A Conversation With Pervez Musharraf

By Lally Weymouth
Sunday, December 16, 2007

An angry President Pervez Musharraf defended imposing a state of emergency on Pakistan and blamed the Western media for many of his problems -- from increased attacks by Islamic extremists to lawyers who have taken to the streets to protest his suspension of the constitution and firing of the country's chief justice. In an interview with Newsweek-Washington Post's Lally Weymouth, the Pakistani president reiterated that he would lift the state of emergency Saturday but will not reinstate judges who opposed him. Despite his opponents' doubts, Musharraf insisted he will ensure a free and fair election in January. But he refused to say whether he would endorse a constitutional amendment to allow former prime minister Benazir Bhutto to serve a third term.

Q. Is there a difference now that you have shed your uniform and relinquished your post of army chief of staff?

A. On a personal note, I loved my uniform. From the national point of view, I don't think there is a difference. I think the overall situation will be better and stro nger. The army is being managed by a chief of staff dedicated to the job, and I will be president of Pakistan, and if the two are totally in harmony, the situation is better.

Q. You will appoint the heads of the army?

A. I will appoint the chief. The security services report to the president and the prime minister. . . . The ISI [military intelligence service] reports to the political leaders.

Q. Once there is a prime minister, how do you see power being shared?

A. The prime minister runs the government. Then there is a National Security Council chaired by the president that meets to review situations. But this is only a consultative body. There is no sharing of responsibility, really.

Q. You imposed a state of emergency. You announced it will be lifted on December 15th. Does that mean that the regulations recently imposed on the press will be lifted?

A. There are no restrictions on the press.

Q. Wasn't there a code of conduct [mandating "responsible journalism"]?

A. We issued a code of conduct and asked them to sign it. It's as good as you have in your own country. All the channels except one accepted it, and all except one are open. The print media were not closed at all.

Q. In the U.S., there is no code of conduct for journalists -- they are free to write what they want.

CONTINUED     1                 >

© 2007 The Washington Post Company