Zia; Pakistan's military ruler, before US visit, talks about drugs, arms build-up, India, elections, Afghanistan, and 'the bomb'
What do you hope the major accomplishments of your visit to Washington will be?
We have no fixed agenda. I'm going to Washington in response to the kind invitation which I've received from President Reagan. . . . It will give me an opportunity to meet President Reagan personally, and to put before him Pakistan's point of view on various things. . . . We will also gain first-hand information from the US on their concept, or perceptions, of what is happening in our region. That's all I aim at.
Will you be requesting any additional economic or military assistance from the United States?
No. We have nothing on the agenda and I have no intention of putting additional demands or requirements on what we have already agreed to.
Above and beyond the F-16s, which you will be receiving beginning next month, what are Pakistan's current defense needs?
Based on the $1.6 billion dollar military sales and loan agreement that we signed (with the US), we worked out our priorities. These include some guns, some tanks, some ammunition, some electronic equipment. It is a drop in the ocean. The quantity is such that it can hardly replace our outdated, outmoded, Korean War-vintage equipment, both in the land forces as well as in the Air Force. But, it is better than nothing. We hope that it will be able to bring some potency to our military hardware, to the inventory of the Pakistan armed forces.
General Zia, I understand that you have received virtually a blank check from Saudi Arabia to fulfill your defense requirements.
Negative. We have received no check, let alone a blank check. And, incidentally, you should know that our Saudi friends - we have great regard for them, they have always helped us, politically, financially, and otherwise - are quite wise with their money.
But have they not made the $111 million downpayment on the F-16s?
There are, Mr. President, a number of people in Washington who feel that there is now an unprecedented and competitive arms race occuring on the subcontinent between Pakistan and India. Do you feel, after your recent visit to New Delhi, that the time will come in the not-too-distant future when you and India will both be able to begin diverting money, now spent on highly expensive arms programs, into development?
That would be my aim and objective. But, you must know that every country has its own defense requirements. And Pakistan is just doing that much - sufficient military hardware to fullfill our minimum defense requirements.
We have no aggressive designs against anybody. We are not in that capacity. But India, being a much larger country, we can see that their requirements may be more. But then, if you look at it from the other point of view, what are India's needs? India has all small neighbours bordering her. In the respect of an arms race, we neither stand in competition, nor are we inclined to be in competition with India. We leave India to see and assess its own defense requirements. And we reserve the right to have just enough to fulfill our defense requirements. I don't think Pakistan and India can afford to be in an arms race, to compete with each other.
Would you describe your recent visit to New Delhi as a breakthrough in relations, considering all of the hostility of the last 35 years? And, is it a realistic possibility that either a no-war pact or a friendship treaty will be signed between Pakistan and India, prior to the nonaligned summit in March?
The hostility, the misapprehensions, the doubts, that may exist between India and Pakistan, and the effects of three wars, cannot be overcome, or wiped out, in a brief, three-hour stay of the president of Pakistan in New Delhi. But it was a very good beginning. So, while it may not be termed as a proper breakthrough, I think I can very easily say that we [Indira Gandhi and Zia] had a most productive meeting, and it augurs well for such an effort in the future. And we hope that Pakistan's relationship with India will continue to grow, in the intention and spirit with which Pakistan took this initiative. And we hope that the reciprocity from India will be similar to what we saw in that brief meeting in New Delhi.
With regard to the agreements, I immediately accepted the establishment of a joint commission [an Indian proposal to continue talks]. And at next month's meeting of the foreign secretaries of both countries, they will be examining Pakistan's proposal for a no-war pact and India's [proposal for a] treaty of friendship and cooperation. And they will take their own time. I do not foresee a decision on either one of these before the meeting of the nonaligned nations. If it does [happen], then it will be a miracle.
You have postponed elections twice. After five and a half years, there is still a martial law government in Pakistan. Do you have a timetable for the restoration of democracy? And, if so, what is it?
We have a military regime in Pakistan, and this has been accepted by the people of Pakistan. We have been here in business for the last five and a half years. And, if we did not have the support of the people of Pakistan, we would have been in the streets by now - because the people of Pakistan can take a lot, but they're also very volatile when they want to [be].
I do not think that a military regime - benign as it is in Pakistan - which is trying to put Pakistan's ideology on the rails, which favorably meets the people's aspirations - is in conflict with basic human rights. I think there could be no other person, or no other apparatus, more keen for human rights than the Islamic philosophy on the rights of men over men; the rights of government over the people that they govern; the rights of people over the government that they have. These are all the injunctions of Islam, which I, my colleagues, have tried to fulfill better than many of the elected governments of Pakistan. That is my concept of human rights. . . .
Today, after a gap of nearly 18 years, including the two or three democratically elected governments, there are - at the village level, at the union council level, at the district level, at the level of towns, cities, municipal corporations - elected representatives. We had these elections in 1979 , and we hope to have these elections (again) in 1983, after a term of four years laid down as the term for local self-government representatives. We have brought in people's participation at the provincial level. And I have nominated 287 representatives, from various walks of life, as a federal advisory council. (Editor's note: Although political parties were disqualified from running in these elections, many lower politicians stood as independents and won.)
What we have not been able to do so far is (to have) national elections. Elections, in my view, are a means towards an end, and not an end by itself. And therefore, I'm looking for a time which is conducive for holding peaceful elections, as a result of which peoples' representatives would emerge and they will run their own affairs in accordance with the Koran and the sunnah, on which I insist.
Although the Koran does not specify how a government should come to power, it does specify that a government must rule by, and of, consensus. Consensus means democracy. So is a military regime that does not have the consensus of the people not in conflict with Islam?
No. In the first place, let me correct you. Neither the Koran nor the prophet's [Muhammad] sayings confirm any particular form or type of government. Islam, in the Koran, and in the sayings of the prophet, reveal certain principles. And the principles concerning government are not that it should be an elected government, according to consensus. It is the Imam - caliph, or you can call him the head of the government - which was supposed to have been picked by consensus. And consensus means the affirmation of will of those who matter.
So it is not exactly (comparable to) present day, Western democracy. But, we will not dispute on this. What is important, from the Koran and the sunnah's point of view, is what type of government you have: whether this government values Islamic concepts; whether [the leaders] are practicing Muslims; whether they are trying their best to improve the lot of the people. It is this which matters.
And I think on this issue we have our legality which has been proved by the Supreme Court, under the law of necessity [which gave legal validity to Pakistan's martial law]. This is also the law under Islamic rules. And, the mere fact that we have been here for five and a half years, even though (national) elections have not been held (proves something). If consensus has to be obtained , then it is not necessary that you have to put the election ballot into the ballot box. There are many forms which Islam recognizes for obtaining consensus. So, from that point of view, whereas I do not consider myself an elected representative, and I have no inhibitions about this, I am a true and simple military leader who has assumed power under the law of necessity. . .and I think in this we have more than the consensus of the people of Pakistan.
It is said that (most) of all heroin now available in the US comes from, or passes through, Pakistan, and that there are at least 30 heroin refining laboratories now operating in the North-West Frontier. What will, and what can, the government of Pakistan do to control this traffic?
Drug trafficking is an international phenomenon. The effects of drug addiction are felt in practically all countries, maybe a little bit more in the US than here in Pakistan. But there's certainly as much concern with drug addiction and drug trafficking (here) as there is in the US.
But, look at what we have done. We have, in this year so far, in 11 months, seized nearly 1,000 kilograms of heroin and other drugs that have been going through. Now you can say that if 1,000 kilos have been seized, then how many thousands have passed through? I accept it. But, let us look at the phenomenon.
Afghanistan was considered to be, and it still is, the poppy growing area. Previously, the drugs used to pass through Afghanistan to Iran, to Turkey, to Europe, and perhaps to the US. With the upheaval in the Iran-Iraq war, and the instability in that region, that trafficking is now taking place through Pakistan. We are trying to stop it. . . .
All these seizures which have taken place, all the hauls that you find, these are the result of effective checking. But we haven't got a very effective anti-narcotics force. We depend on our police force, which is not well-equipped , well-administered, and therefore we have difficulty.
Now, the second source of poppy is the poppy growing in the tribal areas [of Pakistan] . . .
We have not been able to eliminate the cultivation of poppy in some of the tribal areas. It's an economic problem in the sense that heroin, or a drug costing about $10 [in Pakistan], by the time it reaches America and Europe, it costs $100, $1,000 . . . . Now, what are the governments of Western Europe and the US doing? I do not know. But, bootlegging and drug addicition, drug trafficking, is a curse in the Western world. And we hope that some effective measures will be taken at that end also.
. . . where this is an economic problem, like in the tribal areas, we will seek international assistance, so that when I tell a farmer, ''Don't grow poppy, '' I can give him sufficient means that, at least if he grows potatoes, he can earn enough for his livelihood. And I know that in may parts of Turkey, with the active and financial assistance of the US, many areas have been converted into lush, green gardens of fruits and vegetables, where poppies used to grow at one time.
With regard to these laboratories that you mentioned, your figure is highly exaggerated. I don't think there's more than three or four. [These] . . . are people who know a little bit of chemistry, and they have established these things and, of course, they are making money. We have established these things and, of course, they are making money. We have, in the past two years, eliminated over two dozen such contraptions. But, I admit, there may be a few more left, but certainly not more than half a dozen or so in the whole of the frontier area, not the number that you have mentioned.
On the nuclear program, you have said, on the record, that Pakistan is enriching uranium. According to Western experts, the enrichment process is highly expensive, too expensive for a limited nuclear power program. This - combined with your efforts to buy a reprocessing plant, your purchases of ''yellow cake'' [uranium] from Niger, your attempts to acquire other nuclear weapons technology in Europe - indicates, according to the same experts, that you, in fact, are making the bomb. Is that a correct assumption?
No. That is not a correct assumption. . . .
We are enriching uranium, yes. We are enriching uranium as a modest, humble program in order to acquire technology, which can be used later in a nuclear power reactor. It certainly does not enable us to give us weapons-grade enriched uranium.
Pakistan is facing a very critical situation with regard to its energy requirements. We have practically reached full capability, except for a little scope in the hydro-electric means of producing electricity. We haven't got enough money to continue to provide thermal power plants. It costs something like $300-400 million.
We did not have to import ''yellow cake'' from Niger, because Pakistan itself has uranium. . . .
Now, if you would talk to an expert, and ask him ''What are the steps required for a country to have military, nuclear capability,'' the description that he would give you would indicate very clearly that Pakistan, without the reprocessing plant and having a very modest enrichment plant, does not acquire the capability of making a bomb. . . .
I don't think Pakistan is that naive, or that irresponsible a nation that we would have this destroyer on our hands, and would be offering it to Qaddafi or somebody else. . . .
. . .I categorically state to you that Pakistan is not indulging in acquiring any other capability than a capability which can be used for pure and simple peaceful purposes and for meeting our energy requirements.
But I have heard that your uranium enrichment program falls under the ministry of defense rather than under your atomic energy commission.
That's wrong. That is totally wrong. The ministry of defense has nothing to do with this. It is part and parcel of Pakistan's atomic energy commission. . . .
Yes, like many other countries, you may have some military officers working on the construction of buildings, looking after security aspects, but that does not turn the program into a defense program, or a defense-oriented program.
Why then has Pakistan not signed the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty? Why have you not permitted the International Atomic Energy Agency to inspect the facility at Kahuta [the reported site of Pakistan's uranium enrichment plant]? And why have you refused to accept international safeguards at the Kahuta site?
Purely on the matter of principle. We do not like to be discriminated [ against]. The Kahuta facility is not covered, nor intended to be covered, by international safeguards. It is a facility which has been created by us through beg, borrow and steal. And therefore we have no intention of bringing it under any international safeguards, unless similar facilities, elsewhere in the world are also brought under control.
There are. . . next door [in India] three reprocessing plants which are under no safeguards. So, all we say, is that Pakistan will sign the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty tomorrow if other countries sign it. I don't name them, but, as you know, there's more than one country - India, South Africa, and many others - I won't name them.
If India signed the treaty, would that be enough for Pakistan?
For Pakistan, it would be enough. Yes, I would grant you that.
There has been what appears to be a great deal of movement on Afghanistan - the Geneva talks this summer, talks now continuing at the United Nations, and you were a one of a handful of foreign leaders received by Yuri Andropov at Brezhnev's funeral. Do you think, President Zia, that the Soviet Union is now, in fact, committed to withdrawing its forces from Afghanistan?
We must take the Soviet Union at its word. The Soviet Union says that they want to withdraw their troops. But they also say - like me, when I say that elections will be held at a conducive moment - they say that they will withdraw the Soviet troops when there is a conducive environment created in Afghanistan which does not create any apprehension in the mind of the Afghanistan government or its Soviet neighbors. We are, through these talks, those in Geneva and others , doing exactly the same thing - trying to find out how best that conducive environment can be created, which will enable the Soviet Union - taking them at their word - to withdraw their troops from Afghanistan.