations, which both have nuclear weapons, "have nothing to be gained through military brinkmanship," he said. He said Pakistan had made major commitments to ease the crisis but insisted that India has not reciprocated. The Pakistanis "await de-escalation and resumption of dialogue to resolve our differences," he said.
The Pakistani leader fielded several tough comments and questions from the audience, made up of Harvard students and guests. One such question broached the subject of the safety of nuclear material over which Pakistan has said it has complete control. Noting that both Russia and the U.S. -- vastly more wealthy nations -- have both had problems protecting nuclear materials, the questioner sardonically wondered what did Pakistan know that the U.S. and Russia don't. Musharraf insisted that Pakistan had created a "fail-safe" system to oversee nuclear material and that the problems that plagued the U.S. and Russia are not surfacing in Pakistan.
Another questioner asked that, if the U.S. were to give Pakistan evidence that Iraq was creating weapons of mass destruction to be used against the U.S., would Pakistan support the U.S.? Musharraf deftly replied, "no one is talking about Iraq attacking the U.S." Rather, he said the issue being hotly debated is whether the U.S. should attack Iraq.
Musharraf's visit marked the first ARCO Forum for this school year.