Pakistan’s president on terrorism, India and his late wife

Bret Stephens in the Wall Street Journal:

Zina Saunders / WSJ

Image: Zina Saunders / WSJ

Asif Ali Zardari used to sport a full moustache, jet black and rakish in the style of the avid polo player he once was. But sometime in the past year he trimmed it short and let its salt-and-pepper colors show. It befits the sober role he has now assumed, at 53, as the president of Pakistan, probably the world’s most difficult — and dangerous — political job.

Mr. Zardari shows no signs that he is stepping into that role diffidently. In an interview last Saturday with The Wall Street Journal, held under tight security at a midtown Manhattan hotel, he crafted his phrases in a tone of command. Pakistan’s war, he says, is “my war,” its fighter jets “my F-16s,” its Intelligence Bureau “my IB.” When he discusses Pakistan’s economic crisis — the central bank has about two months’ worth of foreign currency reserves left to pay for the country’s imports of oil and food — he says he looks to the world to “give me $100 billion.”


Zardari draws flak in Pakistan: Pakistan president’s remarks in his interview to WSJ that India is not a threat to his country and militants operating in Jammu and Kashmir are “terrorists,” have got him into trouble back home.

Zardari’s remarks run counter to the views held by Pakistan’s military establishment, which views India as a threat, and indicate a major shift in the country’s position vis-a-vis its neighbour. Former President Pervez Musharraf would more likely have called the militants in J&K “freedom fighters.”

India has welcomed Zardari’s statement. In Pakistan, opposition parties have threatened to raise the issue in Parliament.

Click here for BBC update: Fury over Zardari Kashmir comment

[Update] By the end of the day, Zardari backtracked on his comments. The Pakistan  government issued a statement:

“The President has made it very clear that the just cause of Kashmir and its struggle for self-determination has been a consistent central position of the PPP for forty years now. There is no change in that policy. He has never called the legitimate aspirations of Kashmiris an expression of terrorism, nor has he undermined the sufferings of the Kashmiri people. All other statements about India were in context of our current bilateral relations.”

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